CONTEXT OF CREATION
Sciences Po took action at the beginning of the migration crisis in 2015, following a voluntary student initiative. We asked how young refugees wishing to resume their studies could be helped to do so at Sciences Po. The first Welcome Refugees cohort was welcomed in March 2016. Since then, this 12-week programme, which focuses on learning French and familiarising young refugees with their surroundings, has developed thanks to the very active support of the NGO Each One and the mobilisation of the entire Sciences Po community: students, teachers, and employees.
In 2018, Sciences Po wanted to take this commitment further, and created a second ambitious and innovative programme, unique in the French university landscape: the Professional Certificate for Young Refugees.
A PROGRAMME ADAPTED TO THE NEEDS OF REFUGEES
The Certificate is a two-year, full-time, bespoke course designed to meet the specific needs of people whose education has been abruptly interrupted. These students, although they have very different backgrounds, need the same tools to develop their professional potential and successfully enter the job market.
Bringing together diverse profiles around a common learning experience
Admission to the Certificate programme is based on criteria that guarantee participants can follow the same courses and acquire common skills. To qualify, students must have:
- acquired refugee status, and thus be able to make a long-term commitment;
- participated in a language programme and have a minimum level of B1 in French;
- acquired a diploma or a secondary school leaving certificate in their country of origin;
- demonstrated their motivation for an introduction to the social sciences.
The diverse backgrounds and nationalities of the students present a challenge for educational organisation, but constitute a real asset for the students. The third cohort of the Certificate programme, which commenced in September 2020, has 19 students, aged 22 to 36, from seven countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China (Tibet), Iraq, Nigeria, Sudan, and Turkey.
Building a foundation of knowledge and skills
The first year of the Certificate programme aims to enable young refugees to develop a foundation of culture and skills, and to define their career objectives.
It revolves around three types of learning:
- the acquisition of theoretical knowledge in the social sciences, which sheds light on French society and its history. Refugee students attend lectures common to Sciences Po’s Undergraduate College students, and complementary seminars designed specifically for them;
- enhanced learning of the French language, through French as a foreign language courses;
- the development of soft skills to improve their employability, through public speaking workshops or other artistic practices promoting self-expression, well-being workshops, sports workshops, and exploratory courses.
Throughout their training, students have access to all Sciences Po’s digital resources, its library, and its language laboratory.
Cultural activities are also organised in partnership with major institutions, such as the Comédie-Française, to give young refugees an insight into French cultural life and heritage.
Support to find employment
The second year of the Certificate programme is more directly oriented towards making a successful transition to professional life. It consists of a six-month internship in a company, preceded by a semester of training focused on the development of practical skills necessary for professional integration, and which also matches the needs expressed by companies: IT skills, applied mathematics, etc.
Workshops organised by Sciences Po Careers coaches enable students to better decipher and master the codes of the world of work. They acquire techniques and tools to conduct job searches, write CVs, adopt appropriate interview behaviour, etc.
Finally, the induction into the business world includes an introductory course on management as well as two sets of presentations: one on the French job market, the other consisting of talks by companies on their professions and areas of expertise.
The isolation and precarious financial position in which most of our refugee students find themselves require, in addition to the education they receive, close and personalised support for each student in order that he or she can successfully complete their studies.
Financial, health and administrative support
To improve the students’ security as much as possible, and to give them the best possible chance to follow their chosen paths, the Certificate Programme proposes financial support to meet their needs: CROUS grants, help in purchasing computers, books, etc.
The young refugees also have privileged access to two Sciences Po services:
- the health centre: composed of general practitioners, nurses, psychiatrists, and psychologists, it offers medical consultations, psychological counselling, help in making external medical appointments, and offers well-being and stress-management workshops.
- the student welfare and support centre, which provides information on administrative procedures and grant allocation, and helps students find accommodation and emergency financial assistance.
Educational support & mentoring
During the course of study at Sciences Po, each Certificate student benefits from individual monitoring and support via one-to-one meetings with the teaching staff. This support is also provided during the internship thanks to the appointment of a referent teacher.
In addition, a mentoring system allows each student, upon admission, to be assigned a mentor working at Sciences Po or in a partner company. This mentoring, marked by frequent exchanges (two to four times a month), aims to support the student in his or her professional project, and assist with integration into daily life through conversation and the practice of cultural or sporting activities.