One of the main barriers against inclusion of migrants in tertiary education is the lack of knowledge of the host country’s language. Language barriers may prevent successful communication with the local population on a daily basis, and significantly reduce access to essential services and support.
In European host countries, languages continue to be a challenge for successful integration of refugees. Language barriers may prevent successful communication with the local population on a daily basis, and significantly reduce access to essential services and support, which is often inaccessible to refugees who are not familiar with the Latin alphabet, or who have low levels of literacy in their own languages. Recognition of prior learning and skills / language certification processes are, at best, slow. There is a general lack of European and national level policy support, with too few concrete measures, a lack of funding for integration activities, and overall, a lack of visibility and recognition for the role of and the work done by the higher education sector. Also, the lack of multi-stakeholder collaboration hinders inclusion.
Inclusive institutional policies and practices
Each Open University must create and put in place a formal “Inclusion Plan”, which will describe the policies, practices and ethics that will widen participation of TCN in HE studies. Some suggested practices are flexible learning pathways, targeted TCN scholarships, support for multicultural research teams, promotion of role models, special “inclusion days” or campaigns etc.
Inclusive (or culture-neutral) educational material
Translating and offering educational material in TCN languages can make HE studies more attractive.
Fostering multicultural research
Open Universities, especially because they rely on modern technological means, can easily support the formation of multicultural research teams including TCN. At the same time, special funds should be systematically allocated to research on multiculturalism and issues related to accommodating TCN in HE. In this way Open Universities will pave the way for policies that will achieve a really inclusive HE in Europe, which will be based on actual research data.
Direct collaboration with TCN communities
By establishing mutual trust between University and local TCN communities, Open Universities can attract members of the communities to pursue HE studies. Members of the communities can be formally employed as mentors to assist TCN in accessing the University.
Specially designed education/training/re-skilling opportunities for TCN
Universities must take into account the TCN needs in course design. Firstly, they could offer language, culture and preparatory courses that lead to certification. In addition, they should make available a range of educational offers, from Short Learning Programmes to full courses, all of which are stackable and lead to certification, so that TCN can be enabled to access the market quickly and then return to complete their studies. The recent concept of micro-credentials, combined with a flexible “recognise-as-you-study” scheme could be an attractive opportunity.
Recognition scheme of prior learning / skills
Many TCN have already received HE qualifications from their countries of origin, but cannot provide the formal documents to prove this. Open Universities can put in place flexible schemes for recognition of prior learning and especially skills by giving TCN the opportunity to enroll and assess their achievement of learning outcomes. Moreover, Open Universities can collaborate at European level (e.g. via EADTU) so as to mutually recognize qualifications or ECTS that have been awarded by any Open University, thus accommodating the high degree of TCN volatility.
Make stakeholders and society aware of the potential of cultural differences
Open Universities can better accommodate TCN in their programmes, because by design, they are more flexible and tolerant to individual differences, while at the same time, they have strong ties with stakeholders and society. Exactly for this reason, Open Universities must seek to implement projects that on one hand enhance the inclusiveness of stakeholders and society and on the other hand provide targeted services to TCN.