Disruption – Kiron Open Higher Education: Kiron provides refugees with opportunities to study

IT Field of Competence Disruption: Reference Story Kiron Open Higher Education


Kiron provides refugees with opportunities to study

The Berlin-based Social Start-Up Kiron Open Higher Education delivers higher education to refugees. Through an innovative Blended Learning model, that consists of online and offline elements, bureaucratic, financial and legal barriers are overcome.

It all started with a brief idea. At a conference on refugees, Vincent Zimmer and Markus Kressler met for the first time. Vincent and Markus quickly realized that they share the same vision: that of a university 2.0, enabling a greater public to have access to higher education, especially refugees. After first talks with universities, MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) providers and decision makers from politics, business and science, Kiron was founded in the beginning of 2015. Thanks to the extraordinary support of a great number of volunteers and a successful social-crowdfunding campaign, the first students were able to start studying in October 2015.

From refugees to students

The identity change from refugee to student stands at the core of Kiron. Refugees often live in conditions that prevent them from reaching their full potential, especially regarding education. While more than 30 percent of the world’s population have access to tertiary education, this only applies to 1 percent of refugees [1]. Kiron tackles this problem and works to overcome the barriers that impede refugees from studying. At Kiron, students can start studying regardless of their legal status, documents or language skills.

Today, there are approximately 2000 students on the Kiron campus platform and they can choose between four study tracks: business & economics, engineering, computer science and social sciences. There are no associated costs for students to begin their studies with Kiron. The Social Start-Up is financed by foundations, public funding and private and corporate donations.

[1] UNHCR (2016): “Missing Out - Refugee Education in Crisis”, http://www.unhcr.org/57d9d01d0

Innovative “blended learning” concept

Kiron’s concept is based on an innovative educational model: the so-called “blended learning” that combines online and offline elements. An approximately two-year online study cycle on Kiron’s learning platform is followed by offline studies at one of Kiron’s partner universities. At the moment, there are 18 German partner universities and 6 international universities in France, Jordan and Italy. Established MOOC providers like EdX, Coursera or Saylor Academy provide Kiron with online courses in English. Most of the MOOCs are self-paced which means that the students are organizing their learning progress themselves. Others are live courses with fixed start dates.

Studying online requires a high level of discipline and responsibility from each student. In addition, tothe online courses, Kiron offers complimentary student services to support them in their studies. Among those additional services figure a language school, live-t utorials via Direct Academics, a platform-integrated Help Desk and buddy and mentoring programmes. As many students went through traumatizing experiences or live in difficult conditions, Kiron offers a complimentary and professional counselling service for all students. Furthermore, students can meet fellow students at Study Centers, where they are provided with hardware and internet access and can come together to exchange study experiences. Until 2018, Kiron intends to successfully implement its model and student services beyond Germany in France, Jordan and Turkey. It is a flexible solution to provide location-independent access to higher education. The need is high especially in Turkey and Jordan where a large number of refugees are located. Kiron has the vision to provide as many refugees as possible with access to higher education through its innovative educational model. This is key to long-term integration into society and the job market of the host country.

Website Kiron Open Higher Education

© Photo: Kiron Open Higher Education

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