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DAAD releases study on integration of refugees at German higher education institutions

The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), together with the German Centre for Higher Education Research and Science Studies (DZHW), has recently published the first edition of a study on "The integration of refugees at German higher education institutions. Findings from higher education programmes for refugees". In the future, this data will be linked to the research project “WeGe – Refugees on their way into German higher education”, which was launched in April 2017. Joint analyses of the status and development of the measures for integrating refugees at higher education institutions in Germany are to be published regularly as an information series. 
The study deals with the refugees’ academic preparation and university access. It is based on data collected between January and December 2016 in the framework of the DAAD programme “Integra – Integrating Refugees in Degree Programmes” and provides an overview of statistical analyses of the free assessment procedures for refugees offered by the University Application Service for International Students (uni-assist) in the period between March 2016 and June 2017. The study is of pivotal importance, because it provides evidence-based findings on a target group composed by refugees qualified to study and refugees interested in studying, this way enabling a monitoring of the programmes available to prepare refugees for university studies. 
The Integra programme aims to give refugees the opportunity to prepare for university study in Germany in order to help them begin a programme as quick as possible. It helps institutions to set up or expand their range of language and special courses (delivered as preparatory courses or as courses running alongside the degree programme). Integra also supports the expansion of the necessary advisory structures. In total, 172 institutions from all federal states were supported under the Integra programme. 6,806 refugees participated in language and special courses at HEIs and preparatory colleges in 2016 and the need for preparatory measures at HEIs is expected to increase even further in the coming years. In the study, participation of refugees in the Integra course is divided by:
  • Institution and type of HEI: of the 135 HEIs supported in 2016, 69 were universities of applied sciences, 62 were universities and 4 were colleges of art;
  • Federal State: Bavaria leading the rankings (16%), followed by North Rhine-Westphalia (15%) and Berlin (10%).
  • Residence status: 41% of course participants already have a residence permit (they are hence recognised as refugees or entitled to asylum), 29% were involved in the ongoing asylum process; 7% are registered as asylum seekers and the rest is not specified. 
  • Country of origin: 75% of participants come from Syria, followed by a 6% from Afghanistan and Iran and a 3% from Iraq. 
  • Gender, age and previous education: 81% of participants are men (from all countries). The average age is 27. Half of the Integra course participants have already had experience of higher education in their home countries. 
  • Type of course: 59 % of the participants completed one or more language courses in 2016, and a further 20 % completed a “mixed course” consisting of coordinated language and special courses. In the subject-oriented courses, the main focus is on interdisciplinary subject matter (25 %), followed by engineering (18 %), law, economics and social sciences (10 %) and maths and natural sciences (6 %). The preference for engineering and science subjects is also reflected in uni-assist’s applicant data. 
As for uni-assist, refugees can apply to HEIs free of charge via a two-steps process: first, apply for cost exemption by presenting a proof of refugee status and a certificate of completed guidance session from a uni-assist member university. The second step involves applying for specific degree programmes or preparatory courses at up to three member universities. On the basis of the applications received between March 2016 and June 2017 having these requirements, uni-assist shows that:
  • About 8,000 refugees applied;
  • To 90% of applicants it took between one and one and a half year to apply for a degree programme since they entered the country; 
  • 80% of applicants are from Syria, followed by Afghanistan and Iran;
  • 60 % are entitled to begin a first degree course at a German higher education institution; a further 19 % could begin a postgraduate course (Master’s). Only a small proportion of applicants are not entitled to study;
  • 70% of applicants applied to university courses.