The Open Learning Initiative addresses inequality in access to education. We believe in providing refugees in Europe with tools to foster inclusion and also to take part in national and societal debates about the terms of their inclusion. We are motivated by a sense that refugees and asylum seekers are subject to short term thinking about integration, as well as discourses and policies based on fear and impressions of security threats, that have a negative impact on the welfare and migration projects of refugees and their families. OLIve provides programs to assist its students to actively contribute to the national societies in which they live and to take part in the European public sphere.
OLIve aims to create a safe and inclusive learning space for people who have experienced displacement, including asylum seekers and those with refugee status. It re-imagines the space of the university: learning and knowledge production become entwined with solidarity and support for groups made marginal by state policies. Often working together with members of civil society and rights groups, OLIve is fundamentally a rethinking of the university’s role in the public sphere. Aside from helping students enter into full time education, the program also aims to help students develop academic and practical skills, build confidence and learn about local political, societal and cultural structures and dynamics. OLIve exists within a wider ecosystem of services for those who have experienced displacement, and/or for migrants who experience marginalisation or vulnerability.
OLIve is inspired by and endorses the idea that universities can play a unique role in not only providing access to education for refugees in Europe, but also in helping them flourish in their new home. Further, while changes that transform university practices cannot happen without those who are ready to support these changes from within, inspiration and knowledge to enact change often come from those who are not included. OLIve is a quintessential example of that.