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War and terror are currently robbing people in Syria of any prospect of a secure future. In this difficult situation too little attention is often paid to issues such as training and continuing education. To address this, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) has initiated a programme called “Leadership for Syria”. Partly funded by the Federal Foreign Office, it offers young people from Syria an opportunity to begin a course of study at a German university. 271 Syrian students took advantage of this possibility in the 2015/2016 winter semester. The scholarship holders complete a four-month German course and attend seminars on good governance while pursuing their degree. The DAAD had already invited applications for the programme back in October 2014 – and received more than 5,000 responses.
Universities as places of integration
Overall, the German government is very keen to see refugees well integrated. “If integration is to work, education is the best way forward”, said Federal Education Minister Professor Johanna Wanka. Universities thus also assume an important social role. For this reason, the DAAD has developed a second package of measures for refugees, for which the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is making available 100 million euros. Its goal is to pave the way for refugees to study at German universities. The package assesses the skills and abilities of refugees, ensures that they are suited to a course of university study, and supports their integration at university. Wanka had already launched the first 130 million euro programme for language and vocational training for refugees at the end of September 2015.
Commitment from three major research institutions
Alongside such initiatives, German research institutions are also ensuring that refugees have a future in the German academic system. The “Wissenschaftsinitiative Integration” – the Initiative for Integration of Refugees in Science – run by the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, the Leibniz Association and the Max Planck Society helps refugees gain a foothold in the German research system. The three academic institutions offer refugees internships lasting up to three months, jobs as research assistants and training places.
Measures like these not only help integrate refugees into the German education and academic system, but can also serve as a bridge to German society.