Intensive Academic English Program for Refugees Living in Europe with Scholarship Opportunity

Open Learning Initiative (OLIve) at Bard College Berlin (BCB)  is hosting a full-time, 4-month preparatory program for individuals with refugee status or a refugee-like situation in Europe wishing to improve their Academic English in order to study at university. Students who successfully complete OLIve-Access will be expected to apply to a full 10-month Academic Preparatory program starting September 2020, known as OLIve-UP, that prepares students for MA studies in English at Central European University, Vienna. 

If you have an intermediate (B1) level of English, a Bachelors’ level of education and a desire to continue to graduate studies, OLIve-Access may be for you. We are now accepting applications for the 22 January 2020 to 20 May 2020 cohort. 


The  goal of the program is to raise students’ Academic English level from B1 to B2 in order for them to be able to study in English, first in the OLIve-UP program and then for an MA at Central European University, Vienna.  

The Program Offers: 

  • Intensive Academic English classes

  • Academic Preparation classes

  • Academic Seminars

As OLIve-Access is designed to prepare students for OLIve’s University Preparatory Program (OLIve-UP)  and then entry to MA studies at Central European University (CEU), Vienna, please also see CEU’s application requirements and the MA degree programs offered.

 ABOUT OLIve-Access 

OLIve-Access is an intensive, full-time course of study for individuals with refugee status or in a refugee-like situation in Europe. The program is funded by Erasmus+, the EU's program to support education, training, youth and sport in Europe, and by the Higher Education Support Program of the Open Society Foundations and implemented at Bard College, Berlin.

It builds on the knowledge, expertise, and experience of Central European University, which has been successfully running preparatory programs for students from marginalized backgrounds wishing to apply for MA programs since 2004. Over 120 students have gone on to win full scholarships having graduated from these programs. Since 2016, 12 OLIve students have benefited from this scheme by being accepted to MA programs.

By the end of OLIve-Access, successful students will have gained a B2 level of Academic English, be comfortable studying in a communicative academic English language environment, have developed strong independent study skills, be able to produce competent academic texts and  make a clear study plan, which will orientate them towards eventual MA studies in a given discipline. 

OLIve-Access at Bard College, Berlin  plans to accept six students with a refugee background in its first cohort. Financial support is available (for further details please see the section below).

OLIve-Access is a key element of the second Refugee Education Initiatives project (REIs2), funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the EU. The project is dedicated to enhancing the social inclusion of refugees through educational initiatives at The Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (Greece), Bard College Berlin (Germany), The University of East London (UK), The University of Vienna (Austria) and Open Education Ltd in Budapest (Hungary.

Successful graduates of the program will receive a non-degree certificate issued by Bard College Berlin and be expected to apply for  a fully funded place at OLIve-UP.  


Students accepted to the program are eligible  to apply for an OLIve scholarship to contribute towards their living expenses, accommodation, health insurance, travel to and within Berlin, and educational materials. There is no tuition fee associated with this program. 


OLIve-Access  accepts applications from individuals with:

  • refugee status (or being in a refugee-like situation) in an European country

  • a strong interest in pursuing further MA studies in English

  • intermediate (B1) English

  • a BA degree.

Women and those who identify outside of binary gender identities are typically under-represented in programs like ours, and are particularly encouraged to apply.


1. Fill in the Online Application Form

You can find the online application form at this link:

2. Upload the following documents:

a. CV (in English) - with details of your academic background and work, volunteering and/or community engagement experience. Please upload the file in the online application form as a PDF and name the file Name_CV.

b. Application Document including: 

  • a Cover Letter (150 words in English) stating why you would like to participate in this program and how you learnt English and 

  • a Letter of Motivation (500 words in your native language) describing your academic and professional achievements, as well as interests and goals for the future and how further university study will help you achieve these. CEU offers MA programs in Public Policy, Public Administration, Human Rights, International Business Law, Comparative Constitutional Law, Political Science, International Relations, Philosophy, Gender Studies, Sociology and Social Anthropology, Economics, Economic Policy, Finance, Business Analytics, History, Medieval Studies, Nationalism, and Environmental Sciences and Policy. You should indicate an interest in one or more of those MA subjects and let us know the reason why in your letter of motivation. Visit the CEU degree programs listing page to learn more about their offerings and the unit(s) delivering them.

Please use this template for the Application Document. Download the file, fill it in, save it as Name_ApplicationDocument and upload it in the application form as a PDF file.

c. Two Reference Letters

At least one reference letter is required (in English), if possible one from someone familiar with your academic experience or skills to date, ideally a former teacher or university lecturer. If you are not able to contact someone familiar with your studies, you can also provide recommendations from a previous employer or supervisor of your volunteering or community engagement work.

The reference letter(s) needs to be submitted by email directly by the referee(s) to by the deadline (Sunday, 29 September). Please ask your referee(s) to sign the letter, name the file YourName_ReferenceLetter and use “OLIve-Access 2020_YourName” as a subject line.

If you have copies of other references that might be relevant for this application, you may upload them in the relevant section in the online application form.

d. Diploma and Transcript of Grades

Please upload scanned copies or photocopies of your university diploma and a transcript of previous grades from your university studies if you have these available. Please name your files Name_TypeOfDocument. 

Note: If you do not have translated copies of your degrees, certificates, please upload the original copy and an unofficial translation to English. If you do not have a copy of your university diploma or transcript or were not issued with a diploma due to reasons related to your protected status, upload a blank document and please contact the following email address for further details: Please use as a subject line “OLIve-Access 2020_YourName”.

e. Proof of English

Please upload a scanned copy or a photocopy of any certificates verifying English level (eg. TOEFL, IELTS or national exam). This is optional, so you may still apply without an English certificate. Please name your file Name_English.


All applications must be received by 29 September 2019, 11:59pm CET. Late applications cannot be considered.

Note: your application will not be considered complete unless you fill in the online application form and upload ALL the required documents by the deadline.


(subject to change)   

3 September Call for applications opens

29 September Call for applications closes

30 September Review and shortlisting 

 to October 4 

14-18 October Interviews and decisions 

21-25 October Offers and acceptance 

25 October  on       Visa applications (for     

                                       non-German residents)


The program will run from 22 January 2020 to 20 May 2020. This is a full-time program and students are expected to be in Berlin for the duration of the program. 


Bard College Berlin is a German liberal arts university accredited at the state and federal levels, which offers a multidisciplinary undergraduate education in the humanities and social sciences. It was founded in 1999 as the European College of Liberal Arts. Students at Bard College Berlin join a highly diverse and international student body of 270 students representing 60 countries, with English as the language of instruction. Over 10% of the student body at Bard College Berlin  comes from regions of crisis or conflict through the university’s Program in International Education and Social Change.


REIs is an education and advocacy program aiming to increase opportunities to access higher education for people of refugee status. REIs combines innovative educational programs with advocacy for policy change at the European and national levels. At the core of REIs’ mission is a commitment to pro-active and innovative solutions to obstacles that impede refugee entry to higher education in Europe. REIs is run across five European countries at the University of Vienna (Austria), the University of East London (UK), Central European University (Hungary), Bard College Berlin (Germany), Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (Greece) and at the Open Education Ltd in Budapest (Hungary).





CONTACT PERSON: Cristina-Simona Bangau, Director of OLIve at BCB



PDF version of the Call is available here.

PDF version of the Application Document template is available here.

WORD version of the Application Document template is available here.