A new academic year is beginning, and not only for thousands of Flemish students: the one-year Dutch as a Foreign Language programme is starting too. Some of the students taking the programme this year are refugees.
For young newcomers to Belgium who want to continue or finish their studies, it’s best to learn Dutch first. After all, it’s the language that most higher education programmes are taught in. But attending the same classes as Dutch-speaking students, taking notes, doing group work, writing papers and taking exams? You have to speak good Dutch for that – really good Dutch. That’s why Linguapolis, the University of Antwerp’s language institute, offers a preparatory one-year Dutch as a Foreign Language programme. Students who pass the exams at the end of the preparatory year can enrol on a Dutch-language programme at a Flemish university or university college. Fundraising initiatives have been organised both at UAntwerp and elsewhere to create special scholarships for student refugees, because the one-year programme costs €4175 per student.
From refugee to student
This year, seven student refugees have enrolled on the one-year preparatory Dutch programme. They come from Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Iran, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria. Christine Engelen, director of Linguapolis, has the following words of encouragement for them: “My job is the fundraising, and while more money is always welcome, I’ve still got the easy job. The hard work is for the students: they’ve got nine months to complete the programme and pass the ITNA exam at the end. They need to be fully committed to this intensive programme. But you can see their ambition in their eyes: next year, these refugees will become students.”
The one-year preparatory Dutch programme is unique in Flanders. Besides language lessons that coach students through a sequence of proficiency levels, and additional subjects such as Phonetics and Culture of the Low Countries, the programme includes a wide range of cultural activities. The students are encouraged to improve their Dutch outside the classroom too, for example through ‘Taalmaat’, a buddy system with Dutch-speaking UAntwerp students. The Study Advice and Student Counselling Service also contributes to the programme with a module on coping with stress and home-sickness.
Scholarships needed for next academic year
The tuition fees for the entire 2018-2019 programme are €4175 per student – no small amount, and no subsidies are available. Student refugees whose own resources are limited can therefore apply for a scholarship. You can support this project by transferring your donation to bank account number BE46 7350 0799 7636, with the following reference: “tax receipt – Dutch preparatory programme”. Donations above 40 euros are eligible for a tax receipt.
> More information about the University Fund.