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Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe



How to support the integration of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers

by Mary-Clare O'CONNOR
Language: EN
Document available also in: DE ES FR IT PL ET

Adult learning and integration

When a migrant, refugee or asylum seeker arrives in a new country, providing them with effective learning is key to supporting their integration. It is vital to ensuring that they can access labour market opportunities and make an economic contribution to host nations. However, there are a wide range of contexts for migration. Movements could be within the European Union or European Economic Area, often involving highly skilled and linguistically capable workers, or refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants from outside Europe, who may arrive with little or no ability to speak the language of host nations.

Some examples of practice

The examples below highlight some innovative approaches to using learning to promote integration in the UK, in particular looking at those that focus on more challenging contexts and which are likely to be of interest for practitioners engaged in this field.

Language development through empowerment: Reflect ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) was developed in the UK and takes a different approach to language support as part of the process of integration. Based on the work of the Brazilian educationalist, Paulo Freire, it uses a structured technique to empower learners to be more open and have more input into their own learning. A resource pack is available for practitioners and an evaluation validated the effectiveness of the approach.

Holistic approach to supporting the social, educational and economic integration: The Bridges Programmes agency in Glasgow, Scotland, provides specialist support to help people into work, education and training. The support programme available includes ‘life-skills’ support for refugees, work-focused employability support building on individuals’ previous skills and experience, and work placements to offer develop skills in the UK context. Resources available include a toolkit used for work with clients, which was developed in collaboration with The Open University, and a toolkit on empowering asylum seekers.

New technologies to support learning and integration: The UK’s MoLeNET programme uses handheld digital technologies to support learning. Several of its projects were targeted at migrants, asylum seekers and refugees (particularly in connection with learning English and using peer learning). Examples of such projects and their benefits are discussed in a British Council publication, ‘Innovations in English language teaching for migrants and refugees’ and a study that accompanied the MoLeNET programme.

Using a ‘Conversation Club’ to assist integration through language: The Conversation Club in Sheffield, England, combines support to learn and practise language skills with ‘extended activities’ such as weekend walks, museum visits, football, and cinema visits. The aim is to reduce social isolation and promote integration using language learning as the basis for a range of activities which are planned by the learners.

What about integration in your country?

I want to hear from other EPALE users of examples they are aware of, such as toolkits or new approaches, which could support practice in this important dimension of adult learning. Let me know about integration activities that have impressed you in the comments box below.


Ian Atkinson is Associate Director at Ecorys UK, where he leads on employment and labour markets policy and research work. His research background and interests include employability interventions, social inclusion and results-based payment mechanisms.

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  • Riina Kütt's picture

    Väga kasulik ülevaade ja tõesti oleks ülimalt tore, kui meie keeleõppe ja kohanemisprogammi elluviijad siinkohal oma parimaid praktikaid jagaksid. Aitäh juba ette!

  • Christa NIEUWBOER's picture

    Thank you for these examples, Mary-Clare. This is very interesting to us, since we work with a Freirian approach also. However, adult education (for instance in the Netherlands) is mostly limited to language, numeracy and digital skills and that's how we struggle to find implementation partners. In 2016-2017, the municipality of The Hague will start 10 courses for groups of adult learners, using the Themis method: We will provide training for the facilitators (social workers). Also, we publish our research on the design principles for such courses, for instance: (open access):

    We would like to learn from similar projects!

  • Elena Galifianaki's picture

    This is a very interesting article thank you for posting it here.

    Remember next week EPALE is hosting Migrant Education Week 25-29 April (/node/20789).

    There will be 3 LIVE discussions taking place on Tue 26th, Wed 27th and Thu 28th April (Experiences, Challenges and Solutions). Join in the discussions and share on social media with the hashtag #epale2016.

    To get an email alert as the live discussions start, go to the EPALE Soonfeed and click "Join" for each discussion: /blog/epale-soonfeed.

    See you online next week!


  • Jeannette Schmid's picture

    The situation in Germany is dire, since the bureaucracy fails to cope with the increasing number of refugees and asylum-seekers. The applications for registration rise faster than they can be processed. Once a refugee is registered, the long wait for an official decision begins. During that time, the refugee is not permitted to apply for work. German language course are sometimes expensive, more often, there are not enough courses offered. Academic refugees have to pay for the services needed to acknowledge their degrees (translation etc.). In this situation, the fact that many were able to save their diplomas and their research in the cloud is a real boon.

    Since the State and the Bundesländer have failed in this giant task so far, lots of volunteer organizations have come to the rescue. Especially the students sacrifice a lot of their spare time. I would like to give an example at my university (Goethe Universität Frankfurt am Main). Two students had a great idea 2 years ago: They founded Academic Experience Worldwide. They facilitate tandems of an academic refugee and a German student in the same field. Its a win-win combination. The student profits from the experience and skills of the refugee while the refugee will improve his/her German. The university supports this by granting the academic refugees guest status so they can attend lectures and seminars. So far, students from 7 other German universities have copied this tandem-idea. There are also 'chimney talks', where the members of the university can meet with the refugees and discuss the actual situation as well as scientific topics.

  • Lena Hapke's picture
    Lieber Herr Atkinson, gerne möchte ich Ihnen von einem recht neuen Projekt in Deutschland berichten. Die Wings Universtiy ( hat das Ziel geflüchteten Menschen ein Studium ermöglichen, welches Ihnen in Deutschland bisher aus vielerlei Gründen versperrt bleibt. So können Studierende z.B. erforderliche Dokumente wie einen Pass oder den Nachweis über ein abgeschlossenes/ begonnenes Studium bis zum letzten Tag des Studiums einreichen. Die Wings University arbeitet mit einem Blended-Learning-Konzept und startet im Oktober 2015. Gerade habe ich einen Blogeintrag verfasst, in dem Sie genaueres über das Konzept der Wings University lesen können: /de/node/10773 Falls Sie Fragen bezügliches dieses Projektes haben, können Sie sich gerne an mich wenden. Liebe Grüße, Lena Hapke
  • Aldona Zbróg's picture

    Myślę, że dobrym przykładem działań na rzecz integracji cudzoziemców na polskim gruncie jest projekt "Mniejszości aktywne lokalnie", przeprowadzony przez Fundację Edukacja dla Demokracji. Jego celem było wsparcie mniejszości narodowych w działaniach na rzecz aktywnego uczestnictwa w społeczeństwie obywatelskim. Projekt zakładał pomoc zarówno organizacjom jak i grupom obywateli mniejszości narodowych. Przedstawiciele wspomnianych organizacji i grup brali udział w szkoleniach z zakresu praw mniejszości narodowych i etnicznych; komunikacji; partnerstwa międzysektorowego. Ponadto spotkania umożliwiły wymianę doświadczeń, poglądów i spostrzeżeń przedstawicieli poszczególnych grup mniejszościowych.

  • Segolene Epaulard's picture

    In France there are many structures which help people having a great integration : making the connection with schools, finding a place to stay, provinding food, giving medical insurance, finding a structure to learn French, etc.
    The problem is the government doesn't want to give them a working visa, so most of migrants can not work. And I think working is the basic condition to feel great and fitted well in a country.
    By the way, there are still a lot of associations and structures helping migrants. For instance, if tou want to learn French language in Grenoble, you find many places in this website (but not enough for all the people looking for French lessons) :

  • Ian Atkinson's picture
    Thank-you Segolene, that's a good point. I agree that restrictions on access to the labour market is a major issue for migrants; without such access other attempts to support integration (including education, learning and training support) are likely to have more limited effects. A wider issue I suppose is the need for Ministries of Labour and Education / Training (where these are seperate) to work more closely together to make sure legislation and support enables, and does not act against, integration.
  • Fatma Günseli Özkan's picture

    We have a lot of unemployed teacher looking for a Job. Training and mobilisation of them for this purpose can help.