Rethinking learning: A conversation with OLIve

How can universities become spaces of inclusive learning, solidarity, and social transformation? This is the question often asked within higher education, especially given the immense toll of violent conflicts on learners as well as ongoing calls to ‘diversify’ and ‘decolonise’ the metropolitan university. Where do students and their varied contexts, experiences, and needs fit into the university, especially in the so-called Global North? Within the rigid frames and boundaries of academic institutions, accreditation and qualification requirements, and the increasing neoliberalization of education, how can we carve out spaces that foster inclusivity and equal access to education?

These questions become especially salient in the context of displacement and mobility: how can universities provide safe spaces for asylum seekers, refugees, and those who have been displaced in a generative and integrative way, avoiding the pitfalls of short-term and tokenistic approaches to displacement? And how can these spaces foster the diversity in experiences, contexts, and perspectives of learners and teachers?

For this event, we engage in conversation with the Open Learning Initiative (OLIve) around these questions.

OLIve, established in 2016 and affiliated with the Central European University (CEU), is dedicated to creating a safe and inclusive learning space for people who have experienced displacement, including asylum seekers and those with refugee status. It runs non-degree programs with the aim of opening access to higher education.

We are joined in this conversation by Prem Kumar Rajram, Ian M. Cook, Behrooz Torki, and Babak Arzani.

About our fellow travelers:

Prem Kumar Rajram is Professor of Sociology and Social Anthropology at CEU and one of the founders of OLIve. He headed the initiative from 2016 to 2022.  His research work covers issues of colonialism, capitalism, race, the university in public life, and critical pedagogy.

Ian M. Cook is Director of Studies at the Open Learning Initiative (OLIve), Budapest located at Central European University. An anthropologist by training, his work focuses on urban India, environmental justice, access to higher education, and podcasting. He strives to make scholarly practice more collaborative and multimodal. He is part of the Allegra Lab editorial collective. Personal website: The City as a River

Behrooz Torki is an activist and community organizer. He is a member of Migrant Solidarity Group in Hungary and one of the founding members of the OLIve weekend program at Central European University. He was the representative of the Migrant Solidarity Group at OLIve.

Babak Arzani is an activist and community organizer. He is one of the founding members of Migrant Solidarity Group in Hungary and OLIve weekend program at Central European University.