Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

University Applicants from Refugee Backgrounds and the Intention to Drop Out from Pre‐Study Programs: A Mixed‐Methods Study

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Abstract:  The mixed‐methods project WeGe investigates key factors for refugees’ integration into pre‐study programs and conditions for successful transitions to higher education institutions (HEIs). In this article, we first examine the dropout intentions of international students and refugee students participating in formal pre‐study programs at German HEIs to disclose both barriers and resources. We use insights from migration research to extend theoretical student dropout models and analyse novel data from a quantitative survey with international and refugee students in pre‐study programs. Our findings show that refugee students intend to drop out from pre‐study programs more often than other international students. This difference disappears when other characteristics are controlled for. Effect decomposition shows that financial problems and perceived exclusion are driving dropout intentions of refugee students, whereas German language use in everyday life and a strong connection to the prospective field of study function as a resource and reduce the dropout risk. Depending on the reference group, deficits or resources of refugee students become apparent. This result suggests that refugees should be addressed as a student group in their own right. As a second step, we analyse qualitative expert interviews to reconstruct the staff’s perspectives on barriers and resources of refugee students to analyse how the driving factors of dropout intentions are represented in their knowledge. In particular, we show if and how this knowledge is used to address refugees and to develop inclusive educational concepts within pre‐study programs.

Keywords:  dropout intention; German higher education; international students; pre‐study programs; refugee students



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© Michael Grüttner, Stefanie Schröder, Jana Berg. 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.