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Brussels, 10 December 2015

The international refugee crisis. What role for European higher education?


The escalating refugee crisis has become the burning issue among Europe´s higher education stakeholders and it is accompanied by numerous challenges and few clear-cut solutions. At different paces and urgency levels, the academic community in Europe is responding to the alarming situation and joining forces with other stakeholders in order to best deal with it. Many questions are yet to be answered: 

  • What could or should be the role of European higher education in the current refugee crisis?
  • How can higher education institutions support students and scholars from the war-afflicted areas?
  • How can different stakeholders (universities, NGOs, community centres, etc.) work together on this issue?
  • What are the main challenges governments and institutions are facing?
  • What are good practices and how can they be multiplied?
  • What are the next steps for European higher education? 

With all this in mind, on 10 December 2015, which also marks the International Human Rights Day, ACA´s European Policy Seminar (EPS) will be devoted to the role of European higher education in the international refugee crisis. The seminar will bring together representatives of European and international institutions, national governments and agencies, higher education associations and universities as well as of NGOs and humanitarian networks, in order to discuss the role of Europe´s higher education in the face of the crisis, to take stock of current initiatives at European, national and institutional level, to share practices and search for potential solutions. 

Part of the participation fee will be donated as participants´ and ACA´s contribution to all the efforts being made to alleviate the consequences of the crisis.


Wednesday 09 December 2015

18:00 Free guided tour (The Secrets of Brussels)

19:00 Seminar dinner

Thursday 10 December 2015



Registrations and coffee


Opening keynote – Education and Migration

Philippa Candler, Deputy Regional Representative for Western Europe, UNHCR
Johannes Tarvainen, Tertiary Education Officer, UNHCR


Mapping initiatives of and for European universities 

European University Association´s survey of members´activities
Henriette Stöber, Policy and Project Officer, Higher Education Policy Unit, EUA

What can the European Commission do to facilitate the integration of refugees in higher education?
Claire Morel, Head of Unit, International Cooperation in Education and Youth, Jean Monnet Actions, Directorate-General for Education and Culture, European Commission 

EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian crisis – the `Madad Fund`
Nadim Karkutli, Manager of the `Madad Fund`, Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, European Commission


Coffee break


Country Cases – from urgent responses to common practices

Anette Pieper, Director of Projects Department, DAAD

Anders Ahlstrand, Analyst, Swedish Council for Higher Education

The Netherlands
Joost van der Veen, Senior Policy Officer, Ministry of Education, Culture and Science


Sandwich lunch


Institutional Initiatives – from mobilising to integrating

Mobilising Catalan Universities
Nadja Gmelch, Project Manager, Association of Catalan Public Universities (ACUP)

ULB solidarity with refugees: from student mobilisation to postdoctoral fellowships
Pierre Quertenmont, Head of International Office, Université libre de Bruxelles

Individual and institutional responses at the Central European University (CEU), Budapest, Hungary
Chrys Margaritidis, Dean of Students and member of the CEU Refugee Crisis Response Task Force

Integrating refugees in the Finnish higher education system
Kaisa Kurki, Director of International Education Services, University of Tampere

LCC Middle East Scholars Program 
Marlene Wall, President of LCC International University, Klaipeda, Lithuania


Coffee break


Voices from Syria: discussing real needs

Assisting refugee scholars and students – overview of Scholars at Risk Network activities 
Sinead O’Gorman, European Director, Scholars at Risk (SAR)

What do students need? 
Malaz Safarjalani, a former Syrian student, Independent Consultant

Integrating refugee scholars in the academic community
Dr Kassem AlSayed Mahmoud, Postdoctoral Researcher at Ghent University


Closing panel – a way forward for (European) higher education

Yannick du Pont, Director and Founder of SPARK
Patricia Pol, Vice Chair of the Bologna Follow Up Group
Leasa Weimer, Knowledge Development Adviser, European Association for International Education (EAIE)
Dr Luisa Borges De Araujo, Joint Research Centre, European Commission


Farewell drink


Philippa Candler

Philippa Candler joined UNHCR in 1993 in Canberra, Australia, as a legal consultant. She has since worked for UNHCR mainly in field locations such as Mozambique, Indonesia, Eritrea, Kenya and Sudan, but also at UNHCR Headquarters in Geneva and now in Brussels. Ms. Candler has held a number of different functions most of which were in the area of refugee protection, although one assignment was with the Inspector-General’s Office.

Prior to joining UNHCR, Ms. Candler worked for the British Council and as a volunteer for Amnesty International Australia.Ms. Candler graduated with an LLB from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, and subsequently completed an LLM in Law and Development. 

Johannes Tarvainen

Johannes Tarvainen has worked for UNHCR since 2012. His assignments in Rwanda and Kenya focused on education and protection of refugees and stateless persons. In his current position at Headquarters, he provides guidance to UNHCR’s higher education policy and programmatic response across 41 countries in Africa, Middle East, Asia and Latin America. 

Prior to joining UNHCR, Mr. Tarvainen worked with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland in the Units of Humanitarian Assistance and Human Rights Policy.

Mr. Tarvainen holds a Master of Arts Degree in Intercultural Communication from the University of Jyväskylä, Finland.

Henriette Stoeber

Henriette Stoeber joined EUA in August 2014 as Policy/Project Officer in the Higher Education Policy Unit. Prior to joining EUA, she has worked as a research assistant at the Hungarian Rectors’ Conference and spent several years at the German Academic Exchange Service’s (DAAD) National Agency for Higher Education Cooperation, working as programme manager involved in the projects “Development of the European Higher Education Area” and “Promoting Bologna in Germany”. Furthermore, Henriette has worked for the private sector in the field of administration, mainly based in the UK. 

Henriette holds a Joint Master degree in European Public Policy from the University of York and Central European University, where she specialised in the field of higher education policy, as well as a Bachelor degree in International Management and Trade from the University of Applied Sciences Osnabrück, part of which she completed at Drexel University, Philadelphia.

Claire Morel

Claire Morel is the Head of Unit for international cooperation at DG Education and Culture of the European Commission, with particular focus on the international dimension of Erasmus+ and international policy dialogue in higher education. She has worked several years on academic cooperation with the neighbouring countries. Before she worked for Tempus – a programme for higher education modernisation – cooperating with Central Asia; and at the European Training Foundation, and agency of the EU based in Turin, on the modernisation of vocational education and training systems in the Eastern neighbouring countries and Central Asia.

Anette Pieper

Anette Pieper was appointed Director of the Project Department at DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) in January 2015. Her professional experience includes five years as director of the DAAD’s regional offices in Costa Rica and Mexico as well as ten years of heading several divisions and the Northern Hemisphere Department at the DAAD main office in Bonn, Germany. In 2011/ 2012, she worked as a consultant for higher education at the UNESCO in Paris. Before joining the DAAD in 1992, she was assistant director of a scholarship program at Bergen Community College in the United States for four years.

Anette Pieper holds a PhD in French literature and is the author of several articles on internationalisation and development cooperation in higher education.

Anders Ahlstrand

Anders Ahlstrand has worked with internationalisation of Higher Education for the past 15 years. He has experience of implementing a wide range of European and national mobility and cooperation programmes both at university and national level. At present he works as analyst at the Swedish Council for Higher Education.

Joost van der Veen

Joost van der Veen is senior policy advisor and coordinator for international aspects of higher education (HE) with a team of seven colleagues. He works on topics ranging from bilateral cooperation in higher education, transnational education and higher education for refugees. Recently, Joost has worked as coordinator for Minister Bussemaker’s vision letter on internationalisation in HE and VET and as project manager for the action plan ‘Make it in the Netherlands’. He has previous working experience at the Socio-Economic Council (SER) and as a member of the Dutch team of Bologna Experts

Nadja Gmelch

Nadja Gmelch is project manager at the Catalan Association of Public Universities (ACUP) since 2007 where she is responsible for the Commission of Social Responsibility of Universities. She has experience in the fields of internationalisation of higher education, especially in university development cooperation, strategic planning and management as well as university governance. She has been actively involved in the elaboration of different strategic documents for the Catalan higher education system, the conception and writing of reports on various higher education issues like doctoral education or academic payment and the design and management of interuniversity projects. She has several years of experience in cooperating with universities from a variety of regions, mainly from Europe, Africa and the Caribbean.

Nadja Gmelch is a graduate in International Business and Cultural Studies of the University of Passau (Germany) and holds a master’s degree in European Policies for Development Cooperation from the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB).

Pierre Quertenmont

Pierre Quertenmont has been Head of the Université libre de Bruxelles’ (ULB) International Office since 2007. He served as International Relations Officer in the same office from 2001 to 2007. Prior to that, he was Scientific Officer in the ULB’s technology transfer office.

He has been invited as guest speaker and moderator in several conferences and seminars related to the internationalization of higher education. In addition, he has been acting as an expert for the International Association of Universities (IAU), ISAS (Internationalization Strategies Advisory Service), since 2013.

Pierre Quertenmont holds a Ph.D. in Biochemistry, a Master in Chemistry and a Master in Environmental Management, all from ULB. He is an alumnus of the Fulbright program for international educators, USA (2004).

Chrys Margaritidis

Chrys Margaritidis received his BA in Economics from Bard College, US. After working for a year in an investment consulting firm, he continued his studies at Brandeis University, US, where he received his MA in International Finance. He joined CEU in 2001 and has served CEU in various roles since then, most recently as the Dean of Students. His main academic interests are philosophy and higher education. He also holds an MA in Philosophy from Open University, UK, and he is about to defend his PhD in Philosophy at the University of Reading, UK.

Kaisa Kurki

Kaisa Kurki is director of international education services at the University of Tampere, Finland, a public comprehensive research university located in the city of Tampere, the biggest inland city in the Nordic countries and the most popular city in Finland to live in. The University of Tampere is the biggest educator in the fields of public administration and social sciences in the country. Kaisa Kurki has been working for the Centre for International Education, which is in charge of coordinating mobility programmes, Master’s degree programmes taught in English, international education projects as well promotion of internationalisation and supporting education export within the University of Tampere, for the past 12 years. She has been the head of the centre since 2012.

Marlene Wall

Dr. Marlene Wall is the President of LCC International University, located in Klaipeda, Lithuania.  As a Canadian citizen, born in Uruguay, and now in her 14th year in Lithuania, Dr. Wall has significant experience with immigrant and multicultural populations.

Dr. Wall’s higher education includes a BA in English/Secondary Education from Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kansas; an MA degree in Applied Linguistics/English as a Foreign Language from Southern Illinois University (Carbondale); and a PhD in Curriculum and Development from Kansas State University. 

Dr. Wall has been a teacher trainer in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and has regularly taught university courses on teaching methodology.  Her prior positions include ESL Director of a large public school system in the United States. 

Sinead O’Gorman

Sinead O’Gorman is the European Director at Scholars at Risk. Based in the UK, Ms. O’Gorman leads SAR’s international outreach efforts, including the design and implementation of SAR’s strategy for Europe, establishing national and regional SAR sections and increasing global participation in SAR’s protection and prevention activities. Ms. O’Gorman has over 14 years’ experience in higher education, development cooperation and human rights. Prior to joining SAR, Ms. O’Gorman served as Program Officer-Africa at the Institute of International Education (IIE) and held program and research positions at the Council for Assisting Refugee Academics (CARA) in London and at the Irish Council for International Students (ICOS) in Dublin. She holds an MSc in Development Studies from the London School of Economics, an MA in French from the Université de Montréal, a BA in English and French from Trinity College Dublin and was a pensionnaire étranger at the Ecole normale supérieure (ENS), rue d’Ulm.

Malaz Safarjalani

Malaz Safarjalani is a development aid consultant based in Brussels, with a background in Economics from the College of Europe. He acquired his bachelor’s degree in Damascus and has thorough knowledge of the Middle East economies.

He recently participated in a European Commission programme design on the access of Syrian refugees to higher education, while researching tertiary education for people affected by crisis in cooperation with researchers from CHEPS. Currently he is working on the ‘Syrian Spillover’ – an EU funded campaign to raise awareness about the lives of Syrian refugees, covering their issues of poverty, health and education.

Kassem AlSayed Mahmoud

Dr Kassem AlSayed Mahmoud is a Post-doctoral Researcher (grant from Scholars at Risk and Ghent University) at the Laboratory of Food Technology and Engineering (FTE), Department of Food Safety and Food Quality (BW07), Faculty of Bioscience Engineering (FBW) of Ghent University since August 2015. Prior to joining Ghent University, he resided in France (2014-2015), Turkey and Qatar (2012-2014) before fleeing Syria in 2012, where he held the position of Academic and Assistant Professor at the Department of Food Science at the Faculty of Agronomy, ALFURAT University in Deir Ezzor (2009-2012).

Dr Kassem AlSayed Mahmoud obtained his Ph.D. in Food Process and Biotechnology from ENSAIA-INPL-Nancy University in France, where he was also a post-doctoral researcher in 2008. 

Yannick du Pont

Drs. Yannick du Pont is director of SPARK, an international not-for-profit organisation working on Youth Entrepreneurship and SME development in 15 developing countries emerging from conflict in Africa, South-Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Through job creation, entrepreneurship promotion and the advocacy for an enabling business environment, SPARK aims to diminish the potential for conflict, paying special attention to youth, women and marginalised communities in its programming. 

Mr. Du Pont holds degrees in Political Science and Sociology and has been working with states in conflict and emerging from it since 1994. He is primarily responsible for programme development. He is also a board member of the Foundation Max van der Stoel (FMS), member of the advisory board of the Centre for Theory of Change in New York and sit on the steering committee of the Knowledge platform Security & Rule of Law. All these latter positions he fills ‘pro bono’.

Patricia Pol

Patricia Pol is Policy Advisor for the 2018 Bologna ministerial conference at the French Secretariat of State in charge of Higher Education and Research and Vice-chair of the Bologna follow Up Group. 

Ms Pol has worked in the private sector of multinational corporations before entering the world of education and research at the end of the 80s, getting her Doctorate in Management Science and becoming Vice-President of her university in 2000. 

During the last 20 years, she has coordinated several international and European projects in various fields and contributed to strategic issues in her university, Université Paris 12, the pole of research and higher education, Université Paris-Est, the French evaluation agency for research and higher education (AERES) and the Ministry of Education, Higher Education and Research where she has implemented a new Division dedicated to the internationalisation of Higher Education and Research in 2014. She has been strongly involved in the development of the European areas of Higher Education and Research since 1998 and has been participating in many conferences on the Bologna process in France, Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Leasa Weimer

Leasa Weimer is the Knowledge Development Adviser for the European Association for International Education (EAIE). She has authored several publications on the international student market, international joint degrees, international alumni, and academic capitalism. Her PhD is from the University of Georgia where she was awarded a Fulbright and American Scandinavian Foundation research grant. Leasa has an Erasmus Mundus joint master’s degree from universities in: Oslo (Norway), Tampere (Finland), and Aveiro (Portugal). She serves as a board member for the Erasmus+ Students and Alumni Association and the Fulbright Finland Alumni. 

Luisa Borges Araujo

Luísa Araújo has expertise in literacy studies and bilingual education and her research interests include issues of diversity and equity. As a professor of higher education she has been a member of the Portuguese scientific council for the Humanities and Social Sciences.

She currently works for the European Commission at the Joint Research Centre in Italy where she conducts research for evidence-based policy support in the area of education.


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