International

Restructuring and stimulating regional studies at ULB

ULB has five multidisciplinary research centres that study specific regions of the world, and offering valuable pools of expertise that can improve the University's relationship with institutions in other areas of the globe. These are:

- Founded over 50 years ago, the Institute for European Studies (IES) is the oldest and the most renowned; it has gathered a pool of expertise on all countries in Europe, as well as on Europe's position and institutions throughout the world.

- Created in 2014, the Observatory of Arab and Muslim Worlds (OAMW) conducts teaching, research, and dissemination activities on countries in the Maghreb, Mashriq, Gulf, and Near East areas, as well as a in large part of sub-Saharan Africa.

- The EASt (East Asian Studies) institute was created in 2016 and acts as an incubator at ULB for high-level research on East Asia.

- AmericaS was created in 2017 and builds on ULB's long tradition for research on North and Latin America; its purpose is to reflect on the common ground that unites the various components of the American continent.

Also created in 2017, Afric@ULB is a multidisciplinary research network on Africa that gathers the hundred ULB researchers whose work is related to the African continent.

The purpose of these five centres for regional studies is to launch and promote interdisciplinary collaborations that can help understand the environments and dynamics at play in these regions of a rapidly-evolving and increasingly globalised world. They also help ULB better target and deploy its internationalisation strategies.

For more information, please visit:
- pour l'IEE: www.iee-ulb.eu/fr
- pour OMAM: msh.ulb.ac.be/equipes/omam
- pour EASt: msh.ulb.ac.be/equipes/east
- pour AmercicaS: msh.ulb.ac.be/equipes/americas
- pour Afric@ULB: africulb.ulb.be

ULB, a socially active university

For the past two years, the University has been offering support to students and researchers who are migrants, refugees, or whose freedom of speech, thought, and research has been restricted in their home countries.

In the Middle Ages, universities were places where intellectuals under threat could seek refuge. ULB is keeping this tradition alive during troubled times where academic freedom is in jeopardy in many countries across the world. The University believes that it has a moral duty to help researchers who are in danger, and this is why it has been mobilising considerable resources in order to support students and researchers who are migrants, refugees, or whose freedom of speech, thought, and research has been restricted in their home countries.

In twenty months, ULB has granted 14 post-doctoral fellowships to Syrian, Turkish, and Iraqi researchers. With its solidarity fund, ULB now has the means to provide long-term support for researchers who are threatened in their home countries and who can no longer work freely, whether because their freedom has been restricted or because they have been threatened for the content of their research or the opinions they have expressed.

In addition to this initiative, the University has created a structure in which researchers are given a proper reception and are well taken care of, both by their research centres and by the administrative staff. The International Welcome Desk is there to help fellows with all procedures: apply for a visa or a residence permit, obtain health insurance, open a bank account, find housing, apply for a family reunification visa, enrol their children in school, apply for a family allowance, contact a social worker, get psychological support, etc. Each of these could otherwise be an unsurmountable obstacle for a vulnerable person living in a state of constant uncertainty about their future and their family's.

In 2016, ULB opened a Welcome Desk for Refugees, helping each refugee student in their administrative procedures before, during, and after their enrolment at ULB. In the first year after the service was launched, 42 students have called upon this service in order to complete their enrolment. The Welcome Desk can help students find housing, apply for scholarships, and enrol in French or English classes. ULB's Translation and Interpreting Department also provides, with support from the Agence universitaire de la Francophonie, valuable classes in cultural integration and French as a foreign language.

In addition, thanks to funds offered by the King Baudouin Foundation, the Odysseus academic network offers 10 scholarships to refugee students, who can attend the summer course on EU immigration and asylum law and policy.

ULB students themselves have helped, too: starting in October, 2015, while many asylum seekers were waiting for a room in a refugee centre, students joined the refugee support movement and created an association, 'ULB Students with Refugees'. They arranged for rooms in volunteer participants' homes, and helped 300 refugees find shelter at the Centre d'action laïque. With the help of non-profits, attorneys, and academics, a group of law students also started offering legal counselling services for refugees, including outside the foreigners' office in Brussels. This initiative led to the creation of a law clinic, which was integrated into the Faculty of Law's curriculum and where students—under the supervision of professors—provide legal advice to refugees and asylum seekers.

Lastly, because a university can also contribute to integrating refugees in Brussels' social fabric, the Faculty of Philosophy and Social Sciences has launched—at the initiative of dean Andréa Réa—a project intended to create tools to raise awareness of issues related to migration and the 'refugee crisis' (video clips, teaching resources for secondary schools, etc.).

On all inter-university platforms, such as ARES, ULB has been encouraging other institutions to develop similar initiatives: 'It is essential that other institutions follow in our footsteps,' says Rector Yvon Englert. 'Ours can only be a symbolic action, given the huge number of researchers in need. This is why we encourage others to also open their doors to refugee researchers.'