The International Welcome Center (IWC) now serves as a central point of contact for international employees at the Johannes Kepler University Linz.
Co-financed by the state of Upper Austria, Markus Achleitner, State Minister of Business and Research, and local council member, Almir Balihodzic, recently toured the newly open center.
JKU Rector Meinhard Lukas remarked: "The JKU considers itself a university with strong regionally-based roots but also as an internationally oriented university with the capability to consistently adapt to overall social conditions. In recent years, globalization, digitalization, and growing demands on Linz as a location of higher education have resulted in the JKU becoming more and more international in the areas of research and teaching. New academic degree programs, such as the English-language 'Artificial Intelligence' degree program, international research groups, and so-called Labs at the Linz Institute of Technology are just a couple of examples."
As a result of increased internationalization in education and research (the JKU currently has 25 English-language degree programs), the number of international employees has risen steadily over the past few years. There is currently a total of approximately 3,500 international students (including Erasmus students) at the JKU and over 700 international employees. The rise in the number of international students and employees has resulted in creating the IWC to address special needs in regard to information, assistance, etc.
Sonja Falkner-Matzinger, head of the IWC, added: "The International Welcome Center is new at the JKU Linz, playing a key role as an initial point of contact for prospective students, students, and employees who have international backgrounds. We aim to create a 'welcoming culture' for international students and employees as well as provide important information and consultation services for long-term perspectives, even after graduation."
The IWC's responsibilities include providing students with academic advising services regarding their stay in Austria, mediating in matters between students and faculty members or administrative staff, and organizing and supervising the MORE program. The IWC does not assist with student exchange programs (meaning the Erasmus program, etc.); the JKU’s International Office will continue to organize student exchange programs.
Organizationally, the IWC is part of the JKU department "International Welcome Center and Ombuds Office for Students". Financial funding has been made available by grants provided by the state of Upper Austria. The IWC offers services to target groups with the intention of making their stay more pleasant as well as provide support to live and work in Upper Austria. The objective is to strengthen core skills and key technologies, thereby supporting the region of Upper Austria as a successful location of business and research.
Markus Achleitner, state minister for Business and Research, learned more about the Center during a recent tour and Mayor Klaus Luger (represented by local councilman Almir Balihodzic at the event) supports the new International Welcome Center:
Markus Achleitner, State Minister for Business and Research, commented: "Research is becoming increasingly international and plays a key role in ensuring the capacity to support innovation, both locally as well as throughout all of Austria. To this end, we need cooperation and competition among the best minds, new momentum and ideas, and active exchange as part of a global network. The JKU’s new International Welcome Center will contribute significantly to this."
Mayor Klaus Luger added: "The new International Welcome Center is another milestone in an effort to better position the JKU, serving as an information provider and pooling resources and services to better support international students and faculty members."
The IWC Supervises Students in the MORE Program
The JKU has been a part of the uniko’s (Austrian University Conference) MORE initiative since the fall of 2015. The initiative was created to support refugees and displaced persons holding higher education qualifications as they continue to pursue a degree. Those who have refugee or displaced status - regardless of how far along the (asylum) procedure is – can apply to be in the MORE program. The JKU’s International Welcome Center and Ombudsman Office for Students has been involved in the MORE initiative since 2020. When the program began, it focused more on helping refugees learn German. Over time, the initiative has evolved to a two-pillar model for those who have a refugee background or displaced status and would like to earn a degree at the JKU (MOREclassic for students in the pre-study program and the Borealis-MORE grant and scholarship for degree-seeking students).
The IWC as a Center for Displaced Ukrainian Students
As part of the MORE initiative, the IWC also coordinates and organizes the JKU's outreach efforts for displaced Ukrainian students. The IWC has created a landing page (https://www.jku.at/en/international-welcome-center-and-student-ombuds-office/jku-linz-for-ukrainian-displaced-people/) to provide information regarding issues related to residency, housing and studies. Information on the page is available in three languages. In close cooperation with the JKU’s International Office, the mobility program also provides easier, fast-track access to admission for the 2022 Summer Semester. In cooperation with the Center for Business Languages and Intercultural Communications at JKU, the IWC has also organized German language courses for displaced Ukrainian students. The language courses will help the students wishing to earn a degree acquire the language skills they need in order to be admitted to the JKU Linz as degree-seeking students.