UAntwerp offering intensive language courses to refugees

Date: 25 April 2016

Introduction: UAntwerp and Atlas, the City of Antwerp's integration agency, are joining forces to offer highly educated newcomers intensive Dutch language courses.

Language is key for those who want to integrate into a society, and that’s certainly the case for the newcomers who have recently arrived in our country. UAntwerp and Atlas, the City of Antwerp’s integration agency, are joining forces to offer highly educated newcomers intensive Dutch language courses, made possible with the financial support of the City of Antwerp and of the university, its alumni and supporters.

Many young refugees and other newcomers may recently have graduated or been enrolled in higher education at the time they had to leave their countries. Upon arrival in Flanders, their knowledge of Dutch will inevitably be extremely important if they want to further their studies or apply for opportunities in the labour market.

In Antwerp, Atlas and the University of Antwerp aim to help these highly educated individuals learn Dutch as quickly as possible. Since early January, Atlas has used city scholarships to enrol 122 newcomers in the intensive Dutch language courses taught by Linguapolis, the University of Antwerp’s language institute. These city scholarships are available to all those registered as residents of the City of Antwerp.

“These are all people who have both the ambition and the potential to carry on studying”, says Atlas director Frieke Van Zundert. “This intensive programme will prepare them to take the ITNA language test. If they pass the test, they can enrol in higher education – it’s their ticket to a brighter future.”

Preparatory one-year programme: more than just language

In September, the University of Antwerp will be giving a new group of newcomers the opportunity to immerse themselves in Dutch. “We use clearly defined criteria for enrolment on this preparatory language programme”, explains Christine Engelen, director of Linguapolis. “Candidates are interviewed beforehand. The idea is that students learn Dutch for one year and then begin a higher education degree. But we are offering more than just Dutch: during this course, newcomers will also become familiar with the university’s library and restaurants, and student life in general.”

But the price tag for the one-year Dutch course, whose workload is similar to a full higher education study programme, is 3975 euros. A significant sum, for which no subsidies are available. That is why grants have now been introduced for refugee students who have limited resources. The University of Antwerp is covering the costs of five scholarships for this year-long language course, and language institute Linguapolis will be funding a sixth scholarship itself. In addition, the university has set up a campaign to raise funds from its alumni and supporters.

“We are contacting our former students, the local authorities and the business world with an appeal for donations to fund the language programme”, explains Tinne Marynissen, coordinator of the UAntwerp University Fund. “This way, we can give motivated refugees who are not eligible for Antwerp’s city scholarship the chance to continue their studies in our country. If you would like to support this project, please transfer your donation to account number BE46 7350 0799 7636. Tax exemption certificates are issued for donations above 40 euros.”