For the OUYE project in Manchester, young people who are asylum seekers or refugees were the participants. They often find it very difficult to access Higher Education in the UK, as they are often classed as international students or are ineligible for student loans, depending on the status of their citizenship claim they may also not have the right to work. Aside from these financial issues, they also experience other barriers such as having the necessary or equivalent prior qualifications. Over at the least the last decade, the UK government has created a ‘hostile environment’ for refugees and asylum seekers, introducing successive anti-migration legislation and policy which is progressively denying the rights of those who are seeking safety.
Within the French team, the choice of the target public is a perpetual subject of reflection within the framework of the implementation of projects such as OUYE. The notion of “young people far from university” was discussed at length and we quickly came to the conclusion that even young people who are at university could feel distant from it.
Finally, the public we worked with is relatively young (15 to 35 years old), coming from middle or working class social backgrounds. Some young people are in university, others in high school, some are working and others are looking for a job or an academic program that they might enjoy. Many of them have an artistic passion (painting, writing, photography, rap…) and are looking for spaces and supports where they can create and express their own artistic desires.
In order to enter the higher education system, French students must hold a general, technical or professional baccalaureate or pass a specific diploma, the Diplôme d’Accès aux Études Universitaires. Since 2018, the orientation wishes of high schools for their entry into higher education are managed by a platform called Parcours sup. The higher education system is divided into two main types: the classic university courses are organised around the LMD system and its three main diplomas (Licence, Master, Doctorat); the grandes écoles, which differ from the universities in that access is based on selection (competitive examination or examination of applications) with criteria whose difficulty varies according to the prestige of the school cf Higher education in France: what you need to know – Higher education: the educational portal (etudes-superieures.org) University tuition fees are very low in France compared to most other European countries (170 €). Nevertheless, inequalities in access and success continue to exist between universities and Grandes Ecoles and within universities themselves between the different courses of study.
Universities in Turkey are “supervised” by Yüksek Öğretim Kurulu (YÖK- Council of Higher Education) founded by the 1982 Constitution, following the military coup in 1980. This Council is very much disputed for curbing university autonomy and academic freedom. Universities are also not open to the public, and even students enter the university premises going through a security check and showing their student identity cards. Almost a decade ago, security checks have been digitalized and students now use their electronic cards to enter the university premises. Those who are invited as guests are only allowed to enter the university campus after the security personnel is duly informed about their visit in advance, which involves the completion of “necessary” paperwork explaining in detail the nature and purpose of their visit.
As the university is closed to anyone but the university community, we thought it was important to physically open the campus to the high school students that participated in our local process, at least for a week during the summer school we organized within the framework of the OUYE project.
Centrally governed by the Ministry of National Education, the current education system in Turkey is summarized as “4+4+4” (4 years of primary education, 4 years of secondary- and 4 years of high school education). Following the first eight years of compulsory education, there is a centralized exam that determines students’ ability to enter high schools (lise). There is tremendous competition for entering into the leading, mostly private (meaning highly expensive) high schools.
The entrance into the university is also conditioned upon achieved scores in another centralized exam. High schools (lise) are perceived as the preparation period for the university entrance exam. The preparation process for the university entrance exam is not only a money-consuming process but also a very stressful one. In other words, education in Turkey comprises a very competitive system based on centralized exams.
Privatization of education had been transforming the education system since the 1980s, and especially from the 2000s on (with the consecutive rule of the Justice and Development Party- Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi-AKP), governments had been largely following privatization policies. The Law No. 5580 – the Private Education Law – which facilitated the opening of private schools in 2007, was complemented in 2014 by a system of grants funding private schools, which brought about skyrocketing numbers of private schools. This privatization process exacerbated the already existing inequalities in access to and achievement in education.
Students normally enter Higher Education in the UK at the age of 18. They can study a range of academic and vocational qualifications at Higher Education colleges, university colleges, universities and private colleges. Undergraduate study was largely state-funded up until 1998 where ‘top-up’ fees were introduced, in 2012 these rose to £9,000 per annum. Students are entitled to student loans and grants depending on their individual economic situation. Upon graduation, once they attain a certain level of income, they must pay their loan value back and interest that it has accrued.
In the OUYE project we worked mostly with the young people with mental health issues and/or neurodiversity. Those young people usually lack the self-confidence and trust in higher education institutions as they don’t believe the system could meet their needs as students. That’s why they often refuse the idea of studying at the higher education institutions, even though they would be otherwise capable of studying.
Education all the way from pre-primary to higher education is free of charge in Finland. In the Finnish education system, we talk about a dual model. This means that regardless of the education a young person has chosen, one always has the opportunity to continue studying, for example from vocational education up to a university doctorate. Finnish higher education institutions use credits in line with the Bologna process. Higher education qualifications in Finland are at European levels 6, 7 and 8. The Finnish higher education model has two types of institutions. One is the universities of applied sciences. They offer both bachelor’s and master’s degrees, but in order to apply for a bachelor’s degree at master’s level, you must have worked in the profession for at least two years. Their teaching, research and development activities are strongly linked to the needs of working life. On the other hand, there are scientific universities in Finland where you can study for a doctorate in addition to the bachelor’s and master’s degrees. In these universities, scientific research plays a central role.
The state provides financial aid in different forms for providing economic support for Finnish citizens students (study grant, housing supplement and government guarantee for student loan).