MORE started in the winter semester of 2015/16 as a pilot project at some Austrian public universities to give people with a refugee background, especially those who arrived in Austria in the wake of the 2015/2016 European migrant crisis, access to public universities and thus to a reality away from reception centres. Very quickly, all public universities took part in the initiative, for example by providing a certain number of places in selected courses or by offering their own courses for applicants with a refugee background. Over the course of five years, about 3 500 MORE students have taken advantage of this broad offer. Applicants were and are also supported financially through so-called semester-starting packages to help with expenses for course materials and the like.
The initiative and the corresponding structures already established at the universities have gained new relevance in the light of the war in Ukraine.
Source: MORE 2022
Issue/challenge and goal/assumption
In the face of the 2015/2016 European migrant crisis, universities in Austria launched project MORE to provide a space for reflection for refugees and displaced persons, wherein they can also find out whether university studies are an option for their future. Irrespective of basic needs such as shelter, food and medical care, refugees require spaces to develop opportunities for the future. This is especially true for the youth who have lost access to (higher) education by fleeing their country: without support they might grow up to be part of a 'lost' generation.
Source: MORE 2022
How does it work
MORE is aimed at people who were forced to flee their countries of origin, regardless of whether they are still awaiting their asylum decisions or have already been recognised as refugees.
- The initiative offers orientation regarding possible study at public universities, and assistance with academic integration.
- The courses provided cover various academic and artistic fields, as well as training in the German language.
- MORE students may be able to later enrol in a degree programme or to continue one.
- The language of instruction is either German or English.
- There is a buddy system in place which helps students with the day to day needs.
- Admission requires proof of the right of residence in Austria.
With MORE, Austrian public universities very quickly established a point of access for asylum-seekers and refugees in Austria. According to the socio-demographic data, the project satisfied the intentions of universities, namely to give asylum-seekers and refugees rapid access to higher education with a minimum of bureaucratic hurdles.
In the meantime, the initiative has grown out of its infancy and evolved into various forms in accordance with the conditions of respective universities. As a whole, experiences of both MORE students and universities have been vastly positive and underline the purpose of the initiative both in terms of its general objectives (orientation and promotion of integration) and its specific goals, such as language acquisition and preparation for a course of studies.
MORE students profit from the project not only academically (achieving a very high level of German language skills, access to other university programmes and studies), but also personally, through successful integration, including gaining many new friendships with Austrian and international students. At the same time they are often enabled to access the Austrian labour market, including with gainful employment.
Austrian universities experience MORE students as an enrichment: as people whose potential in a narrow sense is further developed to benefit the universities as well as the Austrian economy in general.
Source: MORE 2022
More information on the original objectives and their achievement can be found in the two MORE evaluation reports. Moreover, the initiative has been nominated several times for the “MigAward”, a yearly prize honoring people, projects and organisations that make the participation of migrants possible.
Who will benefit?
Refugees and displaced persons, regardless of whether they are still awaiting their asylum decisions or have already been recognised as refugees.
Source of funding and Resources used
Most offers have been financed by the universities’ global budget resources and a high amount of additional voluntary work by university staff. Six courses have been financially supported by funds raised by uniko (the umbrella organisation of the 22 public universities in Austria) and around 450 so-called 'semester starting packages', also financed by donations, have been distributed to the participants.
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- Österreichische Universitätenkonferenz (Universities Austria)
- Stephanie Zwießler