Refugees and Asylum Seekers Case Studies

This page is part of the Inclusion Case Studies from the Inclusion Framework.
Universities have a vital role to play in supporting refugees and asylum seekers, by helping them to access education and employment, but also by improving awareness and understanding amongst all members of the community (on campus and beyond).

Please note that the following information is correct at the time of writing (November 2022), but is subject to change.

Vrije Universiteit Brussel

University Staff For Refugees (UNISTAR)

The University Staff For Refugees (UNISTAR) programme consists of a training course, delivered in a blended format (online and in person), aimed at guiding university staff on how to work with refugee students. UNISTAR is now an online learning platform available (free-of-charge) to university staff across Europe. 

The programme works on the principle that Higher Education is one of the most important tools for supporting refugees, and that universities need to put support systems in place to make undergraduate, postgraduate, and research programmes more accessible for refugee students.

The pilot testing phase started in March 2021, with university staff both taking the course and contributing to its ongoing development.

The course lasts for four weeks and offers four modules, which participants can choose from depending on the nature of their work. The modules, and the topics they cover, are listed below:

Module 1: Becoming a refugee

  • Words matter
  • Facts and figures
  • Refugee rights
  • Experiences of displacement
  • Stateless students

Module 2: Refugees on campus

  • Challenges and Support for refugees entering Higher Education
  • Challenges and Support for refugee students on campus
  • Racism and Empowerment on campus

Module 3: Well-being on campus

  • Awareness and Critical Thinking
  • Stress and trauma among refugees
  • Self-care for university staff

Module 4: Inclusive teaching and diversity

  • Eurocentricity
  • Diversity and intersectionality
  • Inclusive teaching
  • Inclusive counselling

Following the pilot phase, an online conference was held in April 2022, with an opening address by UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador and Syrian refugee Maya Ghazal. The conference presented the programme and its modules, outlined how it would be made available more widely, and noted that participation levels had increased since the beginning of the war in Ukraine.

The development of UNISTAR was co-funded by Erasmus+. It was overseen by the VUB International Relations Office, in collaboration with Vilnius University (Lithuania), Alice Salomon University of Applied Sciences (Germany), Universidad Alcalá (Spain), University of Applied Sciences Utrecht (Netherlands), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the European University Foundation.  

Student Refugee Program

The International Relations Office also oversees a wide-ranging Student Refugee Programme at VUB, providing various support structures and opportunities for students with refugee status, and for the student community more widely (for instance through the buddy programme). There is a strong emphasis on the importance of individual follow-up with students, taking into account the complexity of their situation.

More than 700 refugees have applied to study at VUB, often to study English-taught Master’s programmes, especially in Social Sciences & Solvay Business School, Engineering, Languages and Humanities. The Student Refugee Programme aims to give prospective students a fair chance to start or continue their studies by providing them with the necessary guidance and support before and during their studies.

The InCAMPUS Preparatory Track is a one-year programme that enables prospective students to meet the requirements of their chosen course of study, through intensive English language preparation, study guidance, psychological counselling sessions (group and individual), and cultural orientation sessions with Bon Brussel, the Brussels reception office for the integration of foreign nationals (and part of the Agency for Integration and Civic Integration, which supports the Flemish integration policy).

In 2011, VUB joined the Scholars at Risk (SAR) network, dedicated to protecting threatened scholars and promoting academic freedom. As a member of this network, VUB commits to providing shelter and hosting threatened scholars, publicly taking a stand to protect Higher Education values, participating in advocacy campaigns, and organising awareness-raising events on campus. So far, VUB has hosted four scholars at risk, from diverse personal and academic backgrounds, in research groups in Engineering, Education Science, and Sciences.

University of Gothenburg

Mentoring programme: University Friend

The mentoring programme Universitetsvän (University Friend) aims to introduce persons with a refugee background to Higher Education. In its first round, the programme received more applications than it had places for, and it is now offered on a permanent basis. (although it had to pause during the pandemic because the programme methodology relies on physical meetings and interactions).

During the mentorship program, students (up to PhD level) from the University of Gothenburg are matched with newly arrived persons in Sweden. Initially, people were matched based on similar academic interests, but over time it was found that both the mentor and the mentee could broaden their outlook by exchanging with someone who had a different educational background. 

The mentors and the mentees receive an introductory course and subsequently meet during three group meetings (scheduled every other week) to discuss themes such as intercultural competences, leadership, decision-making processes, and more. The activities are based on principles and methods associated with the experiential learning cycle (Kolb and Fry, 1975) and the peer helper experiential training cycle (Carr and de Rosenroll, 1996). The programme is currently being developed to include activities with university study counsellors and student ambassadors from different faculties in the implementation.

When the planned thematic workshops have finished, the mentors and the mentees can decide for themselves if they want to go on meeting on their own. The programme is intended to be both fun and helpful, and to entail a mutual learning process for both the mentors and the mentees, where they share experiences and knowledge from different countries.

For the mentees, this programme enables them to:

  • Get an insight into the university system, from the application and decision-making process to student life
  • Improve their Swedish, as the workshops are held in Swedish
  • Get a clearer sense of their educational goals and what steps they should take to reach them

As one mentee commented: ‘I have learned more about how the university works with the help of people who have the same goals in life as I do. Now I want to work hard in order to begin studying as soon as possible.’

The programme also benefits the mentors, who develop their ability to work and relate appropriately in a variety of cultural contexts.

This programme involves collaboration between various units at the University of Gothenburg (e.g. Educational Affairs, Welcome Services) and some of Gothenburg’s organisations/agencies, which provide guidance and support for newly arrived migrants/refugees. 

In addition to this mentoring service, the University of Gothenburg invites prospective students to information meetings and offers individual study counselling services.

Centre on Global Migration

The Center on Global Migration (CGM) aims to promote and support research, education and utilization of knowledge on global migration and integration. CGM aims to be a platform for migration research and a contact surface between researchers and actors in the private and public sectors, as well as civil society.

An important task for CSM is to promote interdisciplinary research collaborations within the University of Gothenburg as well as with other universities and to make visible migration - and integration related research conducted at the University of Gothenburg across different disciplines, including anthropology, medicine, psychology, political science, religious studies, history, education, law, economics and sociology.

An active collaboration with society is also a priority.

CGM started in 2017 and is administratively located at the Department of Global Studies at the University of Gothenburg. It is led by a director and a steering group with representatives from all faculties at the University of Gothenburg. CGM has two reference groups - one scientific and one external. The scientific reference group consists of migration researchers from different countries and disciplines and the external reference group consists of representatives from public administration, business, and civil society.

CGM aims to:
1. Provide opportunities for dialogue and long-term collaboration between researchers, decision makers and external actors.
2. Organize international research conferences, workshops and seminars on migration and integration.
3. Organize opportunities for interaction with migrants in the Gothenburg region.
4. Formulate and produce new directions for research on common themes in relation to global migration.
5. Develop interdisciplinary research clusters.
6. Initiate, support and coordinate interdisciplinary applications to national and international research funds.


A Platform for Migration Research and to Facilitate Interdisciplinary Cooperation.

An important task for CGM is to create a platform for migration research and to facilitate interdisciplinary cooperation. A part of this is to bring together and make visible ongoing research at the University of Gothenburg.

The goal of collecting and making visible ongoing research on migration is to provide opportunities for dialogue and collaboration between researchers, decision-makers, practitioners in the private and public sectors, as well as civil society and journalists, on a local, national, and international level.


Database of  Migration- and Integration-related Research Projects at the University of Gothenburg

On the CGM website, we keep a list of research projects at the University of Gothenburg relating to migration and integration. The page is updated every semester.


Database with Migration- and Integration-related Publications from the University of Gothenburg

CGM has created a database with all migration- and integration-related scientific articles, books, and book chapters, published by researchers at the University of Gothenburg.


Expert Pool

The purpose of the expert pool is to enable better communication and dissemination of information between researchers and external actors (e.g. journalists, local government authorities, and civil society). At the CGM website you find contact information for a selection of researchers at the University of Gothenburg who are researching issues related to migration and integration.


Research Networks

CGM is a member of several international research networks. These memberships function as a way to increase the visibility of GU's migration research internationally and provide increased access to information about research funding, doctoral student networks, training courses and publication opportunities.



CGM has a website, and a newsletter and runs a Facebook and LinkedIn account, as well as a network mailing list. Through these channels, CGM disseminates information about among other things upcoming seminars, conferences, new publications, research grants opportunities and vacancies.


Research Projects

CGM facilitates a range of research projects. Some of the larger ones include:

Social Institutions, Political Governance, and Integration of Refugees (SIPGI)

SIPGI is a research programme that aims to expand and strengthen the knowledge about integration and social cohesion in cities. It also aims to improve the comparability of collected data and increase theoretical knowledge about political governance and social cohesion in connection to refugee immigration. The programme runs from 2018 to 2024 and is funded by the Swedish Research Council.

SIPGI is hosted by The Centre on Global Migration (CGM) at the School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg, in close collaboration with the programme on Global Governance and Local Development (GLD) at the Department of Political Science, University of Gothenburg, the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES) at Lund University and the Migration Research Institute (MiReKoc), which is the leading migration research centre in Turkey.

The programme gathers researchers from Sweden, Turkey, Jordan, and the USA, and different research disciplines and different methodological starting points.


Housing for Immigrants and Community Integration in Europe and Beyond Strategies, Policies, Dwellings, and Governance (MERGING)

MERGING is a three-year interdisciplinary research project funded by the European Union aiming at exploring migrant integration through participatory housing initiatives. The project brings together seven disciplines from ten partners from six European countries to test an innovative approach aiming to facilitate and ensure the sustainability of migrants’ integration process. MERGING reviews existing knowledge, integration policies and initiatives across macro (EU migration policies), meso (regional economic & social systems) and micro (individual practices) levels in which housing occupies a prominent place. To ensure the success and sustainability of the project, immigrants, hosts, volunteers, NGOs, companies, public administrations and citizens are involved in the implementation of the pilot housing projects as well as in the development of housing policy recommendations.


To create contact areas and meeting places, CGM arranges seminars, workshops and conferences where external actors and researchers from different disciplines meet.


CGM regularly organizes research seminars, often in collaboration with other research groups or departments at the University of Gothenburg. The idea of the seminars is to present current research on migration and integration and to show the interdisciplinary breadth of the field. We also want to create a platform for knowledge exchange and collaboration, both between researchers from different disciplines and between researchers and practitioners.


Conferences and Workshops

CGM regularly organizes workshops and conferences as a way to create meeting spaces for scholars from different disciplines, and between academia and actors in the private and public sectors, as well as civil society.

As an example, in 2019 and 2023, CGM together with the School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg organized the Organizing Migration and Integration in Contemporary Societies (OMICS) conferences, engaging about 200 scholars from different disciplines and all parts of the globe. This conference is also open to policymakers and practitioners.

Besides the re-occurrent OMICS conferences, CGM regularly co-organizes project-related conferences as well as the re-occurrent Research Communication Conference in cooperation with the Swedish Research Council.


The Swedish Research Council’s Graduate School in Migration and Integration

CGM is an active partner in organizing a Graduate School in Migration and Integration. The Graduate School is run by two main partners: the Institute for Research on Migration, Ethnicity and Society (REMESO) at Linköping University (LiU) and the Department of Sociology and Work Science (SOCAV) at the University of Gothenburg (UGOT). At UGOT the school also benefits from close cooperation with the Centre on Global Migration (CGM), the Department of Law and the School of Global Studies.

By drawing upon the expertise at both Linköping University and the University of Gothenburg, the graduate school offers several courses, some of a comprehensive nature, others more specialised. Our programme includes courses on ethnicity, nationalism and racism; intersectional perspectives; mixed methods in migration research; theories of international migration; climate change; migration and law, citizenship, civil society and the welfare state; housing segregation; political economy; and migration and labour market integration.

The school incorporates a wide range of research directions, specializations and theoretical and methodological approaches and attends to international migration and integration from contemporary as well as historical perspectives. Our course programme also benefits from a broad experience with inter- and multidisciplinary approaches, mixed, qualitative, quantitative, and participatory methods.

This graduate school aims to provide PhD students with advanced teaching, research training and networking opportunities. It aspires to create a unique intellectual milieu for PhD students who write their dissertations on migration and integration.


Internship Program

CGM hosts an internship program aimed at students enrolled in a master’s program. The internships are often tailor-made to the student´s specific interest and can involve helping with organizing seminars and conferences and/or being research-oriented. The internships can also be combined with developing a thesis idea or writing a thesis within the area of migration or integration.



An active collaboration with society is one of CGM's prioritized tasks. CGMs director often participates in events aimed at the general public, such as the Gothenburg International Science Festival and Frihamnsdagarna, but has also co-arrange many seminars and workshops together with for instance Västra Götalandsregionen, Länsstyrelsen Västra Götaland and Sjöfartsmuseet.


"Make Your Own Passport” Network

“Make Your Own Passport” (2014-) is a workshop series in public spaces providing access to lifelong learning on citizenship. It is run by artist and researcher Dr Tintin Wulia, who is actively cooperating with CGM. MYOP´s topic is migration, citizenship and statelessness. Its methodology is material and participatory. It actively engages participants in an intimate discussion via a tangible process with an iconic object of the border: the passport. Participants spend time, creating and making, while exchanging thoughts, with material output to be taken home. Since 2018, MYOP has been forging CGM’s collaborative network.


Supporting Access to Employment for People with Refugee and Asylum-Seeking Status

Together with the research program Organizing Integration (OI) at the University of Gothenburg, CGM has a collaboration with the Deakin Center for Refugee Employment, Advocacy, Training and Education (CREATE). CREATE aims to build knowledge and understanding around how best to support people with a refugee background to rebuild their careers after leaving their home country by gaining meaningful employment and accessing vocational training and education. Based on a study, CREATE has produced an employer's guide to support the employment of people with refugee and asylum seeker status and a jobseeker's guide with practical advice for job seekers, with an extra focus on people with refugee and asylum seeker status.

CGM assisted in adapting and translating these guides to a Swedish context.

University of Warwick

University of Sanctuary

University of Sanctuary

Higher Education Institutions in the UK have a proud and radical tradition of supporting refugees and people in the asylum system. The University of Sanctuary award recognises commitment to creating a culture of safety, solidarity, and empowerment for people seeking sanctuary within, and beyond, university campuses. Warwick has been recognised as a University of Sanctuary since 2017.

As the Vice-Chancellor, Stuart Croft, has said:

‘I am proud that Warwick holds the honour of being a University of Sanctuary and that I was able to reinforce our commitment to asylum seekers and refugees being able to access higher education by signing the City of Sanctuary and STAR pledge in 2019. Our students and staff are actively involved both in supporting sanctuary seekers, raising awareness of their experiences and the contribution that they make to student and city life.’

The Chair of the University of Sanctuary project group is Kulbir Shergill, Warwick’s Director of Social Inclusion. The main objectives of this project are to increase access to higher education for refugees by offering guidance, reviewing our admissions processes, and providing financial support, and to foster learning about sanctuary and increase awareness of the barriers and challenges faced by refugees and asylum seekers.

The project facilitates the following activities:

  • Offering Sanctuary Scholarships for pre-university diplomas, undergraduate degrees, and postgraduate degrees, covering fees and living expenses
  • Providing a named single point of contact for sanctuary students who will be available throughout their studies, to provide advocacy and liaison with services across the institution, including professional services, academics, accommodation, wellbeing, and any other relevant services
  • Working with local councils to support our local community, as well as our Community Engagement work and student volunteering projects that include teaching English and raising funds for refugee and asylum seeker charities
  • Annual Refugee Week in June (as part of a UK-wide festival held every year around World Refugee Day on the 20 June): this has included lectures, art exhibitions and fund-raising events such as music performances
  • Outreach work with local refugee communities to promote awareness of scholarships and access to widening participation support
  • Academic research, lectures, and other events on issues relating to refugees and asylum seekers

The project uses three-year action plans to help develop and embed the objectives described above. There is a regular review process to determine the renewal of the university’s Sanctuary status.

The University of Warwick is located in Coventry, which became a City of Sanctuary in 2011 to join a group of cities and towns that hold the vision that the UK will be a welcoming place of safety for all and proud to offer sanctuary to people fleeing violence and persecution. You can read more about Coventry City of Sanctuary on the City of Sanctuary UK website.

Student-led projects

Warwick STAR (Student Action for Refugees) is part of a national network of young people and university-based student groups aiming to raise awareness of refugee and asylum issues, campaign for the rights of refugees, and practically support refugees and asylum seekers through volunteering in the local community. The society runs two volunteer groups at Warwick:

  • Conversation Club, helping to teach English to refugees living in the local area
  • Youth Support Club, helping young people with their university applications and language skills
The society also works with the national STAR charity on campaigns such as:
  • Lift the Ban, on asylum seekers not being able to work
  • Families Together, reuniting families seeking humanitarian protection in the UK
  • Equal Access to education for asylum seekers and refugees in the UK

Enactus Warwick (part of the national and global Enactus network) hosts a range of student-led social enterprises, including The Gateway, which aims to empower refugees and asylum seekers in Coventry. By partnering with organisations like Coventry City Council and running workshops with local refugees, The Gateway aims to support their development of language and communication skills, and to help them find employment.

In the last few years, the Gateway has recruited over 150 student volunteers and developed partnerships with over 10 organisations. The project is currently expanding its activities by providing support in the areas of personal health and personal finance, through a combination of workshops and social events.