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Higher Education supporting Refugees in Europe: inHERE Legacy and Recommendations

Asylum is an international right stated in the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention and the 1967 Protocol, by which the signatory countries commit, amongst others, to respect the fundamental principle of non-refoulement. The Article 22 of the Geneva Convention, sets some basic minimum standards for the treatment of refugees in different domains, including access to education. This is also confirmed by the “no one left behind” commitment of the United Nations’ Agenda for Sustainable Development, including the Sustainable Development Goals, which explicitly mention refugees, and stipulating under Goal 4.3: “By 2030, to ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university.”

However, figures show that only 1% of young refugee participate in the tertiary education. So, to reduce the possibilities of having a lost generation, it is essential to improve access to higher education for every refugee who may qualify. In this context of continuous forced migrations, the social dimension of Higher Education is concerned with providing opportunities for refugees to participate in the European Higher Education Area.

Over the past 2 years, inHERE has contributed in placing the integration of refugees in the educational agenda. The project has strengthened knowledge sharing, peer-support and collaboration amongst institutions and universities throughout Europe, and beyond. The inHERE project has identified and disseminated good practices on supporting refugee access to, and success in, higher education, provided training for staff working with refugees, and developed guidelines for higher education institutions.

The main highlights of the project in the last 2 years include:

  • Good Practice Catalogue of initiatives for welcoming refugees in higher education, with an in-depth analysis of initiatives of higher education institutions and organisations committed to welcoming refugees that have participated in EUA’s Refugees Welcome Map Campaign;
  • Awareness events in Barcelona (University of Barcelona, 7 July 2017), and Rome (Sapienza, 18 October 2017) to sensitise higher education governance concerning the role of universities in the refugee crisis;
  • Series of webinars where key topics related to the  integration of refugees in higher education were discussed to enable exchange and collaboration among interested stakeholders;
  • Staff training week (Sapienza, 16-20 April 2018), providing a set of instruments to enhance the role of European universities in the integration and support of refugees and testimonials from EU universities on their experiences and practices;
  • A set of Guidelines for university staff members to improve or to initiate assistance activities for integrating refugee students within the university, with a self-assessment tool, and a variety of implementable services suitable for any institutions, regardless their level of experience in integrating refugee students;
  • Policy dialogue event (Campus France, 22 May 2018) on how national and European policies can support refugee students and researchers in European Higher Education;
  • Synergy workshop for projects supporting refugees in Europe (EUA, 19 September 2018), that offered a platform for exchange with other EU co-funded projects on the situation of refugees in higher education and research, as well as with international organisations and different DGs of the European Commission;
  • A set of Recommendations from the project to enhance the access of refugees to higher education in Europe and their integration, addressing the European Union, EU Member States, and higher education institutions in Europe.

Thanks to inHERE, a large cohort of higher education staff have now a better understanding on how to provide opportunities for refugees, and also, many higher education institutions are now connected, taking advantage of the results and of the network, sharing the commitment to support refugees, to provide them with opportunities to participate in the European Higher Education Area.

However, strategic approaches, leadership attention and support are yet not common role. Concrete links to the institutional mission of the institutions or to its diversity in the management strategy would be vital for the sustainability of the – often ad-hoc and short-term – initiatives for refugees. Institutions need to further enhance collaboration, both with each other and with other organisations, and pool resources to coordinate the initiatives. Therefore, the development of an international platform for exchange and collaboration would facilitate this effort and foster long-term synergies.

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inHERE is co-funded with support of the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union during the period Sept-2016 – Sept-2018. The project has been implemented by UNIMED (coordinator), Sapienza University, University of Barcelona, Campus France, EUA, UNHCR (associate partner).

More information can be consulted at: www.inhereproject.eu