In recent months there has been a major increase in the number of refugees arriving in the Netherlands. Many of these refugees have a background in higher education, and universities around the country are ready to welcome these refugees. Students and staff are keen to help, and initiatives are now underway at virtually every university, ranging from language and academic support for university-educated refugees to broader actions such as crisis relief.

Refugees in Higher Education Task Force

A Refugees in Higher Education Task Force has been established in cooperation with the higher education sector as a whole to address the challenges associated with the surge of refugees. The task force consists of a consortium formed for the purpose, consisting of the Foundation for Refugee Students (UAF), EP-Nuffic, the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, ECHO, the Netherlands Association of Universities of Applied Sciences (VH) and the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU). Its main tasks are to improve the facilitation of language and language-preparatory programmes for refugees and to resolve bottlenecks in the higher education admission process for refugees. Difficulties faced by refugees seeking to enter higher education and the labour market also need to be identified and resolved.

The task force will be active in five areas:

  • Identifying education demand among refugees
  • Scaling up language and preparatory courses
  • Assistance before, during and after a course of study
  • Credential evaluation and recognition of competences
  • Activating and streamlining local initiatives

What are universities doing?
Universities are pursuing various initiatives for refugees. Below are some examples.

  • Language courses with a focus on citizenship.
  • Language and language-preparatory programmes aimed at preparing refugee students for admission to higher education.
  • Regional action plans in cooperation with municipalities.
  • Participation in programmes for refugees with an academic background, e.g. Scholars at Risk.
  • Deployment and training of student counsellors in order to support refugee students, many of whom have a traumatic past.
  • Advanced training for lecturers on how to interact with traumatised students.
  • Buddy programmes run for and by students.
  • Arranging refugee accommodation at a sports centre and provision of kitchen facilities.
  • Organising lectures about refugee issues for students and the interested public.
  • Special edition of a university newspaper for asylum seekers.
  • Creation of an information point for staff and student interested in helping asylum seekers (Radboud Refugee Support Centre).
  • Legal aid for refugees.
  • Course for volunteers seeking to help refugees.
  • Giving colleges to higher educated refugees.


In response to Europe’s refugee crisis, EUA presented the Refugees Welcome Map. This map demonstrates in an interactive way how higher education institutions all over Europe are responding by engaging and assisting refugees in continuing their studies, research and academic careers.


Last updated on 11-03-2016