Our last article (Is equal opportunities enough?) centred on the need for Norwegian organizations to transform their equal opportunity statements into actions that actually create or improve access for different groups in the society. In this article, we present to you one of Oslo Metropolitan University’s (OsloMet) initiatives that fosters inclusion and improves the professional prospects of skilled immigrants in Norway.
The Supplementary Education Programme for Refugees is a one-year university course, primarily offered to refugees with a prior qualification as a teacher, nurse or engineer. Qualified applicants without a refugee background but with education outside the EU/EEA would be considered if there are available spaces. For many educated refugees (and other groups of immigrants) who want to quickly upskill and get relevant jobs in Norway, this initiative is a small but vitally important step that reduces the Norwegian language requirement for admission into a Norwegian taught programme from B2 to B1 (or its equivalent).
During the one year programme, participants study theoretical courses related to their respective professional fields and are offered opportunities to put their knowledge into practice. Participants also have the chance to combine these with Norwegian language training. As you can imagine this will be intensive, but the benefits are worth the work.
This initiative has been so widely welcomed because after completion, participants have access to a wider pool of relevant jobs with the added advantage of being able to speak Norwegian relevant to their professional field (which cannot be covered in regular Norwegian language courses). For those with teaching or nursing backgrounds, it accelerates the process of getting the necessary authorization from the Utdanningsdirektoratet and Helsedirektoratet respectively.
The application requirements differ from programme to programme, but the common requirements are:
- You have completed university level education as a teacher, nurse or engineer
- You have a refugee background (other qualified applicants can be admitted depending on available study space)
- You have achieved a minimum of B1 (or equivalent) in Norwegian (except for nursing where B2 or equivalent is required
- You meet the minimum level of English language proficiency (English teachers are exempted)
- You send in your application before March 1 (yearly early deadline) or April 15 (yearly general deadline)
More information can be found on the programme website.
In this brief conversation with the programme manager, Ellen Merethe Magnus, Inter-Nationals bring you some answers to questions you might have:
How did the idea for the course come about?
In late 2015, Norwayexperienced a record high number of refugees. Many of them were assumed to have completed higher education, and to help them qualify for jobs according to their education, the Ministry of Education and Research asked OsloMet if the university could develop and offer programs to bridge the gap between the prior education of initially teachers and nurses, and later on engineers, and the corresponding Norwegian education.
How many students do you admit for the 2020 programme?
We will admit 90 students
What are the common challenges students in the programme face?
That would have to be language skills, in particular Norwegian, professional language. We are very well aware of this and offer as much language training as we can. Another challenge is being a student in Norway, which can be different from being a student in the student’s home country.
What are the challenges you face in administering the programme?
Initially, it was challenging to reach the potential students for which the programmes were developed. Unfortunately, the records on the educational background of refugees are scarce, so we put a lot of work into informing through various channels. Also, it takes time from when the programmes are first known to the target group until applicants actually fulfill all admission criteria. The diversity in educational background among the students calls for adjustments to meet individual needs and often quite a bit of counselling.
Are there plans to introduce other subjects, like business or the arts?
No, we don’t have plans for similar offers in other areas.
Do you think this course provides a model that other institutions outside of Norway can replicate?
Actually, we have learned a lot from Sweden. They have had similar programs in operation for many years and for many professions.
How do you monitor the success of the programme? Do you collect data on previous participants?
The program has been in operation since fall 2017, so we don’t have a long history. Yes, keep track of number of applicants, qualified applicants and students completing the programs and we will follow up the students who have completed the program as a part of the evaluation of the program.
How else can we help refugees with qualifications integrate to Norway?
I would have to answer that question from a university employee’s point of view. At OsloMet and some other universities we a program called Akademisk dugnad. The program offers courses and training in i.e. Norwegian, English and computer skills. Our Akademisk dugnad collaborates with Oslo kommune and aims at offering supplementary courses and activities to those offered by other bodies. For refugees not qualifying for our bridging programmes it might be a possibility to take courses at a university as a start or may be just sit in open lectures. You meet people with a similar educational background, can discuss with them and practice the language.
The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) also offers a similar programme, more information can be found via this link. If you think these programmes might be of interest to someone you know, we encourage you to share this article with them.