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2017-08-10 It all began with a vision: Around two years ago, a handful of Leuphana students wanted to enable refugees in Lüneburg and surroundings access to education, which is a universal human right, thereby offering them long-term prospects. Ideas were collected, initiatives founded, institutions networked ̶ “No Border Academy” had come into being. That commitment impressed the Peace Foundation Günter Manzke. It therefore awarded the alliance a special prize.

Bündnis Hochschule ohne Grenzen, Verleihung des Friedenspreises der Manzke-Stiftung

“Somehow, that had the feel of an Oscar ceremony”. Claudia Wölk is still under the immediate impression of the award ceremony, held last weekend at the new Central Building. As a representative of the Leuphana’s International Office, which is part of the No Border Academy Alliance, she was asked to climb onto the stage together with other participants on Friday evening. They had been nominated for the Manzke Peace Prize. But what that meant in concrete terms surprised everyone: “It was only during the ceremony that we learned that the Alliance would receive EUR20,000 from the foundation” says Dr. Julia Oppermann from the Centre for the Study of Democracy (ZDEMO). “Our eyes nearly popped out of their sockets”.

A few weeks before then, the Peace Foundation Günter Manzke had contacted the No Border Academy. It led an intensive enquiry into the structure, tasks and contents of the network. “We did not apply for the Peace Prize ourselves” said the founder of the Alliance, “It is the Foundation that sought contact with us”. Once a year, the Foundation Board agrees on prize winners from the region, who have made special efforts to secure peace within the country and understanding between the peoples. The Peace Prize award was meant to show public recognition. “They ended the conversation by saying that we should clear our schedule for the day of the award ceremony” adds Dr. Nuria Miralles Andress from the Executive Committee of the Language Centre.

The No Border Academy enjoys broad support

 Clearing our schedule paid off. That evening, with the award of the prestigious prize, it had become clear that Alliance convinced by the close networking of university and non-university institutions, which quickly enabled a comprehensive offer of events and education for refugees. This includes a university programme consisting of several German intensive courses (B1 +) and academic orientation, proving a step-by-step access to specialised studies. Through the International Office, refugees can also not only take part in selected courses within the framework of the “Open Lecture Hall”, but also in the “Bridging Programme”. Civil society is represented by four Lüneburg initiatives: for example, the “Welcome and Learning Center”, which offers various projects and language courses. There is also the “Amikeco Welcome Initiative e.V.”, which plays a central role in Lüneburg's welcome work with its Advisory and cultural offers. Several hundreds of refugees are now taking advantage of the Alliance package; numerous volunteers provide support. “What fascinates me about the Alliance is the fact that ideas have been developed and the participants have been networked so that effective work can be done”, explains Johanna Gerhard, the Chairperson of the Foundation Board.

To further improve the offer, the Alliance's members are already setting new targets: Dr. Nuria Miralles Andress from the Languages Centre wants to ensure that refugees benefit from greater flexibility in language ability requirements as a prerequisite for admission. Claudia Wölk from the International Office has specifically looked at the Bridging Programme: “We not only wish to open up the academic opportunities, but also that the refugees can better cope with university life”, she says. This includes academic reading and work, as well as job applications and internships. “We are talking about an all-round package”. Even if a large part of the university programme is financed by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the prize money comes at the right time. “It provides long-term planning security and opens doors for new projects”, says Tom Schmidt, emphasising at the same time that: “We will all jointly discuss how exactly to allocate the money.”

Author: Marietta Hülsmann, Universitätskommunikation. News from the university and about research, teaching and study may be sent to