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Refugee Access to Higher Education

Overall aims of the working group

This working group (WG) engages with issues related to the inclusion of students with a refugee background within Higher Education (HE) structures.

It reflects on the meaning and possibilities of access to university and understands access as a continuous process that is not limited to formal university acceptance. It therefore examines questions related to the inclusion/exclusion dynamics of students with a refugee background within HE including administrative processes; imaginations of the university and its students; classroom-related processes concerned with pedagogies and curricula as well as grassroots initiatives within HE structures that work to expand the boundaries of the university. These reflections lead us to explore the role of the university in relation to the public sphere and questions of citizenship and inequality in HE across Europe.

The WG will particularly focus on historical and contemporary analyses of how specific ideas of who is eligible for entry into HE have evolved over time, how the development of HE has been linked to the expansion of rights and citizenship regimes, alongside considerations regarding what knowledges have been taught and emphasised. These reflections will feed into debates regarding the role and future of universities in Europe.

Plan of work to be completed during 2020 and to bring to the workshop on 14-16 December 2020

We are planning to organise an online monthly seminar starting September 2020 that will feature a range of scholars and practitioners from across Europe (and beyond) presenting their research and/or work. The format of the seminar will be open and presenters will be able to present finished work or ongoing projects, with the possibility of gaining feedback from the core group on their drafts if they wish to.

We plan to advertise seminars on the project's website, publish abstracts and short bios for each participant and, perhaps upload a series of podcasts based on recording of the seminar. Outputs therefore include: a seminar series, support for ongoing papers, potentially a podcast series, an updated and comprehensive bibliography of research on the topic, and a set of policy recommendations to improve access.


  • European University Association
  • Open Society Foundation Higher Education Support Group
  • European Qualifications Passport for Refugees
  • Open Society University Network
  • European Student UNion

Plans between December 2020 and the final conference in December 2021

The WG will reflect on this over the course of the year and see what topics and questions arise over the course of the planned seminar series.


No funding needed at this stage apart from access to the website and technical support if need be. Travel funding for the 4 members of WG core group for the final conference would be very much appreciated though.

Final conference June 2021

The working-group´s contribution to the final conference:

The WG can bring a series of analytical summaries engaging with different aspects of access to HE for people with a forced migration background, drawing on the abstracts and key questions discussed at each seminar. A concept note as well a set of policy recommendations will be produced based on the synthesis of the seminar presentations and discussions at the final conference session.