CIVICA High School Activities Help Young Learners Imagine Futures

Civic engagement is the focus of CIVICA’s Work Package 7 (WP7), comprised of representatives from all alliance institutions and led by Central European University (CEU). Following the successful launch of the  CIVICA Public Lecture Series Tours d’Europe, the group has implemented their work with high school students this fall.

Modeled after the governmental program Widening Participation in the UK, the CIVICA high school activities address students historically under-represented in higher education. CIVICA’s program, attended by 35-40 students at a time, is designed to illustrate the possibilities that higher education can yield, specifically connecting with students who have refugee backgrounds or socioeconomic challenges.

 “The essence of the program is to encourage students from underprivileged backgrounds at an important age (13-15), during which they are making the decision whether to continue in high school or attend vocational school,” says Flora Laszlo, CEU’s Director of Community Engagement and organizer of WP7 high school activities. She adds, “It's a pivotal decision to make because it is hard for students to change paths later. You need a high school degree to attend university.”

Laszlo has been conducting a two-part high school program to get young students thinking about their upcoming educational decisions even before her work with WP7. The high school activities taking place this fall have been re-launched through the CIVICA framework, with plans to expand to CEU’s Vienna campus and Favoriten neighborhood this spring, and additionally incorporating the voices and experiences of CIVICA Ambassadors who represent the various institutions of the alliance.

During the first part of the program on October 22, Laszlo with CEU researchers Iulia Savos and Dorottya Kreschner visited a class of high school students in Budapest, identified specifically for the outreach. During the visit, they led a conversation and an informal educational activity about the importance of education and employment opportunities in the future. “These puzzles let the students imagine the future possibilities and consequences of studying certain subjects and what you need to put effort into for certain paths,” explains Laszlo.

The second step is a visit to CEU’s Budapest campus on November 5. For many, this will be the first impression of a higher education environment. The students arrive in the morning and spend time in interactive experiential learning activities led by Savos and Kreschner in CEU’s Cognitive Development Center.

After meeting with the researchers, the visiting students enjoy a snack followed by a question and answer session via livestream with the CIVICA Ambassadors. The Ambassadors, who come from all over the world, share videos about the paths to their current studies, illuminating the many considerations and decisions that were part of the process:

In addition to the potential for opening students to the possibility of higher education, Laszlo notes the indirect impact and discoveries which emerged from past iterations of the high school activities. She remembers for example a young student from a disadvantaged background asking in amazement if the place they were visiting – the university campus – was actually a school. “In this student’s mind, a school was something run down looking, not this clean environment. So the fact that a school can be appealing and attractive was completely new for this student.”

The next project of WP7 currently underway is the development of “CIVICA For All” – a common platform for refugee learners to share their educational and employment experiences. To stay up to date regarding CIVICA opportunities, developments and activities, subscribe to the newsletter or visit


This article was originally published on the website of CIVICA – The European University of Social Sciences.

About CIVICA: CIVICA brings together eight leading European higher education institutions in the social sciences, humanities, business management and public policy, with a total of 50,000 students and 10,000 faculty members. Together, they build on an ever-stronger combination of teaching, research and innovation to mobilize and share knowledge as a public good and to facilitate civic responsibility in Europe and beyond. 

CIVICA's members are: Bocconi University (Italy), Central European University (Austria and Hungary), European University Institute (Intergovernmental), Hertie School (Germany), National University of Political Studies and Public Administration (Romania), Sciences Po (France), Stockholm School of Economics (Sweden) and The London School of Economics and Political Sciences (United Kingdom).