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Strategic Partnership to Promote Core Academic Values and Welcome Refugees and Threatened Academics to European Campuses
Start date: Sep 1, 2016, End date: Aug 31, 2019 PROJECT  ONGOING 

Record numbers of refugee students and academics, driven by the crises in the Middle East and beyond, are reaching out to Europe. Many European institutions are trying their best to respond to the crisis, including creating new opportunities for displaced academics and students, but often these efforts are disconnected, hard for candidates to access, and inadequately informed by history and best practice. This strategic partnership project will capitalize on these efforts and good intentions, to increase their effectiveness, to increase the number of individuals assisted, and to inspire more institutions to do their part.The project is innovative in its efforts to link the urgent responses of European universities to the current refugee crisis to longer term efforts to promote academic freedom. Alongside increasing the European universities’ capacity to support those who were forced to flee, there is an opportunity for European universities to work together with refugees and threatened academics to look to the longer-term. This project will raise greater awareness of the importance of academic freedom to a healthy higher education sector, the consequences for society at large when such freedom is repressed, and the steps we can take as a sector, especially in all our international education partnerships, to protect higher education values. The objectives of the proposed strategic partnership are to improve the capacity of European universities to assist refugees and threatened academics and to promote greater respect for academic freedom and greater protection for higher education values in all international higher education partnerships.The target groups for the project will include refugees with higher education and threatened academics, as well as academic and administrative staff at universities across Europe and around the world, especially (a) those with a role in welcoming refugees and threatened academics to campus and (b) those involved in developing international higher education partnerships. Additional target groups of the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) will include students, governments, media, and civil society across Europe and around the world, including in areas where academic freedom is under threat. More than 10 000 participants is expected.The project activities include development and testing of a staff training curriculum combining an intensive module on the understanding, promotion and protection of academic freedom and other core university values with a very practical staff training on how to host refugees and threatened academics on campus. The project will also produce a MOOC on the understanding and importance of academic freedom and other higher education core values for the development of society at large. Finally the project will produce an electronic handbook on putting higher education values into practice in international partnerships targeted at international education practitioners involved in developing international partnerships around the world. The project results will be shared with a wider audience through various media channels, networks and through three multiplier events in Oslo, Ljubljana and Brussels.The project will draw on experiences and expertise already existing in the partner networks and new knowledge produced based on needs communicated from HE institutions and from refugees and threatened academics already hosted in Europe. Refugees and threatened academics within the SAR network will themselves contribute to developing the outputs of the project. The UiO experts on online learning will work closely with SAR experts, project partners and refugee academics to adjust content to the online learning format. The production of the e-handbook will be a flexible process drawing from experiences and ideas from the earlier project phases and needs of staff involved in international partnerships.The project will increase the number of opportunities for refugees and threatened academics at European universities, and improve the quality of support for those already in place. The project will connect urgent actions on behalf of refugees to efforts to engage a larger public in discussions about academic freedom through publications and online learning. In the short and long term the project will lead to greater European support for refugees and threatened academics, enabling them to continue their careers and create and maintain personal and professional networks. In so doing, the project will improve the capacity of refugee academics to help rebuild the home region once conflict has subsided. It is hoped that the project will contribute to a vision of the displaced academics not as a burden but as welcome contributors to communities, recognized for their talents and voices and respected members of the higher education sector; as well as to an increased understanding of the crucial importance of protecting higher education values everywhere.

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