With almost 32,000 students and 2,000 employees, Linnaeus University (LNU) is the sixth largest university in Sweden. The university offers 150 study programmes and 2000 courses courses. It is situated in the south-east, a region which has received a lot of refugees and asylum seekers. In 2016, approximately 4,800 immigrants moved to the region. Linnaeus University takes a leading role in enabling access to higher education for refugees by supporting student counselling and the validation of exams. A scholarship specifically dedicated for asylum seekers, covering the tuition fees for non-EU-students, was granted between 2016-2017 by the county councils of Kalmar and Kronoberg, the regional federation of Kalmar and Linnaeus university. 19 students, the majority from Syria, are studying courses or study programs in It-security, Pharmacy, Nursing and Electrical engineering.
To date, students can apply for Linnaeus university’s scholarships, that cover between 75 to 100 % of the tuition-fee. LNU supports language education by offering access to the European Commission’s broadened Erasmus initiative to cost-free language courses online for refugees (Online Linguistic Support, OLS). Migrants, regardless of their migration status, are given the opportunity to study up to twelve languages, for instance, Swedish, English and German. Linnaeus University is collaborating with external, regional parties in order to spread this offer.
For staff working with refugees and unaccompanied children, Lnu has developed tailor-made courses dealing with areas such as responsibility of staff, pedagogical and salutogenic approaches, methods for detection if a young person suffers from PTSD, legal aspects of the asylum process, awareness of signs of substance abuse.
Lnu’s integration network is aimed at supporting collaboration between regional actors and the university’s researchers and teachers with focus on skills development efforts, research and other forms of collaboration relating to integration/intercultural collaboration and establishment in the Linnaeus region. Other notable initiatives are:
Scholars at risk: Lnu participates in the Scholars at risk initiative, and plans to host a scholar for one year (autumn 18 and spring 19).
Internships for newly arrived persons: Under 2016 Lnu offered internships for seven newly arrived and 2017 for six.
Although LNU has a well-developed technical infrastructure, support system and experience in a wide range of online courses (one Mooc: Fantastic fiction and where to find it, developed by the literature department, https://www.canvas.net/browse/linnaeus-university/courses/fantastic-fiction), the selected and preferred model of educating refugees is using face-to-face campus courses. In discussions with university staff and regional refugee support organizations and refugees we found a number of explanations for this:
- To date there are no Moocs running in Swedish adapted for refugees to support their vocational or language learning. The variety of online courses differs in pre-structured language courses in which Swedish for immigrants is taught up to gymnasium level (Providers: adult education, vocational colleges or other private schools, often with tuition fees) and free resources, language learning apps, lectures, quizzes, etc. No courses specifically adapted to vocational training are available
- The language barrier: Prospective university students need to learn Swedish in order to be able to integrate into society. But at the same time, the majority of courses at university level also require sufficient English language skills, as the teaching material is often in English.
- Most Moocs offered are only in English. Only one Mooc on higher education level is in Swedish ; ”Swedish Academic writing”, provided by Lund University.
- In discussions with help organizations and refugees themselves we have learned that the students prefer to be taught face to face. They want to meet people, communicate with Swedish students and be part of a campus community. (eg. expressed by Biljana Papic and Angelica Johannesson , Arbetsmarknad vuxen, and in interview with our focus group)
- University teacher’s lack of familiarity with Moocs: Even if Moocs are not a new learning environment, there are only a few university teachers at LNU using the educational potential of Moocs in their courses. The concept is not yet widely known.
- Validation and recognition: There is no ongoing process for evaluation and recognition for Moocs at LNU.
We can only mention one initiative that plans to test Moocs for vocational training for refugees. Ronneby municipality’s learning centre, Kunskapskälla, with project manager Marie Aurell, has developed a concept using a blended-learning-approach. Refugees with similar vocational backgrounds will be gathered in classes, learning with Moocs specifically chosen for their needs. Regular campus meetings with tutors help the students discuss and deepen their knowledge. Unfortunately, due to the lack of funding the project is still in a planning phase and has not been practically tested with students.
The more common way of vocational training for refugees in Sweden takes place via the so-called fast track education (snabbspår). This educational model has been developed for participants with professions that are needed by the Swedish labour market, e.g. in health care, education, the timber industry and for the IT sector. The fast track model is based on three steps: competence mapping, assessment and completion. Participants with a documented professional background take part in specially designed courses to adapt their vocational and language knowledge to the Swedish market. According to the Swedish employment agency, 3,540 participants have joined the fast track since 2016 (1072 women and 2468 men) (report: Arbetsförmedlingens nulägesbedömning av arbetet med snabbspår Maj 2017; p. 1). Linnaeus University is one of three Swedish universities which offers the fast track model in social studies, including economics and law. The courses (30 ECTS) combine language with knowledge about public administration and law in Sweden.
The courses are based on campus which is a requirement by the Swedish employment agency. Online courses are not allowed. The participants (18 persons) need to have a bachelor’s exam in economy or law, and Swedish knowledge on a B2 level. The fast track includes university courses in Public Administration Operation and Control, 7.5 credits; Public Language in Swedish, 7.5 credits and Administrative Law for Practitioners, 15 credits and a three-month internship. The focus is on vocational training for jobs like administrators at a government authority. After finishing their education most students have started working in so-called “modern temporary jobs” in the public sector, which means that they are employed at an authority.
Another form of vocational training offered by Swedish municipalities combines language training courses with internships within the local business sector, eg. the integration project Älmhult tillsammans, offering language training, internships and summer jobs at IKEA .
With this background sketched out, we see the MOONLITE-project with its innovative approach functions as a springboard for new ideas.