Rotterdam refugee intake day, 9 May 2018

Rotterdam is a city made up of newcomers. In the sixteenth century the city was a safe haven for Lutherans, Calvinists and Mennonites. In fact, in the seventeenth century the municipal government introduced active policy to connect businesspeople and textile workers to the city. One of the measures included granting them the status of ‘citizen’. The asylum residence permit holders of today are expected to become fully-fledged, self-reliant participants in a relatively short time. Many of them are happy to fulfil this expectation. However, not all refugees are sufficiently aware of the options available to them regarding what Rotterdam has to offer in terms of higher education. Many potentially highly-educated asylum residence permit holders end up unnecessarily dependant on low-skilled work or social security benefits.

This year, more than 200 asylum residence permit holders registered for ‘Voorbereidend Jaar Erasmus’. This is an Erasmus University Rotterdam initiative that prepares candidates for higher education. Based on their previous education, choice of study and age, a selection of 50 candidates received an invitation to take intake tests. Out of this group of talented asylum residence permit holders with higher education ambitions, only a few candidates will be invited to start in the higher education preparatory year this coming September. That is why Erasmus University Rotterdam has set itself the goal of arranging suitable referrals for candidates who have not been selected. These arrangements will be made in collaboration with cooperating organisations.

Together with the Municipality of Rotterdam and various institutions of higher education, an overview was compiled of existing language and work programmes and language and education programmes available for this group in the city. An assessment was also carried out to determine what is needed to better match candidates with the resources available. The results of this assessment were presented to the candidates attending the intake day. Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences, Rotterdam Academy, and Erasmus University Rotterdam spoke about how they provide support to refugee students during or prior to their studies. During the information market candidates also used the occasion to speak with the municipal ‘Jongerenloket’ and ‘Werk en Inkomen’, Stichting voor Vluchteling-Studenten UAF, Stichting Diandre, and Zadkine.

The establishment of the Rotterdam intake day represents a focused and comprehensive approach that will contribute to improving the enrolment figures of asylum residence permit holders in higher education. Erasmus University Rotterdam calls upon language institutes, institutions of higher education, organisations offering work-study programmes, employers, and refugee organisations to join forces to increase opportunities that appeal to and encourage asylum residence permit holders.


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Photography: A. Kers (2018)