FES: You have recently joined the Kiron team. What exactly is the concept behind the organization?
Ledwon: It's a simple concept: Kiron's goal is to use digital solutions in order to enable access to higher education and a successful course of study for refugees. In order to reach this goal, Kiron provides refugees with the opportunity of studying or preparing themselves for a course of study – online and free of cost. The digital education platform contains online classes, preparatory classes and support services for the transfer to a regular institution of higher learning. The educational program is further supplemented by additional counseling and support offers (tutorials, study weekends) which are geared towards the students' needs. After being accepted at an institution of higher learning, some of the studies completed at Kiron can – in accordance with learning agreements made with our partner schools – be accredited.
What are the greatest challenges and obstacles in regard to higher education for refugees? Where do you see the most need for action?
In general, higher education in Germany could become much more accessible and attractive to underrepresented groups by facilitating full participation and opening itself to diversity. To be more specific, the greatest challenges regarding study preparation for refugees are acquiring language skills and the administrative burden connected to, for instance, multiple applications. Following this, the resolution of financial questions and a comprehensive range of advisory and support services are decisive factors for starting, and later, successfully completing studies.
So far, the course offerings encompass mainly technical, as well as social and economic disciplines. To what extent are there thoughts to expand the course syllabus to artistic fields as well?
At the moment, Kiron offers following study tracks: Business administration, computer science, mechanical engineering, political science and social work. However, Kiron is constantly striving to improve the course offerings and develop new study disciplines. Having said this, there are currently no plans for artistic fields of study.
On April 20, you will be panelist at the Sixth Annual Conference on Cultural Politics of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung. The main topics of the conference are shaping full participation and making diversity visible. How can these goals come about? What is needed for this?
We need to find new creative ways for enabling full participation and profiting more from our diversity. What is special about this project is that everyone benefits when educational and cultural institutions such as universities, theaters and libraries open themselves for all social groups and keep evolving in cooperation with these groups. For this, an active participation in our society is needed, as well as visionary decision-makers that dare to try new things and advance openness.
Heda Ledwon is a former Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung scholar. Since April, she has worked as head of academic relationships for Kiron Open Higher Education.
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