Kiron UniversityAt Kiron University, refugees get to start over. They can decide their future, whether that involves becoming an engineer, an archaeologist, a coder, or CEO.
The Berlin-based university is completely free. Students study online in their first two years, and attend a physical campus at a partnering university in the third year.
Since launching in October, over 1,250 students have enrolled in Kiron, mostly from refugee-heavy countries like Syria, Somalia, and Nigeria. The university has also crowdfunded more than $558,000, which is enough to cover 250 students' tuition.
"Higher education is fundamental for self-empowerment and integration, but refugees face multiple obstacles to access it," co-founder of Kiron's entrepreneurship program Katharina Dermuehl tells Tech Insider. "A lot of them have lost everything they owned or spent the money they had to finance their journey. We believe that everyone deserves to learn."Kiron University/Screenshot
University enrollment as a refugee is normally very challenging, Dermuel says. To enroll in Germany, you need legal documents and certificates from prior schooling. If a refugee doesn't speak the same language, it can feel even more daunting.
But Kiron University accepts every refugee regardless of whether he or she can present documents.
During their first year, students take language courses and choose a major. Kiron's students can earn accredited degrees in computer science, engineering, architecture, anthropology, and business.
In their second year, students continue to take online classes, choosing from Kiron's 250 available courses. At that point, they decide on a concentration.
Students can also take online courses from other universities, including Harvard, Yale, and Stanford.
In their third year, refugees finish their studies at one of Kiron's 126 partnering universities in Germany, Turkey, or Sweden. Kiron built study rooms near these universities for online students who want to meet up.
Dermuehl says the online format works best for refugees' needs. It's especially valuable for women, who may not be able to attend schools in their home countries, Dermuehl adds.
Many students also still live in refugee camps and take their online courses there. "The flexibility of online education is tailor-made for refugees, because they can study part-time while coping with new circumstances," Dermuehl says.
The university helps them re-start their lives.
"Refugees have lost everything and had to leave their entire life behind," Martin Rentsch, assistant external relations officer at the UN Refugee Agency, says. "To give them the chance to re-handle their lives through education is not only a question of integration but also of dignity and respect."