Language and Preparatory Program prepares students to study at a university
Young people who have to flee their home country while they are still in secondary or tertiary education usually wish to continue their studies in the Netherlands. But in a new language and a different education system, that can be quite a challenge. How do we help them learn Dutch and move on to higher education? Tilburg University’s Language and Preparatory Program provides support for both challenges. Patty van Bielder is the program coordinator at the Language Center, and Kathelijn van Heeswijk is a mentor and project leader for the Language and Preparatory Program. Soldado Koval talks about his experience as a participant.
The university was one of the first to start preparing refugee students to participate in higher education in the Netherlands. The Language and Preparatory Program is part of the Language Center. Patty: “The program prepares students who are new to the country to study at a university in the Netherlands. It’s an intensive program in which students learn the language and also get ready for the next stage in their education. Since the introduction of the new Civic Integration Act in 2021, this is one of the possible routes to integration that is open to asylum seekers.”
We also focus on choosing the right study program by reflecting on the student’s own strengths and ambitions
Kathelijn van Heeswijk, mentor and project leader for the Language and Preparatory Program (right on the photo)
Left on the photo: Patty van Bielder, program coordinator at the Language Center
Kathelijn: “During the program, students take the State Exam in Dutch as a Second Language (‘NT2’) along with other parts of the civic integration exam. They also complete various courses and modules to prepare for the transition to higher professional education or academic education. They study English and mathematics, for example, to ensure that their level is the same as that of Dutch students. We also focus on choosing the right study program by reflecting on the student’s own strengths and ambitions. Some students are not used to having a completely free choice of what they study, so we want to help them choose something that suits them. We also teach them academic skills, so that they know what is involved in following a study program. The goal is to help students to gain admission to a Bachelor’s program at a research university. We also encourage the students to actually take the first steps in moving on to university when they finish the Language and Preparatory Program. While they are with us, we are around to support them, but after that they will need to cope on their own. So, we aim to come up with a clear plan for them, with various alternatives.”
I was determined to leave the asylum center as soon as I could, and participating in education was the best way forwards
Soldado followed the Language and Preparatory Program in 2019-2020. “While I was at the asylum center, I was looking into ways to study in the Netherlands. I had already completed a university education in Russia, but I wasn’t allowed to do that work any more. The admission requirements for the program were tough, especially the mathematics. Luckily, they also took my motivation into account. I was determined to leave the asylum center as soon as I could, and participating in education was the best way forwards. One of the mentors gave me a book in Dutch, and I looked up YouTube videos to start learning the language. There’s so much to think about when you’re a refugee, and a lot of things to sort out. It takes a lot of time and energy. So, it was a challenge to take part in the Language and Preparatory Program at the same time. You are learning a new language, as well as catching up with changes in your field and doing an internship. Now I’ve almost finished my Bachelor’s in Psychology, and my main focus has been on research methods and statistics. All the math I did during the Language and Preparatory Program has been very useful to me. I come from a country where people have very limited access to information, research and support that is evidence-based. That has made me even more determined to do well here in my studies in the Netherlands. I really want to help vulnerable young people by combining research and practical-clinical knowledge.”
A valuable network
Since completing his own program, Soldado has been helping others to integrate. “For example, I explain what it’s like to collaborate with other students on a project. What vocabulary will they need? What is expected of them? I’ve also shown students how to work with computers and how they can communicate effectively with other students and lecturers.” Kathelijn: “By linking up new students with students who’ve already completed the program, we are creating a network that can really help people move forward. As a mentor, I’m also there for students in the Language and Preparatory Program, and I help them find their way around the university. It’s really valuable that we can help them link up with students who already have experience of the program.”
The fact that we can offer these students such a great opportunity says everything about the way we feel about social responsibility here at Tilburg University
Patty van Bielder
When the program for refugee students at Tilburg University was set up in 2017, it was decided that participants who successfully completed the program would automatically be admitted to a Bachelor’s program at Tilburg University. As a result, participants can begin a program regardless of their educational background. Patty: “The fact that we can offer these students such a great opportunity says everything about the way we feel about social responsibility here at Tilburg University.”
Tilburg University Fund seeks to increase the impact Tilburg University has on society and for that reason supports projects like the Language and Preparatory Program.
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Date of publication: 8 May 2023