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31 July 2018

Accessing Higher Education in Europe - Challenges for Refugee Students & Strategies to Overcome Them


This study, published as part of the ‘Supporting University Community Pathways for Refugees-Migrants’ (S.U.C.R.E.) project, addresses admissions procedures and preparatory programmes for refugees looking to access higher education across Europe. Among other topics of study, the project critically analyses the barriers refugees face while trying to access higher education, as well as challenges experienced on the institutional side. It also analyses the different programmes initiated by higher education institutions (HEIs) that serve refugees on the road to integration in university degree programmes.

The study shows that the European community has been very active in striving to create new programmes and to overcome challenges that stand in the way of refugee students’ access to higher education. However, there is still much work to be done, and the study makes numerous recommendations, including:

  • HEI initiatives related to refugee students can become more holistic through cooperation with other HEIs and stakeholders, thereby creating a network of comprehensive expertise.
  • Language courses with specific educational goals in mind need to be developed and be continuous so that a B1 level remains a B1 level regardless of what institution one is in.
  • Advisors must be adequately trained and provided with enough time and resources to properly respond to student concerns.
  • Funding for structured buddy programmes (i.e. pairing refugee students with non-refugee peer students who can provide advice and guidance) could make a world of difference in helping refugee students improve their language skills and build their support structures in their host countries.
  • Strategies for recognition of foreign documents can be shared and should be transparent.
  • Social discrimination can be fought with trained staff and an informed and aware student body. 

S.U.C.RE. is carried out by the University of Cologne, the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the Greek Council for Refugees, and is coordinated by the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.

Accessing Higher Education in Europe
(3.99 MB - PDF)


Mariana Arjona Soberón, Lena Reuter, Antonia Chibuzor
Geographic area
EU Wide
Contributor type
Academics and experts
Original source
Posted by
Marina Nikolova

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