Doctrina Urbi Serviat? Comparing EU Policies on Granting Access for Refugees to Higher Education with Practices from Member States in View of Sectorial Reform

Research Paper by Tommaso Emiliani



Historically, EU Member States (MSs) have long been associating asylum-seekers’ socio-demographic characteristics with economic migrants’ when designing models of integration of third-country nationals into their societies. These models are often based on the assumption that migrants come from disenfranchised backgrounds, escape under-developed contexts and possess little skills beside their own labour force. As such, the integration model on offer in EU countries of arrival is often one that supposedly matches a migrant’s need for unspecialised employment with EU market’s structural lack of cheap main-d'oeuvre.However, the socio-economic features of asylum-seekers coming to Europe have changed dramatically over the years, as a consequence of changes in the global geo-political context. Today, many asylum-seekers speak several languages and possess university degrees, sometimes even Masters’ and PhDs, and would like to further specialise instead of working ‘survival jobs’. The leading research question is the following: to what extent do the EU MSs grant equal access to Higher Education (HE) to refugees compared to EU citizens in practice, as it is foreseen in theory by the EU ‘Qualifications Directive’? This study proceeds as follows: first, it introduces the main documents agreed at the international level on the issue of granting access for refugees to HE, and it defines the policy framework agreed at the EU level; second, it compares practices at EU MSs level, delving into the cases of Belgium, Germany, Italy and Romania; third, if focuses on the case of Belgium, making use of three qualitative interviews administered to refugee persons and asylum-seekers; fourth, it puts forward 7 policy recommendations for easing the access of refugees to the HE in Europe.