Linnaeus University is working to develop just and sustainable methods for the recognition of prior learning, that is to say the mapping out and assessment of an individual's skills and qualifications, regardless of how, where and when these were acquired.
The idea of the validation process is to make an assessment of what an individual can be credited with and what is missing, in order to make it possible for the individual to supplement his/her education.
"By having their skills and qualifications validated, people are able to start studying on the level for which they meet the requirements. It is a way to make the most of people's skills by acknowledging their prior learning", says Linda Leonhardt, responsible for recognition of prior learning at Linnaeus University.
Through the validation, an individual's prior experience is confirmed, which can be good for a number of reasons, for instance when applying for a job.
"Validation can be one way for foreign academics to put focus on their path to the labour market through education", says Linda Leonhardt.
The possibility to continue with my studies was very attractive
One of the people who have had her skills and qualifications validated by Linnaeus University is Leah. Leah came to Sweden from Homs in Syria about a year and a half ago. She wishes to be anonymous in this article, her name is therefore feigned.
"I don't want to be thought of as 'the refugee'. Now I'm treated just like any other student, and I want it to stay that way", Leah explains.
One of the reasons for her choosing to come to Sweden was the possibility to continue with her studies. She has completed three years of university studies in Syria, but during the last few years it has not been possible to study in Syria.
"I contacted the university as soon as I got here. When I was finally granted my visa, I also got help to apply for a recognition of prior learning, in order to make it possible for me to study here. During this time, I took a couple of single-subject courses that were not related to my main field of subject. I think this might have been the university's way of letting me figure out whether I would be able to handle the studies here or not", says Leah.
Dreams of getting a doctoral degree
Linnaeus University validated Leah's skills and qualifications and decided that she could start studying directly on the third year of her degree programme. This means that right now, Leah is writing her bachelor's thesis. And she has plans to continue studying when she has completed the programme.
"Yes, I would love to study to become a doctor. I want to continue learning new things and my studies here at Linnaeus University have been very rewarding", Leah says.
What are the differences between studying in Sweden and in Syria?
"Here you must do the thinking yourself, and take a lot of responsibility for your studies. In Syria, there were more lectures, the teacher told you what to do and often even provided you with notes from the lectures", Leah explains.
"Now I've gotten used to thinking more independently, and also developed my critical thinking. I would say I've become more independent altogether. I have, for instance, recently gotten my first apartment and now live on my own for the first time in my life", says Leah.
"It was tough to begin with", she admits. "I had to learn how I was expected to study and also learn how to write academic English. The university has given me great support in my studies", Leah continues.
"I think it's fantastic that the university can provide people with a second chance. I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude and let you know that I really appreciate getting this opportunity. I hope that more people seize the opportunity to continue with their studies", Leah concludes.