Refugee Students’ Experience with the European Higher Education System. A Belgian Case Study

Mohammad Salman
Tuba Bircan

The ‘Welcome Student-Refugee program’ was developed by the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) in 2015-2016 as a response to the great arrival of refugees to Belgium, mainly fleeing the war zones in the Middle East. The major goal of the programme is to help recognized refugees start or proceed with their studies in the Belgian higher educational system. This policy brief assesses the progress of the program, and the challenges the refugees have faced at the VUB. The responses are collected through a questionnaire about the obstacles refugee students faced while trying to get access to the university through the programme. The conclusions revolve around three aspects: (1) The enrolment and adaptation to EU schooling system, (2) the finances and housing issues, and (3) the integration within the university and into Belgian society. To overcome these challenges, we suggest a strategy that not only contributes to the development of the VUB refugees programme but also provides systematic indications for other European universities wishing to improve educational programs for refugees.