Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

Refugee Students’ Access to Three European Universities: An Ethnographic Study

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Abstract:  The article presents an ethnographic fieldwork carried out at three universities in Switzerland, Germany, and France, and analyses how access to higher education for refugees was addressed in the three cases, how and which institutional change and activities were initiated, and by which actors. The article argues that the topic cannot be addressed in isolation but has to consider four intersecting areas: the personal biography and migratory history of the students, the asylum system, the educational system, and the funding situation. For the refugee students, the challenge is that these areas need to be taken into account simultaneously, but what is more challenging is that they are not well in tune with one another. Solutions need to take this complex—and place-specific—situation into account.

Keywords:  access to higher education; asylum; migration; refugee students; university



© Katrin Sontag. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.