According to UNHCR, an estimated 68.5 million individuals are today forcibly displaced worldwide. Around half of the world’s refugees are children and young people under the age of 35. While many students are forced to abandone their studies in their home countries, only one percent of refugee youth is able to access and continue higher education. Evidence shows that despite a fundamental right to education, refugees and similar at-risk populations encounter significant challenges barring access to higher education.
The situation also prevails in Europe. When confronted with dramatic increases of mass migration in 2015 and 2016, European countries did little to adjust access to higher education for refugees. With very few exceptions, there are still no specific national policy approaches among European countries. Higher education institutions are mostly left to their own practices to handle the issue. Emergency responses generally focus on providing limited numbers of competitive scholarships, linguistic support, and counseling services. However, large-scale, sustainable broad-based internationalization policies and frameworks are utterly lacking. While effective response to refugees’ higher education needs is a responsibility for all higher education institutions, rather than taking the lead to push for inclusive societies, universities have curbed their activities within the restricted legislative frameworks that create status-related obstacles for refugees.
Accordingly, this report provides an overview and descriptive analysis of how selected countries (Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Norway, UK and Turkey) have responded to the massive inflow of refugees, as well as the policy practices they have developed concerning refugee students’ integration into higher education. Seeking to encourage sustainable policy responses and national frameworks, this report highlights these selected countries’ procedures to ensure access to higher education and also approaches to recognize foreign qualifications. It also examines particular challenges in the case of each country. The report limits its scope exclusively to refugee students, excluding practices developed for refugee academics/university staff.
This report offers a contribution to the existing literature on educational policy for refugees and encourages higher education institutions to remember their central role as a driving force for social development and integration.