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The refugee crisis as Europe’s brain gain

by Olga Wessels and Sebastiaan den Bak (Netherlands House for Education and Research) and Peter van der Hijden (former employee at DG EAC)

Europe is in need of a new university: a Lampedusa university. There are many talented people among the 19 million people that have been forced to flee their home countries because of war, persecution and oppression. Nurses, architects and researchers that can help Europe in facing the challenges of the future.

Half of all Syrian refugees are children or teenagers and only 20% of them are attending school. While education is exactly what is essential/necessary to give them a future, hope and perspectives. Why not transform refugee camps into centres of excellence? we would thereby help to reshape the future of those teenagers and give their lives some perspective again.

The refugees that enter Europe bring talent, knowledge and experiences with them that Europe surely needs. The European population is ageing and shrinking. Give the harrowing pictures of the refugees a second look and imagine that there are cooks, doctors and mathematicians among them. They could make your bread, nurse your ageing mother or invent solutions for Europe’s challenges in ICT security. Europe is in need of these workers and the talents that they bring.

On Kos, Lampedusa and other arrival points, relevant prior knowledge of refugees can be translated into European standards. We already have the means to do this. Refugees can then study further there or in different places in Europe. Online learning is an inexpensive, flexible and accessible way of teaching. UN refugee camps in Jordan, Kenya and Uganda have already gained experience with this. If a refugee migrates to another member state or returns to his or her/their homeland, he or she can even continue the course.

With education, refugees can build a new future and help Europe continue developing. Refugees that do not stay in Europe but return to their country of origin, will take their knowledge back with them. Empowered to rebuild their country as ‘ambassadors’ of European universities. It’s a win-win situation.

More information

Publication: How to help refugees rebuild their world
Publication: Insights from using Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in Refugee Camps
Publication: Distance Learning in Refugee Camps
Survey: Erasmus+ helping Refugees 



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