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Publics, Pedagogies and Policies: Refugees and Higher Education in the 21st Century

Thursday, March 21, 2019, 9:30 am – Friday, March 22, 2019, 5:00 pm

CEU OLIve and the Erasmus+ Refugee Education Initiatives (REIs) partners, University of Vienna and University of East London, invite you to a two-day international conference to mark the closing of its REIs Erasmus+ project. The conference aims to develop policy-oriented learning as well as build a network of universities and other institutions interested in issues of access to higher education for people with refugee status.

It aims to specifically assemble information and critically reflect on:

  • Issues and challenges that people with refugee status face in accessing higher education in Europe;
  • Solutions and alternatives addressing the identified issues and challenges;
  • Pedagogic practice within and outside formal university contexts, ‘integration’ models, university structures that are crucial in determining access, and the type of access, that people with refugee status have to higher education. An overarching issue is the capacity of pedagogic practices to question the ways universities are structured, their purposes and whose interests they ultimately serve.

The first day of the conference will open with a keynote speech and reflections from REIs OLIve partners, Central European University, University of Vienna and University of East London, and will be followed by panel discussions. The panels will specifically focus on addressing policies, pedagogies, solidarities and rethinking the role of university. The second day will bring together collective insights and reflections derived from these discussions.


Rethinking the University

What role can and should a university play? Should we take our teaching and research activities out into wider society (or bring those unable to join a university through standard routes inside its walls)?  Does the university have a responsibility to cultivate ‘progressive’ social change? Or is it capable at all of doing so given the multiple modes of economic and political violence exerted upon higher education institutions and communities today? If so, what questions are we then forced to ask about not only what we teach, but also what dispositions we cultivate in students and ourselves? What can the current challenges to universities’ traditional processes and structures teach us about possible ways we can recreate and reimagine what we do? Or maybe we do not really need to rethink the university at all, when going to one or working in one seems to be more popular than ever? 

In the ‘Rethinking the University’ panel we will bring together a diverse range of scholars who, in different ways, have been engaged in working out what universities do: what they do with their students, what they do with their staff and what they do within the society of which they are a part. 


Networks of Solidarity

Recently elevated conflicts and violence in various parts of the world have brought a rapid increase in displaced populations crossing borders to reach Europe. In response, activism and initiatives have been proliferated in solidarity with refugees. A wide set of practices of solidarity have emerged within both temporary and long term settlements. The networks and collectives, formed by refugees and ethical citizens who take action in solidarity with refugees, have been at the centre of political activism in this historical milieu, in which anti-immigrant discourses across the world deepen racism, inequality, conflict and violence. The activism mobilized through networks of solidarity has become a significant device for refugees to challenge the racialised notions of border and to negotiate citizenship across borders.

In this panel, we will discuss various practices of solidarity so as to explore:

  • Aims and achievements of existing networks of solidarity
  • Participation of refugee citizens within the networks of solidarity
  • Philosophical and political foundations of solidarity acts
  • Legal and political challenges that members of solidarity networks tackle with.

We will bring together a diverse group of contributors who have been active members of networks of solidarity in Hungary and the UK.


This panel will discuss pedagogy not only as an educational technique and a set of methods but also as a political and moral practice in formal and informal educational settings that aims to integrate refugees and marginalized and racialized students. We will consider ways in which critical pedagogy could offer a space for students to express their experiences and reflect on the processes and effects of oppression, discrimination and racialization, with a view to developing a capacity for critical reflexivity and solidarity with the oppressed groups. The literature on the political and moral implications of pedagogy suggests that teachers-scholars embody the knowledge that we produce and create specific values, practices, and social relations in educational settings. What are the politics of pedagogy in higher education in the 21st century, however? Is there a way to rethink pedagogy as an active process of learning and a central force in the struggle for justice, equality, human dignity and inclusive democracy?


The aim of the Policy Panel is to explore innovations in providing inclusion for refugee students in higher education. These cover refugee qualifications recognition, development of inclusive university administrative practices in recruitment, admission, and providing financial support for students. The panel will also address how efforts to upscale refugee inclusion practices can be laced in the growing internationalization of higher education and how this wider trend can be exploited against the impacts of restrictive citizenship regimes that migrants and refugees often face in Europe. The discussion intends to address the experiences and potentials of some transnational cooperation in the field of higher education management (e.g. the ENIC-NARIC for qualification recognition) from the perspectives of domestic stakeholders or university level administrative structures. Chances and challenges for bottom-up and autonomous initiatives for championing university innovations in providing special financial aids, scholarships, and career mentoring for refugees will also be explored within (and beyond) Europe. Participants may want to map and assess if recent noteworthy experiments are initiated by powerful universities of outstanding academic recognition or more so by coordinated actions by actors embedded in conducive domestic higher education environments? The panel participants may also feel inspired to reveal their experiences regarding the linkages of policy innovations, the subsequent changes in admission procedures for prospective refugee students, and the impacts of these innovations on thinking on fairness, excellence, and the relevance of knowledge in various university practices, in other words, how policies introduced to widen the access to higher education may induce changes in framing mission, services, and boundaries of the university. 

Against this backdrop, the panel will reflect upon recent domestic or transnational initiatives such as NOKUT’s Qualifications Passport for Refugees and the European Qualifications Passport for Refugees, the InHere Project done in affiliation with the European University Association, the Erasmus Network of OLIve programs, and various student initiatives across Europe.  



Day 1 - Thursday, 21 March 2019

1st part of the day:

Venue: Oktober Hall (ground floor)

Address: 1051 Budapest, Oktober 6 utca 7

09:30 – 10:00 – Arrival and registration

10:00 – 10:15 – Welcome Remarks and Opening of the Conference

10:15 – 11:15 – Keynote speech by Prof. John Clarke (The Open University, UK): Transforming the modern university? Problems, Possibilities and Puzzles

11:15 – 12:00 – OLIve panel with representatives from Central European University (Prem Kumar Rajaram), University of East London (Aura Lounasmaa) and University of Vienna (Katharine Sarikakis)

2nd part of the day:

13:30 – 17:00 – Panel discussions:

  • Rethinking the University (Panel facilitator: Ian Cook. Discussants: Theo Gilbert, Mariya Ivancheva, Alessandra Pomarico, Aura Lounasmaa, Wagner Piassaroli) Venue: Room 203 (Tigy), Nador 9
  • Solidarity (Panel facilitator: Cigdem Esin. Discussants: Emily Crowley, Majid Adin, Naureen Abubacker, Zsombor Lakatos, Céline Cantat) Venue: Room 103 (Tiered), Nador 15
  • Pedagogy (Panel facilitator: Angela Kocze. Discussants: Abimbola Odugbesan, Latoya Manly Spain, Nikolay Oleynikov, Violeta Vajda, David Ridout, Viktoria Vajnai) Venue: Popper Room, Monument Building
  • Policy (Panel Facilitator: Violetta Zentai. Discussants: Ann-Seline Fankhauser, Luisa Bunescu, Marina Malgina, Rosa di Stefano, Prem Kumar Rajaram) Venue: Room 202, Nador 9

Day 2 – Friday, 22 March 2019

Venue: Oktober Hall (ground floor)

Address: 1051 Budapest, Oktober 6 utca 7

10:00 – 11:15 – Innovative and Inspirational Education Projects – Open Session

During the first session of the day we invite all audience members and participants to present innovative or inspirational projects that they think speak to the conference themes. The first presentation will by Klara Trencsenyi on a participatory filmmaking workshop she runs with OLIve students. After which, anyone who wishes to is invited to present a short (e.g. max 5 mins) overview of projects about which they know of or have worked on. We strongly urge everyone to share innovative or inspirational education projects.

11:45 – 13:30 – Sharing of output from different workshops

14:30 – 16:00 – Plenary brainstorming: Where do we go from here? What is the future of ‘refugee’ education?

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