Education for a better future: The scholarship programme “Leadership for Syria”
The war is making it virtually impossible to study in Syria. A whole generation is currently growing up without a chance to fulfil their professional and academic potential. The scholarship programme “Leadership for Syria” is enabling at least some of them to study in Germany.
Many young Syrians have had to leave their home country because of the war. They have had to interrupt their studies, or were not able to start a degree course at all. To prevent a “lost generation” of young people growing up due to the conflict in Syria, to quote Germany’s Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) has launched the scholarship programme “Leadership for Syria”, funded by the Foreign Office.
“Leadership for Syria” is enabling more than 200 scholarship holders to study in Germany
“We are firmly convinced that in the future, Syria will need qualified professionals in all areas,” says Dr Christian Hülshörster, who is in charge of the DAAD’s Department of Scholarship Programmes for the South. Due to the continuing war, there are hardly any opportunities to obtain a qualified education in Syria itself. That is why the programme “Leadership for Syria” currently enables 200 scholarship holders to study in Germany with funds from the Foreign Office. A further 21 scholarship holders are supported by the Ministry of Science and Research of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
The programme is chiefly aimed at Master’s students and also provides places for post-graduate and Bachelor’s students. From October 2014 on, students in Syria as well as refugees from Syria were invited to apply, regardless of their current place of residence. “All the programme’s scholarships have been allotted and we don’t know whether the programme will be repeated,” Christian Hülshörster explains.
Scholarships for Syrian students
Unfortunately, all scholarships for the programme “Leadership for Syria” have already been allocated. But the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) provides around 25 regular scholarships for Syrian students every year. Are you interested? Then go to the DAAD website for further information – you will find a list of scholarship opportunities for students from Syria.
Academic performance counts in the application
29 year-old Omran Omran managed to obtain one of the much-coveted places. Since last year, he has been enrolled in a Master’s programme in English Linguistics at Göttingen’s Georg-August-Universität. “When the war broke out in Syria in 2011, I went to Lebanon,” he tells us. “There, I worked for a partner organisation of the United Nations.” At that time, Omran Omran had already obtained a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature.
“I applied to the programme ‘Leadership for Syria’ because I wanted to specialize in the area of language acquisition. I am particularly interested in the combination of computer-based and natural processes in the acquisition of a second language,” Omran explains. He is one of only a few liberal arts students in the programme. “Two thirds of our scholarships holders study science or engineering,” as Dr Hülshörster points out.
“All scholarships were granted because of excellent academic performance,” Hülshörster underlines. Out of a total of 5,000 applicants, 500 were selected for interviews with professors in their respective fields. 221 of them finally obtained a scholarship. 40 percent of scholarship holders are women.
Supplementary programmes: “Good governance”, “Civil Society” and “Democracy”
“Our scholarship holders can study in nearly all fields – according to their individual specialisation. We have, however, completely excluded the field of medicine,” Dr Christian Hülshörster explains. The study programme for the scholarship holders is held exclusively in English. That is why very good English language skills are a must. But every scholarship holder is provided with German language courses. Omran Omran is already enrolled in a C1-level course (“Competent language skills”) and speaks German fluently.
These language courses are supplemented by a mandatory programme that covers the fields of “Good Governance”, “Civil Society” and “Democracy”. These modules are completed as a certificate course over a period of two semesters. Scholarship holders are expected to attend two course modules per semester in Konstanz, the rest of the content can be studied online. “We don’t want to impose a certain point of view through these courses,” Dr Hülshörster underlines. “However, the supplementary programme is indeed intended to give food for thought and to encourage discussion.”
How can young people from Syria be enabled to gather the expert knowledge and skills necessary to rebuild their country after the war?
Many opportunities await after the scholarship
“We don’t expect any of the participants in the ‘Leadership for Syria’-programme to return to Syria immediately following the scholarship, because nobody can tell when it will be possible to return to Syria at all,” says Dr Hülshörster. According to Article 16 of the German Residence Act, all international students in Germany are awarded a residency status that offers them many opportunities: After successful graduation in Germany, scholarship holders are free to explore the German job market and have a period of 18 months to find an employment that is appropriate to their education.
Omran Omran is also planning to stay in Germany for the time being: “I’m hoping to find a place on a PhD course after completing my Master’s degree. Otherwise, I will try to find a job. It’s hard to predict at the moment. But if it should once more become possible to live in Syria, I will definitely return to my home country.”
Foreign graduates of German universities ...
... have virtually unrestricted access to the German labour market and enjoy a more favourable status than non-EU citizens. Foreign students who have successfully completed their studies in Germany can have their residence permit extended by up to 18 months for the purpose of looking for a job that is appropriate to their degree according to Section 16 Para. 4 Residence Act. If they find a suitable job within this period, the existing residence permit can be transferred into a residence permit for the purpose of gainful employment (Section 18 Residence Act).
Discussion about refugees at German universities
Apart from German language skills, what do you consider to be the most important requirements for a successful integration of refugees? Do you know if there are special programmes or initiatives for refugees at your former German college or university? Join our discussion about refugees at German universities in the comments below.