Category Archives: Support During Studies



Location/geographical coverage

University of Leeds, Leeds and surroundings, UK

Background and description

The programme has three main strands:

Transition: Starting university is a huge life change. We’re here to help you settle in and build your new home here. But there’ll be lots of transitions throughout your time at Leeds- perhaps you are privately renting for the first time, or you’re starting to write your dissertation. We’re here to support you with these changes throughout your time here.

Success: support to student success- personally and academically. We do this by helping students access support they might need so that they can focus on their studies.

Progression: exclusive support to help students achieve post-university goals (or work out what they are) from the very first weeks at Leeds. From assessment centre practice runs to mentoring, dedicated contacts within the Careers Service, where students have priority support.

Support is available in the form of guidance, networking with employers, insight days in various industries and more specifically:

  • Inclusive opportunities and sourcing graduate vacancies
  • Postgraduate scholarships
  • Tailored events and podcasts with a focus on getting ahead in Recruitment
  • Leeds mentoring opportunities
  • Developing a professional image

Also there is the Opportunities Fund for financial support for professional development opportunities like internships, interviews and conferences.

Funding is available for Internships, Work Experience and Volunteering


  • Attendance at conferences (virtual or in person)
  • Accessing Lifelong Learning Centre / University of Leeds
  • events
  • Attendance at an interview or assessment centre
  • Attendance at a career insight day
  • Attendance at a network event in your field of study/
  • chosen career area
  • Short courses/ training, for example an Online Marketing
  • course offered outside of the university

Program vision:

The University will be a place where students from diverse backgrounds feel they belong, can thrive, and are valued for their contribution.

The scheme has supported more than 2,000 students who progressed through Access to Leeds or other routes, providing opportunities to develop new skills, develop networks with potential employers and gain a taste of the world of work or further study.

Stakeholders and Partners

Students supported include:

  • Students eligible for contextual admissions schemes
  • (such as our Access to Leeds, Reach for Excellence,
  • and Realising Opportunities programmes)
  • Students who are care experienced
  • Students who do not have parental
  • support (i.e. estranged)
  • Students entering university from a
  • geographical area of low participation
  • Undergraduate means tested scholars
  • Leeds Masters scholars
  • Students from ethnicities underrepresented at the university
  • Refugees and asylum seekers
  • Students with current or prior caring responsibilities

Methodological Approach

Comprehensive support provided in different stages of student life – at enrollment phase, during studies and at transition to work phase.

Diverse support team leading on the Program topics including:

  • PlusProgramme strategy, graduate outcomes, and our work on widening participation into postgraduate study
  • student retention, equality and inclusion and sense of belonging
  • transition to higher education and through university, student finance and student wellbeing
  • employability, forced migrant students and evaluation
  • transitional activity for new students, peer mentoring and undergraduate scholarships
  • student voice, student involvement and engagement of students from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds
  • estranged and care experienced students, students with caring responsibilities and mature students
  • Plus Programme communications to students and our activities and support for postgraduate students

Strong inter-institutional partnership with different faculties, Career service, Lifelong Learning Centre and student Success project.


“I have felt like a part of a supportive community and the Plus Programme has genuinely helped me to settle in well and get rid of the imposter syndrome I so often experience”.

“The Plus Programme has helped me gain confidence in different skills and knowing that I have loads of things to talk about as I graduate. For me it’s just been part of my degree, a big part of it….and it’s just been a source of constant support really”.

Third Year Undergraduate Sustainability and Environmental Management student

Innovation potential

Funding in the amount of 500 pounds annually per student  available to cover for the costs related to professional career path and increasing employability of the underrepresented students

Success Factors

Early and ongoing support provision

Needs based – designed to support underrepresented groups of students in a participatory manner

Flexible and adaptable – Expanding work with Taught Postgraduate students

dedicated team of 4 graduates supporting the progression of underrepresented students – University’s Employability and Progression Assistants (graduates from underrepresented backgrounds)

A variety of resources provided at the basecamp for different groups of underrepresented students

Lessons learned

To embed increased student involvement into Access and Student Success work and policy-making at the University of Leeds, the Plus Programme is providing a mechanism and a forum to facilitate regular dialogue and collaboration between staff and students.

The Student Involvement project will offer a platform for students to work with the University to co-create policy and be even more involved in the development, delivery and evaluation of Widening Participation activity

Contact details

URL of the practice Reference document



Related Web site(s)

Related resources that have been developed




Location/geographical coverage

University of Birmingham, United Kingdom, West Midlands region, Edgbaston, Birmingham.

Background and description

Widely accepted that university is a ‘good place’ to be gay, lesbian, bi, trans* or queer – that moving away from home and connecting with a wider range of people is a liberating experience and can positively shape students’ identities and enable them to build supportive social networks. On the other hand, people who identify as LGBTQ continue to experience higher levels of discrimination and abuse than the general population in all aspects of their lives, which can have a negative impact on their physical and mental health.

In order to address the issue, mentioned above, the guidance on best practice for an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum was developed.

Guidance was rooted in the experience of students and colleagues, as well as being informed by theoretical developments in education. This guide supports colleagues across further and higher education to be inclusive about LGBTQ identities in their teaching practice and to feel confident in making gender and sexual diversity visible within the curriculum. Inspiring examples were shared and tailored to different academic disciplines, on how to do this in practice.

The model for the LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum consists of three domains of inclusivity (Language, Content and Role Models) and three levels of inclusivity (Awareness, Additive and Transformative).





Avoiding abusive and discriminatory language

Signposting to LGBTQ organizations and events

Basic acknowledgement of gender and sexual diversity


Avoiding hetero-normative and cis-normative language

Access to mentors for LGBTQ-identified students

Inclusion of topics, themes and readings about LGBTQ identities


Critical engagement with queer/trans inclusive language

Role models and allies in the teaching and learning environment

Critical approaches to pedagogy, supporting social engagement and action/inclusive professional practice

Stakeholders and Partners

The beneficiaries of the good practice were students, the users – University staff. The project team consisted of a range of colleagues from across the University of Birmingham. The main partner was Stonewall – an organization which stands for all LGBTQ+ people.

Methodological Approach

The project was developed over two years. First, a literature review was conducted which provided some context for the study and influenced the model of inclusivity. Second, a survey of staff and students was conducted to better understand the situation at the University of Birmingham. Third, meetings with various colleagues were organized to complement this quantitative and qualitative research data. Fourth, collaborative workshops with students and academic colleagues were conducted to share the findings from the project and gather further examples of good practice. Finally, a best practice guide was developed.


Students confirm that the good practice addresses the needs: ‘One of the reasons that drew me into coming to study and the University of Birmingham was the range of topics discussed on my course. This proved evident during last term when I had a selection of lectures exploring medieval sexuality in which I was able to dwell on a personal study for my assignment. Many of my friends studying the same topic at different universities aren’t fortunate enough to be able to learn about historical conceptions of gender and sexuality… I’m pleased my course offers this.’

Innovation potential

Developed guidance led to the creation of welcoming and inclusive environment in higher education where all students can reach their potential. In an environment where discrimination, fear of discrimination and hatred are declining, LGBT students can have a positive experience in higher education and better educational outcomes.

Success Factors

  1. Structures and policies. Where project team could, they continually made reference to University policies on inclusion. When issues emerged that were not covered by University structures or policies, the team contacted those with the authority to change them and shared findings and suggestions.
  2. Supporting staff to be more inclusive. Project fed into formal training systems of the University – such as a new component in the induction programme for new staff (run by HR) and increasing content on inclusivity in the teaching qualification for new lecturers (run by Educational Enhancement team). Also, supportive workshops within subject groups on becoming more inclusive were offered.
  3. Workshops with staff and students. Two-hour workshops with staff in discipline-specific groups were held. Workshop structure: (a) description of the national picture of LGBTQ inequalities in health and higher education, (b) data on completion rates and experiences of students from their own courses, (c) description of the model of inclusivity and reflection of the participants where their department was currently, (d) participants had to identify priorities for change within their department, and (e) participants had to make personal pledges on actions they would take in the next 3–6 months (on postcards which were sent back to them after 6 months).
  4. Developing wider networks and support. International network ‘LGBTQ inclusivity in Higher Education’ was set up which ran its first conference in September 2016.


Many people initially find it difficult to identify ways in which LGBTQ inclusivity can be woven into the STEM curriculum. Content was sometimes more challenging to think about, but lecturers were able to introduce and make students aware of diversity and its impact on research and the wider discipline. For example, in lectures of computer processing of human language one can touch on use of pronouns such as ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘they’, and in giving example sentences one can use ‘Bob loves Bill’ occasionally instead of ‘John loves Mary’. In Database classes, one standard example is how to represent marriage relationships, and that provides a great opportunity to discuss how to cater for non-traditional marriages.

Lessons learned

LGBTQ issues shouldn’t be an add-on but in line with the whole rationale of the module. Lecturer should demonstrate transformative practice in both the language and content domains, as well as be a role model for students. Initiatives could come from students and the staff should show support. Although the staff and students acknowledge that there is still some way to go in terms of full inclusive practice in teaching, their effort has already had a significant impact.


Lecturers need to participate in regularly organized workshops and review their curriculum. Students can also take part in workshops, learn more about the project, get involved in it, present their ideas. It takes time, effort and, in some cases, university funding but benefits (LGBTQ people feel more comfortable to be themselves) outweigh costs.

Replicability and/or up-scaling potential

Crucially this guidance has been informed by research amongst the University’s own community, and the report’s authors strongly recommend institutions ensure that they tailor their own approach to their local context and challenges and engage critically with their current practice. However, the accessibility and practicality of this guide should prove a strong foundation for institutions seeking to embed and explore LGBTQ inclusive practice within their own teaching and learning spaces.

For example, workshops could vary depending on context – such as whether there was clear leadership around LGBTQ inclusivity at organizational or department level, or whether the drive for change was coming from student or junior staff members.


Letting people know they are equally valued is important, especially when wider society is not always supportive. For LGBT people, universities can be environments that truly allow them to be themselves.

This guidance from the University of Birmingham brings together the first hand experiences of its own teachers and LGBT students. It demonstrates the importance of a fully inclusive curriculum and the impact that it can have on students and teachers. And it provides practical information for other institutions to create the changes that can and will make a difference. Most importantly, it will have a significant impact on the lives of many LGBT students, helping to ensure that they feel free to be themselves and accepted without exception.

Contact details

Twitter: @nickijward; @drnicolagale; @LGBTQinHE


URL of the practice Reference document

Related Web site(s)

University Web site about the project:

Related resources that have been developed 

LGBTQ+ Mentoring Scheme:

STEM at the University of Birmingham:

Being an LGBTQ student at the University of Birmingham:




Location/geographical coverage

Vilnius University, Lithuania. Gender inclusive language guidelines have been adopted by many HEI all over the world.

Background and description

Avoiding discrimination on the grounds of biological and social gender starts with language, as the symbolic use of gender-biased terminology influences attitudes and expectations and can push women to the background in the mind of a reader or a listener or perpetuates stereotypical perceptions of the roles of women and men. The language reflects and reinforces the identity, cultural views and values, therefore in countries like Lithuania, where surnames end differently depending on gender and marital status, gender-inclusive language guidelines are crucial. Gender neutrality in language has been a matter of inclusion over the last decade at international level. However, it can be stated that the practice is quite new: adoption of multilingual guidelines on gender neutral language in HEIs started in second decade of 2000s.

The Guidelines at Vilnius university have been developed since autumn 2021. The main objective of the Guidelines is to promote gender equality and eradicate gender bias at all levels of communication (academic, administrative, research and day-to-day). The Guidelines raise awareness of gender bias and promote usage of gender inclusive language among students and staff of HEIs.

The Gender-inclusive guidelines are part of the strategic Gender Equality plan of the University. Arguments for using the Guidelines are followed by identifying areas for gender inclusive language (communication and documents at all levels of VU administration, academic publications, collegial communication, communication between lecturers and students, all training platforms, databases and tools developed by VU). The Guidelines explain three linguistic strategies to be used (consistent gender labelling, gender labelling interventions and the avoidance), present examples of gender-inclusive Lithuanian language, provide answers to frequently asked questions.

Gender-inclusive language manifests gender equality through language. In language gender equality is attained when women, men and non-binary gender system representatives are addressed through language as persons of equal value, dignity, integrity and respect.

Stakeholders and Partners

The target group as well as the users of these guidelines include all community members of Vilnius University. Although the use of gender-sensitive language is not formally regulated, linguistic awareness is expected to be raised from all the members of the Vilnius university community. Guidelines for gender-inclusive language were developed while implementing SPEAR (Supporting and Implementing Plans for Gender Equality in Academia and Research) project, funded by the EU Horizon 2020.

The benefits of gender inclusive language have been accredited by many international organizations like the World Health Organization, the European Parliament and the European Commission, the United Nations, the International Labour organization, major news agencies and publications as well as many universities (e.g., Harvard University (UK), University of Leipzig Germany), Uppsala University (Sweden), RWTH Aachen University (Germany), Universidade Nova de Lisboa (Portugal) etc.).

Methodological Approach

VU’s gender inclusive language guidelines are one of activities of the Vilnius University Diversity and Equal Opportunities Strategy for 2020-2025 approved by VU Senate. These guidelines have been developed by the Community Development Division, in collaboration with representatives of human rights, linguists, university researchers (professors and lecturers) from Institute of International Relations and Political Science, Faculty of Philology and Faculty of Philosophy. The guidelines have been disseminated via Intranet and official websites of University departments, Student Union.


Associated professor A. Novelskaitė acknowledges the importance of gender-inclusive language in everyday communication (“I was really delighted when, after the approval of the strategy, the following letters from some executives and managers began to address the community, “Gerb. kolegosirkolegės” (“Dear. colleagues” – in Lithuanian language male form for “colleagues” is most commonly used). For me, this means that the awareness and sensitivity of our community (I believe – not only) to gender is growing.

“Tuniekadanebūsigeruchirurgu, nebentpediatre” (transl. “You will never be a good surgeon (male connotation), only a pediatrician (female connotation)” – this discriminatory example shows the importance of gender-inclusive language at Faculty of Medicine.

Innovation potential

Changes in language mirror the changing values. Psycholinguistic studies show that usage of specific words reflect a psychological adaptation to sociocultural change. At first changes may seem inconvenient, however it is inevitable for living in a world compatible with gender equality ideas.

Success Factors

Monitoring for gender equality challenges at HEI; ensuring relevant linguistic expertise; raising awareness of gender-inclusive language; no special economic conditions are needed.


The challenges include: lack of understanding of gender-inclusive language importance; resistance; lack of resources with clear examples how to use gender-inclusive language; lack of support for such measures of HEI authorities; the text becomes overloaded; communication becomes more complicated and lacks spontaneity; difficulties of monitoring for usage of gender-inclusive language.

Lessons learned

The Guidelines should be used together with other Gender equality practices at HEI. The implementation of guidelines takes time and may cause dissatisfaction.


Sustainability may be ensured by provision of Toolboxes for using gender-inclusive language or training programs (e.g. webinars, raising awareness of staff and students, workshops for written, spoken, academic and non-academic language). Internal policies, methodological recommendations, presentations, internal and external communication templates should use gender-inclusive language; HEI authorities support.

Replicability and/or up-scaling potential

There is a wide possibility of extending the good practice in other HEI in Lithuania and / or other countries sharing the idea of gender equality. To ensure that the practice is replicated in other organizations, monitoring of gender inequality should be made first. The other conditions include prioritization of gender equality questions and a gender equality plan (GEP), as the guidelines are a strategic part of GEP and are effective if used together with other measures (including policies, etc.). The adaptation to the other context depends on linguistic characteristics (other languages) and readiness of the community to make steps towards a more inclusive environment.


Language used in HEIs by educators, in academic documents is extremely influential, because it provides a model for students, community and society as a whole. Word choices reflect notions about gender roles and help in promotion of unbiased and undiscriminatory values. First steps in using more inclusive language habits may be inconvenient, however practicing it may soon become a conscious use (like waste sorting).

Contact details

Community Development Division of Vilnius University,

URL of the practice Reference document

Other examples of practice:

Related Web site(s)

Related resources that have been developed



Location/geographical coverage

University of Georg-August of Gottingen, Germany

Background and description

The university of Gottingen has a multicultural student body with a total of 3380 international students[1] who are engaged in teaching, academia and research, representing the 12% of students.

To support the inclusion of refugees and people with a migrant background, the university implements different services:

  • Information office supporting since the pre-enrolment phase by providing information on how to apply for the different degree courses. This includes also information on how to validate previous qualifications obtained abroad and opportunities for financial support.
  • Language courses – the university, together with the Institute for Intercultural Communication, offers an intensive programme of course in German as foreign language for refugees who want to study there. The programme prepares students for the DSH exam, a prerequisite for admission to the university. Classes are not only attended by refugees, but also by participants who do not have a refugee background. As part of this programme, assistance is available for participants requiring homework support or advice on how to learn a new language. The courses are funded by the German Academic Exchange Service through the programme Integra – Integrating Refugees in Higher Education.
  • Library offerings–open to everyone both with or without registration for research and reading.
  • International Writing Lab–supporting all students in working on their writing projects and in developing academic and professional writing skills. The university offers writing consultation service as well, but the workshops are particularly suitable for those who want to learn about academic writing, the writing process or different kinds of text in general. The consultation is addressed to those who are in the process of writing a project and need support to address specific objectives.

In the Multi Con Text workshops and in academic writing partnerships, the teaching languages are German and/or English. While, in the other workshops, the language of instruction is German and students should have at least a level B2.

The workshops focus on writing in multilingual contexts meaning that they address, for instance, how to deal with writing in a language different from the one in which you are reading texts or taking notes.

  • Aid for threatened scholars and scientists – the Scholars at risk (SAR)[2]provides funding to host scientists and scholars at risk. Researchers from all countries outside the EU who are demonstrably exposed to a significant acute threat can be nominated by the university as the host institution. Successful institutions will receive funding to provide their nominated researchers with fully funded fellowships, alternatively employment for up to 24 months of research. The university takes part to this initiative.

Along with these services, the university encourages and supports initiatives offered by other students, such as:

  • Conquer Babel – founded in 2015 with the goal to support efforts by the city of Göttingen to integrate the rising numbers of refugees into the community, it is a team of volunteers from various countries and fields of study aiming at helping refugees with translations, German lessons and intercultural events as a way to foster their inclusion. They are currently offering translations in the following languages: Arabic, Farsi, Tigrinya, French, Albanian, Urdu, Pashto, Swahili, Russian and the Kurdish dialect Sorani.

As part of the tutoring programme they offer, one student and one refugee meet once a week and the student helps with the German language and homework.

  • Refugee law clinic – a not-for-profit association founded by Göttingen students providing people without a German passport can obtain assistance and support on legal matters.
  • Talk2Us – a group of psychology students providing psychological counselling for refugees and migrants in Göttingen. Their main aim is to provide relief from acute stress, to stabilize and to enable self-help through our counselling. However, they state clearly that this service is not a substitute for psychotherapy.

Stakeholders and Partners

The stakeholder involved in the service include:

  • representatives of the various committees at Göttingen University from the Presidential Board, Senate, the deans’ offices
  • researchers at the faculties who are working on the topics of migration, diversity and interculturality
  • the heads of the departments and administrative boards of the University (Göttingen International, Student and Academic Services, Gender Equality and Diversity)
  • non-university partners like representatives from the MPI for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity and the HAWK University of Applied Sciences and Arts and the Private University of Applied Science (PFH)

Furthermore, representatives of the Student Services Centre and the City and District of Göttingen are participating as well as are volunteer students from initiatives who provide support on legal matters, language learning and intercultural exchanges during mutual activities.

The beneficiaries of the service are refugee students at university independently from their country of origin.

Methodological Approach

The initiative is coordinated and managed by the Refugees Task Forcebringing together all locally relevant stakeholders who deal with refugees. İt was established as an initiative in reaction to the diverse group of refugees arriving in Göttingen. It is designed to provide a forum for sharing information about all activities revolving around the subject of refugee integration and meets at irregular intervals.

The task force is further divided into four working groups examinating and working on the different aspects of how the inclusion of refugees on the Göttingen Campus work:

  1. Shaping the process for integration into degree programmes – during their meetings, individual programme offerings can be discussed and potential synergistic effects implemented on the campus. The university will continue to intensify its information and advisory activities for refugees to further facilitate their integration into study curricula.
  2. Qualification and sensitisation of students–they mainly work on: offering teachers, non-academic staff and students information on how to support the inclusion of refugee students; support in the development of needs-based offers for language qualifications; making topic-oriented offers in research and teaching on the topics of gender, diversity and migration more visible.
  3. Qualification and sensitisation of students -particularly dealing with issues relating to the law on residency and status that the refugees have after their arrival and during their stay in Germany.
  4. Service learning – combining academic learning with civic engagement in the form of services rendered for charitable organisations. This approach helps students make a meaningful contribution to improving community service and solving problems for the common good.


In both cases, the students highlight how the services provided by the university supported them throughout their studies. Being able to access extra-training and information on aspects related not only to their academic studies, but on the community they are living in has further supported their inclusion and helped them in accessing other services available in the territory.

Innovation potential

The practice provides refugee students with a number of services that are not only strictly related to their academic studies. This aspect allows to provide a wider support in terms of social inclusion in the community where the university operates and the students live.

For instance, providing laboratories in which they can learn how to write academic papers and what elements to take into consideration when doing so, it is a way to fosters skills that can be used also in other contexts and that are a valuable resource for their entire academic path.

Success Factors

One of the main success factors of this practice is the capacity to involve the whole community, not only at university level but also the organisations active in the town. The university provides some of the services outlined, but favours also the engagement of associations of current and former students as well as organisations working in the territory to favour the inclusion of refugees and migrants.

At the same time, this allows to provide a support that goes behind academic related challenges and barriers. Among the services provided, there are also ones related to support in legal matters, bureaucratic procedures, psychosocial inclusion, etc.

Furthermore, the participation of the City and District of Göttingen is another element of success of the practice. Having the support of local institutions has allowed the university to develop an inclusive community for refugee students also outside its buildings. In this way, it is favoured also their inclusion in the society and in the labour market.


Through the desk research, it was not possible to identify the main challenges and constraints met by the university in developing and providing the services included in this practice.

Lessons learned

Providing a variety of services that can support refugee students in different aspects of their life is one of the most important elements of this practice. This is possible thanks to the participation and cooperation of different stakeholders in the territory, both in terms of typology of actor and of issues tackled by them.

By working together under different aspects, these actors are able to provide a comprehensive support to the refugee community in Göttingen.


It is not possible to retrieve data on the cost/efficiency of this practice as this information is not available online.

On the implementation sustainability, it should be underlined once again the importance of the partnership composed by different actors that are able to address different aspects that might prevent the academic and social inclusion of refugees.

Replicability and/or up-scaling potential

The first step to be done for the replication of the practice should be to contact and reach the local authorities in order to identify the actors and strategies that should be put in place to create a bridge between the university and the wider society. This will allow to develop services that take into consideration the specificities and needs of the territory.

From this initial collaboration and analysis, it will be possible to develop and put in place the kind of services that are needed in the specific context.

The other important aspect to take into consideration is to involve the student community, including associations that can offer collateral services to ones offered by the university. At the same time, it will increase the awareness of other students on the importance of taking actions and being supportive towards fellow students.


Through the information gathered and the experiences from refugee students, it is possible to say that the comprehensive approach used in this practice has mostly impacted who benefitted of it.

The kind of services provided can serve as an input to other institutions for the development of initiatives that can foster the inclusion and participation of refugee students in higher education.

As mentioned in previous session, refugee students have the opportunity to be involved in activities and get access to services enhancing their capacities to fully participate to academic and social life.

Contact details

Anke Anwand


Phone: +49 551 39-27775

Contact information available on the website

URL of the practice Reference document

[1]Data retrieved from the university webpage on 15th of June 2022.

[2]It is an association of over 400 universities, research institutions and other scientific organisations in 39 countries working together to support scientists and scholars threatened by repression. The network thusaimsatstrengtheningacademicfreedomworldwide.




Location/geographical coverage

Cataluña, Spain, Principal Headquarter (C/ Murcia, 2-8, Local 4, 08026, Barcelona)

Zaragoza, Spain, Delegación de Aragón (C/ de Sant Lorenzo, 9, 3º, 50001, Zaragoza)

Background and description

Campus Rom was created with the intention of generating a network of mutual support among Roma students who are trying to access university or a higher education degree, and also among those who have already gained access. This support network aims for Roma students to successfully achieve their dreams, and to become a reference for the whole Roma population and for society.

Access to higher education for Roma students has been limited; between 2011 and 2016, only 8 people gained access through the access test for over-25s. The University Access Group (GAU) of the Integrated Plan for the Roma People of the Generalitat de Catalunya identified the shortcomings in access and thus the need to promote and increase access to higher education for Roma students emerged. The lack of study habits and role models, as well as the educational segregation that the majority of students had suffered, made it difficult for them to succeed in the entrance exam.

In this context, CampusRom was created to offer academic and social support to these people and thus increase their chances of success. In just one year (2016-2017), 7 people passed the entrance exam. And since then, until 2021, 41 people have succeeded, which demonstrates the effectiveness of CampusRom’s support groups. This support has been transferred to other areas of higher education, and CampusRom currently offers support to more than 100 Roma people studying secondary school, technical and professional degrees, university degrees, master’s degrees or doctorates.

The main objectives of Campus Rom include:

  • To support, assist and accompany Roma students over the age of 16 who are in a formative process (or are about to start one), especially in higher education.
  • Encourage the participation and leadership of Roma students who are undergoing (or have completed) a educational process, especially in higher education.
  • To advise public and private organizations and institutions and work together to contribute to the educational success of the whole student body.
  • To contribute to the creation and development of successful intercultural education, especially in higher education.
  • To contribute to the eradication of stereotypes and prejudices that exist about various minority groups, such as the Romany population.
  • To work in coordination with other networks or organizations at national and international level related to the defense of the human rights of disadvantaged groups, especially in the field of education.

Campus Rom develops a wide variety of activities, programmes and projects, some of the most relevant and recent projects are described below:

RomExit (2017 – 2022): Towards academic excellence for Roma.

Seeks to improve the situation of the adult Roma population through support groups, courses and other educational and social support activities for Roma people trying to access postsecondary education.

IT4All (2021 – 2022). Community development project to improve digital skills and fight against social exclusion.

This project aims to improve the digital skills of the most vulnerable groups in order to face social exclusion and improve their personal and social development.

OpreRomaYouth (2019 – 2020). The success of Roma youth through their social and educational participation.

Improving the situation of the adult Roma population through their educational and social participation in different areas, such as specific courses, political and scientific events, and other activities focused on the active participation of the Roma community, such as the GAURomí, the Roma Women’s Group, the working groups of the network and the general assemblies.

Stakeholders and Partners

Generalitat de Catalunya, La Caixa Foundation, Barcelona City Council, University of Barcelona, University of Zaragoza, CampusRom members and volunteers in the actions developed by the entity.

Any Roma person can be a member of CampusRom who is involved in a training process within higher education, or who has actively participated in it before, or who has already passed it.

Methodological Approach

The implementation and proper functioning of CampusRom’s strategic plan is more than just personal and partisan interests. Campus Rom has at all times a philanthropic and activist will, in favour of social transformation and its contribution to the establishment of fairer and more equitable human relations that promote intercultural dialogue, gender equality and the abolition of racism, defending these principles as an inherent and indispensable part of the process of intellectual development of society.

Campus Rom works for the transformation of social actions, seeking justice, cultural freedom, community leadership and equal opportunities, beyond solidarity, paternalism or awareness-raising.

The entity develops regional, national and European projects that contribute to the well-being and improvement of the socio-economic and academic conditions of the Romany population.

As a network initiated by various Roma teachers and students, from its beginnings it has relied on social and community participation. The willingness of members and volunteers has meant that Campus Rom has diverse perspectives and active participation in the development of its activities, programmes and projects.

Gender Perspective

Bearing in mind that Roma women in particular have more difficulties in participating, the CampusRom Women’s Group ensures that the particular conditions, situations and needs of Roma women are adequately addressed during all the actions of the network, and to ensure that the representation of women is effective and real both in the achievement of the objectives and in the participation in the activities or in the implementation of the methodology of the projects.

This point is inspired by the principles established in Law 17/2015, of 21 July, on effective equality of women and men, so that gender mainstreaming is a transversal aspect throughout all the network’s actions. For example, places will be reserved for Roma women in all the activities of the network. In addition, the timetable of activities and the resources and services offered take special account of the needs of these women.


In order to monitor and evaluate the activities, quantitative and qualitative data are analysed. In relation to quantitative information, the number of reinforcement groups a person receives, the result obtained in the test, exam or work, where he/she has had the support of the network, as well as the total number of credits finally passed in a course, among other data, are controlled. As for qualitative data, at the end of the academic year, interviews and discussion groups are held with the people in the network who have received help and with those who have offered it, so that the experiences of the people involved are collected and analysed.

The information collected provides details and results of the positive impact on Roma students. Campus Rom has had positive results in the insertion of the Roma population in higher education, as well as an increasing number of people enrolled in tutoring groups and other activities.

Innovation potential

CampusRom is an innovative practice as it is a network made up of Roma people, so it has role models, activities, projects and programmes that have proved to be effective in the inclusion of the Roma population in Higher Education. Some characteristics of its innovative potential include:

  • Post-compulsory university approach
  • Implementation of Successful Educational Actions (AEE)
  • Roma role models
  • High expectations
  • Impact on other fundamental areas such as employment or health

Success Factors

  • So far, at least 98 Roma people have been assisted in the network.
  • The network has had an increase in both contracted members and volunteers, with a total of 67 members.
  • The delegation of Aragon has been created and working groups have been started for the future creation of the delegations of the Valencian Community and Andalusia.
  • 41 Roma people have gained access to university since 2017 through the entrance exam for people over 25.
  • More than 120 people are currently studying higher education, mainly university degrees or training cycles.
  • In 2020, 10 Roma people obtained the school-leaving certificate for over-18s, 5 of whom were Roma women.
  • Through the IT4All project, CampusRom has enabled a group of 16 Roma and immigrants to receive training in digital skills.

Through the OpreRomaYouth project, it has been possible for:

  • 12 Roma people successfully completed their university studies, and 5 completed their vocational training.
  • 5 Roma women obtained a school degree for people over 18 years of age through GAURomí.
  • 4 Roma participated in scientific congresses, and 23 in political activities.
  • 3 Roma people have participated in scientific production.

The data for 2021 reveal that in Post-compulsory studies:

  • 75% of the Roma students attended, pass the academic year with more than 80% of credits passed.
  • 67% of the participating Roma students passed an entrance exam to post-compulsory studies or to obtain a non-university degree.
  • 83% of the Roma students assisted, pass the work, exam or similar activity they prepare with the network.

The data of 2021 of Compulsory Studies shows that:

  • 100% of Roma students have passed the subjects where they have had preparation by the network.
  • 70% of Roma students have passed the subjects prepared by the network with a good grade.


  • High number of Roma men and women who had not completed basic education. In response to this, courses were provided to help them obtain a school-leaving certificate or university entrance exams.
  • Lack of Roma men and women studying or with higher education. In response to this, role models were made visible in children, young people and adults.
  • Lack of educational support for Roma men and women in education. For this reason, the offer of educational support groups was created

Lessons learned

Roma men and women want to be educated and increase their presence in the educational context, the conflict lies in an exclusionary educational system that makes it impossible for minority groups to access education. CampusRom aims to develop a compensatory function so that every day more and more Roma people have the opportunity to acquire post-compulsory higher education studies that makes it possible to improve their situation of invisibility and socio-economic precariousness.


To make a public and political commitment to the project at national level to facilitate its growth in the most sustainable way in all areas, given that CampusRom is sustainable in its essence, in that all the actions it develops have an impact on the lives of the people it accompanies, as well as on society. CampusRom is sustainable because it is a network made up of a large group of members and volunteers. As a non-profit organisation, the essence of its sustainability is social activism, in which different social actors, universities, public entities that finance CampusRom’s projects and activities participate.

Replicability and/or up-scaling potential

The replicability of CampusRom is already a fact, this initiative that arises in Catalonia is being actively applied in other autonomous communities, as is the case of Aragon, in addition, academic support groups with volunteer staff have been replicated at the University of Zaragoza.

The CampusRom model is transferable to contexts of vulnerability based on the willingness of people in the same territory to develop it and the institutional support that provides economic, logistical and resource coverage for the proposal. CampusRom is a network open to receive and provide support to other universities or cities that seek to strengthen the inclusion of Roma students in post-compulsory education.


Campus Rom is a successful initiative that, in its short time of creation, has achieved positive results in the inclusion of Roma students, who are a minority and excluded from the higher education system in Spain. School reinforcement, accompaniment, tutoring and the provision of role models have made it easier for more young people to successfully complete compulsory education and to have the support and the necessary tools and skills to access and successfully complete higher education. At the same time, CampusRom raises society’s awareness of the difficulties Roma face in accessing education, while breaking down stigmas and stereotypes.

“The university is also Roma”

Contact details

Adress: C/ Murcia, 2-8, Local 4, 08026 Barcelona, Cataluña Spain.


Telephone: (+34) 679965708

URL of the practice Reference document

Related Web site(s)





Related resources that have been developed

Papers and Research Documents:




Location/geographical coverage

Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

Barcelona, Spain

Background and description

The service born to address the needs of students with disabilities and specific educational needs (SEN) and to support them throughout their studies, from enrolment to graduatio. nIt is not possible to find the exact year in which the service started, but as per researches its activities are already mentioned at the beginning of the 2000s.

This support service works to guarantee that every person, independently from their disability or SEN, can access higher education with equality of opportunity, enjoying a full academic and social life as well as guaranteeing their autonomy at university. It wants to help students in identifying the adaptations and resources that most suit their individual needs.

Students followed by the service include people with physical, visual, auditive and multiple disabilities and those with learning or mental disorders.

For achieving these objectives, the service provides the university community with training, information and expert’s psycho-pedagogical advice, guidance and support for students and teachers, curricular adaptations, provision of technical, personal and material supports and resources, among others.

The main areas of work of the support service are:

  • Pedagogical unit: educational needs assessment; tutorials and individual monitoring; mediation with teaching staff.
  • Technological unit: educational resources which enable to follow classes.
  • Mobility: adapted transport and accompaniment on the campus.
  • Employment and career guidance: UABImpuls programme facilitating into the labour market.

These areas of work are further divided into main activities carried out by PIUNE, namely:

  • Pedagogical support – after the first interview with the student, they will have regular meetings with a psycho-educationalist to decide together whether the adaptations and adjustments for facilitating academic progress area adequate and make improvements to the curricular pathway, optimising academic performance
  • Exam adaptation – to support in finding out the most suitable adaptations for each student and giving the necessary information to be able to work out the best solution. There are no existing academic standards for exam adaptation and other assessment systems. The service works on an individual basis and propose the most reasonable adjustments for each student in collaboration with the academic staff. Notwithstanding, there are some adaptations that are usually proposed such as: additional time available; replacement of a written exam with an oral one or vice versa (according to the disability); exam questionnaires available to students according to their needs (e.g., enlargement of characters, transcription in Braille, sign language); human support (e.g., interpreters who know the subject, exam reader, exam writer); technical support materials (e.g., computer, text processors, special and accessible rooms).
  • ICT advice – special advice and training on the latest software and peripherals as well as other available resources which may help to follow the classed and improve access to information. PIUNE can lend resources so that the student can try before obtaining their own and it also offers access to teaching resources used by academic staff.
  • Study booths – at the end of 2006, PIUNE launched a project to offer students with physical disabilities or reduced mobility or with sensorial disabilities spaces with technical resources and accessible technologies to enable them to access information and work autonomously in the study rooms. These provide a study space equipped with the most innovative technical resources (such as, software, voice recognition programmes and magnified text programs, peripherals, adapted mouse and keyboard) for better access to information and communication.

Moreover, to facilitate the support for people with disabilities and/or SEN, PIUNE technical team offers training to library staff.

  • Materials in alternative formats – offering transcriptions of work linked to studies in alternative formats: digitization of documents to turn paper texts into electronic format; document recording to turn paper documents into audio documents; conversion of documents into Braille.
  • Support for mobility – the UAB has an internal bus service but sometimes the stops are a long way from the classes. Therefore, PIUNE offers students or future ones with reduced mobility an adapted transport service that can be used to move around the campus. The PIUNE adapted transport service is a personalised service which will take the student to the door of the building/room they will have to use. For students with orientation difficulties linked to sensory disabilities and/or some mobility problems, PIUNE offers an accompaniment service to support them when walking around the campus.
  • Classroom accessibility – making sure that classrooms are accessible with adequate lighting and adapted furniture according to the student’s needs. PIUNE also coordinates classroom changes when the rooms are difficult to access or study in.
  • Exchange programmes – coordinating with the host university abroad and informing the student on the philosophy and services offered there.
  • Scholarships – PIUNE can offer information and advice on different grant programmes, both public and private, which could help students to face the costs associated with studies and those deriving from the disability and/or specific educational need. The FundacióAutònomaSolidària[1] has set up its own line of funding for students with disabilities at the UAB, especially those who are dependent on other people. This line of funding aims to facilitate entry to the university and allow students to complete their higher education as a preparatory step to entry into the labour market. Students benefiting from this funding will receive a grant for personal assistance during the academic day and mobility assistance in cases where they have difficulty using the public transport system.
  • Support students – a resource aimed at students who have problems taking notes or who need support in some of the practical aspects of the classroom, such as laboratory activities or bibliographic searches. PIUNE assesses whether the student needs a buddy support and for which tasks and, then, helps in finding the student who can offer that support.
  • UAB Impuls Employment Programme – offered jointly by the PIUNE and the UAB Employment Service, it aims at facilitating entry into the labour market by students and graduates of the UAB with a disability or at risk of social exclusion. To do so, it offers services to both students and graduates with disabilities and also to companies. More specifically:
    • Services to students and graduates with disabilities
      • Advice in defining short- and medium-term objectives
      • Advice in producing different documents for employment search (CV, cover letter, etc.)
      • Information about different ways of looking for an employment
      • Recommendations on activities to develop key transferable competences (e.g., self-knowledge, communication, responsibility, organisation, proactiveness, team working)
      • Guidance to prepare for selection process
    • Services for companies
      • Advice on tax advantages
      • Communication of job offers and preselection of candidates
      • Advice on adaptations of the workplace and follow up after contracting
      • Awareness-raising and training activities

For a new student, the steps to access the service are to:

  1. Get informed – by looking at the dedicated website, calling the service or writing to it. They also organise talks, open days, etc.
  2. Register at the UAB – if the student has a disability certificate, it should be presented when registering at the university.
  3. Interview – allowing to assess the student’s needs. Based on that, the service will produce a report outlining the needed curricular adaptations.
  4. Faculty tutor – once selected by the faculty, the tutor will communicate the needed adaptations to the academic staff.
  5. Monitoring – throughout the academic year and the time of enrolment at the university.
  6. Assessment – available anytime the student needs it.
  7. Employment – accompanying students in entering the labour market.

The registration to the PIUNE service should be renewed each academic year.

Stakeholders and Partners

The services under PIUNE are addressed to students who

  • are in possession of a disability certificate
  • can justify a “special condition” for health reasons, whether permanent or temporary, such as learning disorders or physical injury, etc.

Each student has a tutor, a person responsible for coordinating the student support with the faculty or school and they have to respond to the Dean’s office, acting as a link between the PIUNE and other services, academic staff and students with SEN.

The number of students with some kind of recognised disability registered on the campus increases every year. In 10 years, the figure has gone from 80 students to 370.

The Fundació Autònoma Solidària, a university-based social organisation, coordinates the implementation of the PIUNE services and manages the funding to those services. They often receive the financial support of private companies or investors that allow to keep the service open.

Methodological Approach

As part of the service, beneficiary students receive adapted learning plans. At the basis of it, there is an educational strategy consisting in making elements of the curriculum more accessible taking into account the individual characteristics of each student. Generally, it is recommended to do “non-significant” adaptations in the sense that they do not modify basic elements of the curriculum, rather focus more on the methodology, organisation, setting, technological resources, etc. Beneficiary students can ask for support in doing their exams by:

  • Submitting a Special education needs report in person to the tutor of their faculty. The tutor will inform the professors.
  • Talking with their professors to identify themselves and agree on the details of support.
  • Filling in an online form for each exam. The form allows to specify the kind of adaptations required for the exam to be taken. PIUNE will then check, notify and confirm the adaptations requested by email to the contact address of the teacher provided by the student on the form.

Along with the services provided, raising awareness activities are foreseen. Indeed, each year, PIUNE organises a course addressed to the students of the UAB to provide a space for learning about functional diversity and inclusion. This awareness raising activity aims at bringing people closer to who has a disability.

The service offers also a UAB Tutoring Action Plan aiming to orientate, advice and offer support to UAB’s students in different aspects of their learning and early professional development with tutoring actions. It is a framework document which brings together different types of tutoring offered by the university to students during their academic career, considering the specific educational needs that they may have at any particular time.

Furthermore, the relationship with the teaching staff is fundamental for establishing and defining the necessary adaptations so that students with specific educational needs deriving from their disability can successfully achieve university-level studies.

PIUNE offers information and advice as well as materials and resources that are available to ensure that they can design their classes on the basis of accessibility to learning. The main services offered to teaching staff are:

  • Information and advice on disabilities and the responsibility of the university, curricular adaptations, accessible methodologies, design of materials and classroom resources, adapted technology, etc.
  • Special training on issues related to disability and/or specific educational needs according to requirements of the teaching staff

PIUNE offers materials and resources to UAB teaching staff and the tutors of students with disabilities and/or specific educational needs which can help them to understand their students and support them more effectively.


In the academic year 2018/2019, the service has reached the following

  • 223 students benefitting of the PIUNE services
  • 655 adaptations of assessment exams
  • 1233 accompaniments on adapted transport

In the year 2020/2021, the beneficiaries of the service were 384[2].

Innovation potential

It is a comprehensive support service that through both the methodological approach and the activities provided allows to target different challenges and barriers that students with disabilities and SEN face during the studies.

The actions foreseen as part of the wider service are crucial to ensure that all students, including the ones with disabilities and SEN, are able to not only access higher education, but also to succeed in their studies.

Through the different service provided, it allows to accompany students with disabilities and/or special educational needs from the enrolment to entering the labour market. In this way, it allows to guarantee the success of these students notwithstanding the challenges and barriers they might face in their daily lives.

The educational methodology behind it is based on the needs of the single student. This allows to identify which are the elements that can support them in succeeding in their studies, the specificities that should be addressed to allow them to being an active part of the academic life.

It also includes strategies and approaches to support them in entering the labour market, providing an opportunity for inclusion in the wider society once out of the university.

Success Factors

The main condition to allow the development of such service is a supportive organisational environment. The educational institution must be involved in the different phase of service development and implementation and be available in deploying resources to ensure that the service is effective.

The awareness on the issues addressed among the academic staff as well as all the actors involved in the education path is important to ensure that there is an overall effort in promoting the inclusion of all students. For this reason, the university organises also training courses and activities for raising awareness on disability and special education needs.

This has ensured that the whole university community is aware of how they can better contribute to the inclusion process of the students.

Regarding the economic conditions, the funding of the practice is ensured thanks to the work of the FundacióAutònomaSolidaria. Therefore, the participation of an actor that can support university in funding the different services and initiatives is a pre-condition for ensuring the long-term sustainability of the practice.


There is not detailed information on the challenges and barriers encountered for accessing the service. However, according to the information shared on the website, it is possible to say that further attention to awareness-raising actions fostering knowledge and capacities of academic staff in supporting the learning of students with disabilities and/or SEN. The development and implementation of a training course focused on this and addressed to professors might support advancement in this regard.

Lessons learned

Supporting students throughout their studies is crucial to ensure their active and successful participating in higher education. By having a comprehensive approach, the PIUNE service has been able over the years to follow students with disabilities and SEN in the different steps of their academic path.


Data are not available on the costs incurred for the services. Therefore, it is difficult to provide information on the sustainability of the service in economic terms.

The funding of the service in guaranteed by the Fundació Autònoma Solidaria. Its contribution allows to guarantee the service on the long term.

Replicability and/or up-scaling potential

The practice can be replicated in other contexts as it takes into consideration the peculiarities of where it is applied and the specific barriers that students with disabilities and special educational needs encounter in their studies.

Indeed, the main success factor is the educational strategy behind the services provided that takes into consideration the individual characteristics of each student for curricula adaptation and initiatives realised.


In the webpage of the service, it is possible to find testimonials of people who have accessed the PIUNE services in their academic studies such as the one shared as part of this article:

It highlighted how the strength of this practice is in the plurality of services offered that allowed to support students throughout their period at the university and under different aspects.

This is why PIUNE has been selected as good practice to foster the inclusion of underrepresented students and guiding them through the different steps that make up the participation in higher education studies.

Contact details

The contact email address provided on the website is

URL of the practice Reference document

Related Web site(s)

ACCESS 4ALL project, Good Practices for equity and inclusion in Higher Education (2017),

Related resources that have been developed

[1]The foundation coordinating and managing the fundings to the service.

[2]Fundació Autònoma Solidària, Activities report 2020/2021.

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Location/geographical coverage

The initiative is open to all the universities based in France (mainland).

Background and description

This initiative fits into the Memorandum of Understanding between UNHCR and the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF) of February 2021 which aims to facilitate access to higher education for refugees and include the development of education pathways.

University corridors fall within the Three-Year Strategy on Resettlement and Complementary Pathways[1] as well as within the Refugee Education 2030 Strategy[2] of UNHCR.

The project will enable French-speaking refugees living in a targeted first country of asylum to study a master’s degree (2 years) within a higher education institution in France (mainland). This includes also professional courses.

It is expected that 50 refugees should benefit from the project over two years: 20 as of September 2022 and another 30 as of September 2023. Considering that only 5% of refugees worldwide have access to higher education, this project could facilitate refugee access to the universities and provide them with administrative, legal, psychosocial and financial support.

The project builds on initiatives led by the French authorities or by NGOs. It is also inspired by the successful programmes implemented by other EU member states and Canada. It will interact with European projects of complementary pathways, like the SAFE – foStercooperAtion For improving access to protEction and the COMET – COMplementary pathways nETwork projects funded by the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF).

Each participating university issues a call for applications including the description of the host institution and offered MA, eligibility criteria and procedure.

  • As required by French authorities, only recognised refugees are eligible.
  • The beneficiaries of the project will travel to France on student visas. There is no guarantee they will be allowed to stay in France at the end of the course. Asylum being a right, they could claim it if they want to, but they will have to follow the normal procedure (no protection transfer).
  • At the end of the university corridor, students will have different options: required a provisional stay authorization which allow staying 1 year in France to look for employment; continue their studies in France; change their student permit for a work permit if they find employment (the majority of courses offered in the framework of the project propose a second year of studies  in apprenticeship which could facilitate integration within the job market), return to their country of first asylum, etc.
  • The implementation of the project will depend on the success of universities’ fundraising activities to cover the subsistence allowances of refugee students

The common eligibility criteria:

  • Be legally recognised as a refugee in a first host country by the State or by the UNHCR
  • Have a B2 level of Frenchlanguage

Finally, the project may also include a complementary dimension of distance-learning courses.

Stakeholders and Partners

This multi-stakeholder project will be implemented with the support of French authorities [Ministry for Higher Education, Ministry of Interior, General Secretary of European Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, local governments], higher education institutions, the Migrants in higher education network, the Exiles Students Union, NGOs, the civil society, foundations, the private sector and refugees.

Several stakeholders have already demonstrated a strong interest in complementary pathways.

The Migrants dans l’Enseignement Supérieur (MEnS) network[3], partner of the project, includes 42 universities in France.

These universities will take part to the initiative. Among them:

  • Clermont Auvergne University
  • Univeristy of Rennes 1
  • University of Paris 1 Panthéon – Sorbonne
  • Université Paris 8 Vincennes – Saint Denis

The initiative is open to students who have been legally recognised as a refugee by a first country of asylum or by UNHCR and being graduated from a bachelor’s degree, or an equivalent degree.

The gender issue is under attention. However, beside the mandatory requirements, each university can decide whether or not to put attention on gender balance during the selection process.

Methodological Approach

The project provides beneficiaries with easy access to the university system, administrative, social and financial support.

The methodology is under development since the initiative is still running. Notwithstanding, it is built upon similar experience already carried out in other countries.

These include a regular assessment from UNHCR on the results achieved by involving both the universities and the students. It allows to adjust the programme throughout the years in order to better address the needs of the students. The assessment includes moments of debates and encounter among the participants to the initiative to share their experiences and provide their feedback on their learning experience.

Innovation potential

The initiative allows to create a dedicated path for refugees to access higher education.

This is guaranteed by the participation of different stakeholders, both at institutional and private level. In this way, it is possible to provide a further support to these students by addressing also different challenges they might face.

The cooperation among all these different stakeholders allows also to reach a higher number of refugees giving them the possibility to know the opportunity offered to them.

Students are selected because of their merits and their motivation into entering higher education paths.

Success Factors

The main success factor of this initiative is the multi-stakeholder partnership that, as mentioned above, guarantees a better coverage both in terms of people reached and of instances taken into consideration in terms of barriers and challenges refugees face in entering higher education.

The participation of government authorities and universities guarantees the effectiveness of the practice and the long-term sustainability of the project. This element is needed when considering to implement similar initiatives. The participation of institutions such as ministries is one of the main elements determining the success and spread on the territory of the project. At the same time, it allows to build on the results of each universities and to support the development of shared standards bringing to a common framework for sponsorships to refugee students.

As regards the economic conditions, these are mainly related to the financial capacities of universities. It is necessary that the universities in the network are able to support the funding of the sponsorships.


It is still not possible to list all the challenges and constraints faced in the implementation of the initiative as the same is still running out.

Furthermore, these are elements that might change depending on the university, the students and their country of origin.

The main challenge is currently represented by the capacity to reach out refugees that are residing in refugee camps or that are living in rural areas. For them, it is more difficult to be reached and to get to know that this opportunity is available.

Moreover, in this case, that might also be difficulties linked to transportation as the universities participating to the initiative are mainly based in cities.

Another constraint is related to the fact that the implementation of the project depends on the success of universities’ fundraising to cover subsistence allowances of refugee students. Securing the required funds is, therefore, up to the universities representing a risk in terms of financial sustainability in the medium and long term.

Lessons learned

It is still not possible to list the lessons learnt as part of this project.

However, as mentioned above, it builds upon similar experiences in other European countries. These experiences have been promoted by the UNHCR as well.

From the lessons learnt out of this experience, this project has been developed.

More information on this part will be included as soon as available.


The institutional sustainability of the initiative is represented by the participation of the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF). They are partner of the project and guarantee the participation of universities in their network.

However, the financial stability is strictly linked to the possibility of each university of securing funds for the implementation of the project and being able to activate the scholarships.

Replicability and/or up-scaling potential

This initiative has a high potential to be replicated as, in other contexts, it has demonstrated to be an effective approach for the inclusion and participation of refugee students in higher education.

One of the main factors to take into consideration for its replicability is the importance of involving different kind of stakeholders that can bring on the table the variety of instances and challenges refugees encounter to access higher education.

The willingness of the governmental institutions in realising the project is also a necessary condition for its replicability. Without it, the risk is to not have a common framework and ground, but only different small initiatives in the different partner countries.

Another important element to take into consideration is the recognition of previous qualifications. To ensure that this is possible for a vast majority of countries, it should be promoted the participation of refugee students coming from countries for which there is a recognition of qualifications and, at the same time, to promote the dialogue among institutional actors for the recognition of the ones obtained in countries for which there is still not the possibility to validate previous qualifications. This will ensure to enlarge the number of refugee students benefitting from the sponsorship.

Contact details


URL of the practice Reference document


Information available on




Location/geographical coverage

ItaStra is promoted by the University of Palermo, which is based in Sicily (Italy), but by providing support to foreign students from all over the world, it can be considered international.

Background and description

The School of Italian Language for Foreigners is a teaching, research and innovation center working in the area of language inclusion and the teaching of Italian. It was established in 2007 with the aim of promoting teaching, training, consulting and research activities in the field of teaching Italian as a second and foreign language.

In detail, the ItaStra School:

  • throughout the year activates ordinary intensive and semi-intensive courses aimed at all foreigners, Erasmus and Marco Polo project students and foreign students enrolled at the University of Palermo; organizes the intensive Italian language and culture Summer School (July to September) and Winter School (February/March);
  • is the official seat of the Cils exam thanks to an agreement with the University for Foreigners of Siena and organizes preparation courses for the test;
  • collaborates with the Level I Master’s in “Teaching Italian as a non-mother tongue” provided by Dipli and the Level II Master’s in “Theory, planning and teaching Italian as a second and foreign language”;
  • organizes language integration projects with local primary and secondary schools;
  • participates and promotes international mobility projects with several foreign universities including Sichuan International Studies University (China).

Stakeholders and Partners

It is a structure that, working in close synergy with the educational realities of the University, moves in several directions looking at:

  • to the internationalization processes of the Athenaeum and promoting courses specifically aimed at Erasmus students, foreign students enrolled in the Athenaeum, foreign doctoral students, visiting scholars and visiting Professors, international cultural and youth tourism interested in language courses within study-stays or vacations;
  • to Third Mission activities in particular by supporting the world of immigration in its different components (adults, children and youth) and types (associations, organizations, public bodies, etc.), second and third generations.

From 2008 to the present, the School has registered a strong increase in the number of its enrollment from all over the world (from Asia to the U.S., from Australia to European countries) thanks to the teaching quality of its language courses.

On the side of Italian teacher training, the School promotes training courses for in-service teachers, in collaboration with the Regional School Office with which it has signed an agreement, and is a promoter of International Seminars on cutting-edge teaching techniques. To further its purposes, the School signs and implements international agreements with university institutions in different parts of the world. To date, there are dozens of foreign universities with which the School has entered into collaboration agreements on the teaching and training side, and other collaboration protocols are in the process of being signed. The School also promotes courses aimed at the training and language certification of immigrants staying in Italy, with particular attention to unaccompanied foreign minors and women. In particular, ItaStra has dealt with Unaccompanied Foreign Minors (MSNAs) and Asylum Seekers with multiple directions of work:

1. language inclusion (thousands of MSNAs and Asylum Seekers have been included in Italian language and literacy courses),

2. training (a thousand teachers and reception workers trained),

3. applied research (creation of a research line on inclusion for MSNAs and language teaching for illiterates with also multimedia products),

4. individual study support activities for MSNAs.

5. communication to the territory through high quality artistic projects (theater, music, visual arts).

The School’s activity, which grows year by year, is differentiated and moves on several levels, with the common intent of putting learning at the center of teaching activities and proposing a model of language open to uses, culture, territory, and social.

Methodological Approach

Currently, ItaStra is a reference hub for the dissemination of the Italian language to foreigners and has become over time a best practice for language inclusion policies addressed to Unaccompanied Foreign Minors (MSNA), trafficked women, and Asylum Seekers. The school is based on the construction of a linguistic learning model that brings together language uses and everyday practices through the use of participatory methods.

The methodological aspect that has made it an inclusive good practice is the typical approach of action research that has made it possible to identify very specific strands of applied research that has considered as direct beneficiaries a specific target group of young people.

ItaStra’s research strands were aimed at creating an educational model for MSNAs and adolescents and adults with low or no literacy. In particular, for adolescents and young adults who are making the migratory journey alone, projects were developed for the enhancement of multilingualism as an individual and collective wealth also through language autobiography and art projects.

The lines of research-action were mainly two. The first moves from the analysis of the cognitive and linguistic situation of people who have not learned to read and write at an early age or have a very weak relationship with the written language; the second, from the concept of literacy as the formation of communicative and social skills, of which the mastery of reading-writing is only one aspect. At the convergence of these two lines, lies the work of constructing, experimenting and reflecting on teaching devices that build on the skills students already havè and orient them to the simultaneous approach to all levels of language. Thus, the research unfolds on paths that aim at the enhancement of mother tongues and oral language competence as a starting point toward the processes of abstraction and metacognitive and metalinguistic awareness specific to written language, and on the development of strategic learning skills.


Indicators for the years 2015-2019 testifying that the practice meets the needs of beneficiaries:

Number Total Italian language course students – 15,000

Number of migrant students – 8000

Number of teachers, volunteers included in training activities – 2000

Number of teaching contracts activated over the years – 300

Number of Unipa student trainees who participated in individual tutoring, study support and social and language inclusion activities at ItaStra – 100 to 150 for 600 hours

Number of dissertations that focused on ItaStra activities – 100

Number of doctoral dissertations that have worked within ItaStra number – 2

Number of partnership projects presented (Fami, Fondazione con Il Sud, Giovani per il Sociale, City of Palermo) – 50

Number of third mission projects funded (to date) – more than 10

Number of collaboration protocols signed (City of Palermo, USR Sicily, Schools, NGOs, Cultural Associations, Sprar, Cultural Festivals, Unicef, etc.) – 150

Number of Public Events addressed to the territory (theater, music, photo exhibitions, film screenings, production and screening of original videos) – 300

Number of people who participated in ItaStra events – 30,000

Number of articles, television broadcasts, RAI reports – 30

Innovation potential

The innovative potential of this good practice lies first and foremost in promoting a participatory method based on the importance of the sharing of daily life practices and in having created a network of institutions in the area that generates and regenerates inclusive processes. Particularly in the years 2015-2019, the city of Palermo has been a place of arrival of impressive migratory flows “by boat” that have required the construction in a support network unique in Europe. ItaStra and the university spaces of the former Convent of St. Antonino have been among the protagonists of this extraordinary activity of reception and linguistic inclusion towards new migrations.

Success Factors

To be successful and replicable, it is essential that the practice be:

  • a convergence of intentions among the actors operating in the area,
  • a deep understanding of the needs to which the practice wants to respond;
  • a level of flexibility such that it can adapt to changes that contextually occur locally and globally.


The challenge was to create networks on the ground and to spread a more inclusive mindset that was respectful and welcoming to other cultures. The results show that this challenge was met with the perseverance and determination of those who believed in this mission and still continue to believe in it and carry it forward.

Lessons learned

Through mixing in class, in common spaces, in moments of conviviality, each student is contaminated by life experiences totally different from his or her own and acquires, along with the Italian language, new perspectives on the world.


Networks on the territory and funding from multiple funds have ensured its sustainability over all these years (more than 14 years now), which gives hope that it can be continued in the future.

Replicability and/or up-scaling potential

It is a replicable practice on a large scale in that it is based on a model of cultural sharing that starts with the sharing of daily practices and a model of language that is open to customs, culture, territory, and social.

It is not a practice closely linked to particular characteristics of our local context. Here in Palermo it could be experimented with as a multicultural city par excellence.


The impact of the activities carried out by ItaStra in the five-year period 2015-2019 is measured in relation to the individual areas of action in which the School operates, but also in relation to the local national and international context.

Collaborative agreements are in place with the City of Palermo and the Provincial Centers for Adult Education (CPIA) that have made it possible to reach, through language training courses built on the needs and requirements of the target group, an important number of students. These include those who, starting from a condition of illiteracy (not having previously undertaken any kind of schooling), have learned both literacy skills and a language, Italian, which they use alongside the often vast multilingual repertoire. Continuous training initiatives have been carried out in the years 2015-2019 in collaboration with the Regional School Office, in response to requests for training gradually submitted by schools in the area. Language training activities aimed not only at students but also at trainers have been outlined and detailed by specific collaboration agreements. ItaStra has then been collaborating for years with Italian and European institutions and research centers by participating in funded projects specifically aimed at research and teaching in the area of language inclusion of adolescent and adult migrants with low schooling and unaccompanied foreign minors (MSNA).

ItaStra is also a best practice in the certification of the Italian language at the European level: it has been awarded the European Language Label, awarded as part of the Erasmus+ Project, managed by the European Commission – DG Education and Culture, in cooperation with the Member States, with the assistance of the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency and the National Agencies of the different participating countries. The European Language Label is a “quality label” aimed at promoting the language skills of European citizens that is awarded to organizations and institutions that implement innovative language learning and teaching projects in education and vocational training each year. Demonstrating the overall impact of ItaStra’s activities on the national level is the collaboration agreement between the Ministry of Education, and the Department of Humanities of the Universitỳ degli Studi di Palermo, within which the School of Italian Language for Foreigners operates, for the provision of teaching modules for ill national project directly implemented by MIUR “Language Literacy and Access to Education for MSNAs – ALI MSNA” aimed at 1,000 newly arrived young migrants. The agreement sanctions and affirms that the Department of Humanities “is, on a national level, a center of absolute excellence in the field of teaching Italian as a second and foreign language. In particular, ItaStra has a consolidated experience in the research of educational and training paths aimed at the linguistic and cultural inclusion of foreigners, using innovative approaches, models and methods that put the person at the center of the teaching action. The Ministry through this agreement has recognized the high degree of excellence, exclusivitỳ and specificitỳ technical and scientific expertise within the university administration. This agreement allows ItaStra to carry out projects aimed at the development and adaptation of models for the analysis of learner profiles and disciplinary content for the learning and enhancement of basic (Italbase) and didactic (Italstudio) Italian and civic and social modules, to be conveyed via digital platform in e-learning mode, for the specific target of unaccompanied foreign minors (MSNA).

The impact and usefulness of the good practice ItaStra can be explained through the words of noted local intellectuals:

“Today Sicily is really the new frontier of Europe. I am not thinking of the physical and symbolic landing place of Lampedusa. Far from the spotlight, in the heart of Palermo, the spirit of Erasmus is being reborn updated by new challenges among the desks of the School of Italian Language for Foreigners “ItaStra,” where the flower of university students who have come from the old continent and the rest of the world and the young people who landed in Italy by barges, the so-called ‘unaccompanied foreign minors’ (MSNA), sit shoulder to shoulder.” So begins Benedetta Tobagi’s 2016 chapter “Palermo. The Europe to Come” of her successful book The School Saved by Kids. Viaggio nelle classi senza confini (Mondadori 2016), which goes on to describe for more than ten pages a reality that is still unique today, not only in Italy. “The School of Italian Language for Foreigners “ItaStra” is based in the former seventeenth-century convent of Sant’Antonino, renovated in 2011, which is part of the University of Palermo’s University Museum system. Here the cloister has become something more. Together with the classrooms, it is the place where siderally distant universes touch: unaccompanied foreign minors and the international student elite. (…) The idea was exactly this: through mixing in class, in common spaces, in moments of conviviality, each student would be contaminated by life experiences totally different from their own and would acquire, along with the Italian language, new perspectives on the world.” A few years later, Vinicio Ongini, in “Grammar of Integration. Italians and Foreigners in the Classrooms” (Laterza 2019) also dedicating a chapter to ItaStra, confirms it as “a point of reference in the field of linguistic integration and a laboratory of ideas” with points of contact with the School of Barbiana and the Popular School founded by Tolstoy,” places where barriers fall and the idea of exchange and reciprocity makes its way. A few months earlier reasoning about the word ‘Accogliere’ in the pages of L’Espresso (October 10, 2018) Evelina Santangelo, about the docufilm, Soulyemane Bah, made on ItaStra and screened in front of more than 1,000 people at the Politeama Theater in Palermo, speaks of it as a place from which to learn that “language is a form of salvation”, it is an extraordinary force.

Contact details

URL of the practice Reference document

Related Web site(s)

Developed websites:

Related resources that have been developed

Research in the strictly educational sphere, which has produced dozens of scientific papers and volumes and was deserving of a specific 2015-2017 grant, “Network for Research and Didactics for Language Learning in Low Schooling Subjects.” In this direction, the project “Bridges of Words” ( was implemented, which produced an e-learning platform and multimedia course for learning Italian L2 for migrant youth and adults in 3 volumes starting with the profile of absolute illiterates. Through collaboration with the Institute for Educational Technologies of the National Research Council (CNR) and with the support of the United Nations Children’s Fund UNICEF, ItaStra has produced a digital App “Studiare Migrando.” The APP is aimed at mainly Unaccompanied Foreign Minors housed in reception facilities who attend Centers for Adult Education (CPIA). The use of the APP through a platform with seven modules, two designed to consolidate skills for the language of communication, and five disciplinary ones useful for preparation for the multidisciplinary interview as part of the state exam concluding the first cycle of education, has enabled users to go beyond their status as foreigners housed in a reception center and provide them not only with language skills but also with support to begin to take vision of their potential and ability to build a future for themselves. Dissemination of the tool was planned in the Provincial Centers for Adult Education, communities, and first and second reception centers for Unaccompanied Foreign Minors (MSNA) present mainly in the Sicilian territory. The tool available on PC or Android has been designed according to a modular logic thanks to which the student accesses interactive multimedia content and teaching modules and performs a series of activities on his or her own, while others are fully developed with the accompaniment of a native Italian speaker (CPIA teachers, but also community educators, volunteers, tutors, university students carrying out internship activities).

In the years 2015-2019, a series of projects were carried out that introduced both ItaStra and the entire world of new migration (including MSNA) to a very wide audience. Among others, we recall the show Echoes of the Long Distance, at the Biondo Theater attended by 1,500 spectators, and The Blind Man Who Opens Our Eyes made at ItaStra’s headquarters attended by 600 people over several evenings, both directed by Iraqi director and storyteller Yousif Latif Jaralla. In 2017 and 2018, the artistic and workshop journey of MSNA youth produced two screenprinted books, The Little Mermaid and Gulliver’s Travels. The encounter and contamination between art, theater, and storytelling has left important traces (photos, paintings, drawings, panels) in the classrooms and common spaces of the Convent of St. Antonino, where the classrooms, library, reading room, front office, and office of ItaStra are located. In addition, there are dozens of videos documenting and narrating ItaStra’s project, which have been screened both inside the facility during public events: we recall the screening of the docufilm Io, Soulyemane Bah, which was screened at dozens of events in Italy and abroad and also at the Politeama Theater in October 2018.




Location/geographical coverage

Italy, 40 universities operating in over 80 prisons with the coordination of CRUI (Conferenza dei Rettori delle Università Italiane, Conference of Italian University Rectors)

Background and description

CNUPP National University Conference of Prison Centers is an example of an institutional and interinstitutional network promoted by public universities in interaction with the Penitentiary Administration that believe it is their duty to honour their role by guaranteeing access and the carrying out of university studies also to persons deprived of freedoms, who in this way can exercise their constitutional right. It started three years ago, although a first experimentation was done in Turin twenty years ago.

The objectives in the near future are to improve the quality of training of inmates engaged in university study courses also through innovative teaching models (a first trial is underway to adopt tools for distance learning even beyond the pandemic), to improve student performance (reduction of dropouts, increase of exams taken and graduates), to work on the link between upper secondary education within Institutes and Universities.

Commitments are also envisaged with regards to the training of prison administration staff (prison police and treatment area operators), as well as with the development of research activities on prison issues.

Stakeholders and Partners

Participating Universities – CRUI – Conference of Italian University Rectors

In 2021 there are more than 1,000 inmates following university courses from the 196 university departments involved, which correspond to 37% of the departments present in the 40 universities involved.

Male and female prisoners have the right to enrol and be supported for carrying out their studies, regardless of their placement in the sections of the Institute and their possible inclusion in different circuits from the ordinary one, without prejudice to the need to guarantee the separation between the prisoners belonging to the various detention circuits.

Penitentiary institutions that have signed the application form for the Implementation Agreement are the Antonio Lorusso “Pagliarelli” prison and the Ucciardone “Calogero Di Bona” prison.

In the 2020-2021 academic year, 1,034 detained students are enrolled: 109 (10.5%) are in an external penal execution regime, 549 (53.1%) are serving a sentence in prison in medium security circuits, 355 (34.3%) in high security, and 21 (2.1%) are serving a sentence for mafia crimes; 64 are female students (6.2%).

In the first three years, universities participating in CNUPP with active students increased from 27 in 2018-19 to 32 in 2020-21 (+18.5%); the Penitentiary Institutes in which PUPs (Poli Universitari Penitenziari i.e. Prison Universities)  operate went from 70 to 82 (+17.1%); the number of students enrolled went from 796 to 1034 (+29.9%). Among these data, the significant increase in the female component stands out, going from just 28 female students in 2018-19 to 64 in 2020-21, therefore an increase of 128.6%.

896 students are enrolled in three-year degree courses (87%), while 137 attend master’s degree courses (13%). The disciplinary areas most attended by students in prison are: the political-social area (25.4%), followed by the artistic-literary area (18.6%), the legal area (15.1%), the agronomic-environmental area (13.7%), psycho-pedagogical area (7.4%), historical-philosophical area (7.3%), economic area (6.5%) and other areas (6%).

Methodological Approach

The interactions, started with the Department of Penitentiary Administration (DAP), in particular with the Directorate General of Prisoners and Treatment, responsible for training activities, made it possible to sign a memorandum of understanding in September 2019 which defines the methods for permanent confrontation between CNUPP and DAP. Shared guidelines will be soon issued to regulate university study activities within Italian prisons.

The constitution of the CNUPP allows the representatives of the individual universities to continuously discuss various problems, exchange good practices, address requests to the DAP about individual situations, and deal with problems such as, for example, the inconvenience due to the transfer of university student prisoners from a prison to another. In these cases, the CNUPP acts as an interconnected network, in which academic and administrative staff collaborate with each other and with the Penitentiary Administration to facilitate the transfer of students from one university to another.

Two other aspects that make this initiative particularly interesting are:

  1. the training of prison administration staff (prison police and operators in the treatment area) and the development of research activities;
  2. tuition fee waivers, and the free supply of textbooks, teaching materials and possibly computer equipment useful for completing the course.


Satisfaction and positive judgments from the rectors of the CRUI, who have expressed their commitment to continue and further extend the initiative.

The Rector of the University of Palermo, prof. Fabrizio Micari, points out: “To 2021, two inmates have completed the enrolment and at least eight others have activated the enrolment procedure or have expressed interest in activating it. The prediction is of at least ten students enrolled in our University by the end of the year”.

Innovation potential

This initiative has a significant potential as it involves a category of students – prisoners – that usually are excluded from any higher education programs.

Success Factors

Continuous discussion on various problems, exchange of good practices between institutional actors.


Problems due to the transfer of university student prisoners from one prison to another.

Material difficulties of enrolment and access to the online procedure, given the unavailability of access to the internet for subjects under the restriction regime.

Lessons learned

Respect of human rights and promotion of individual potential.

Collaborative work with the Penitentiary Administration can make it possible to transform detention from a “suspended” time to a fruitful period, in which inmates can undertake, if they wish, even University courses that allow them to invest in their human capital, an indispensable tool for reducing the risk of recidivism, with benefits not only for the individual but for society as a whole.


For the 2020-2021 academic year, regional taxes have been waived.

The Regional Department has allocated a total sum of 150,000 Euros to be distributed among the Sicilian Universities on the basis of projects presented by each one of them.

Replicability and/or up-scaling potential

The possibilities of extending this good practice more widely are:

  1. the constitution of an institutional and interinstitutional network promoted by public universities among them and with the Penitentiary Administration;
  2. the availability of economic funds to pay taxes and contributions, as well as the free supply of textbooks, teaching materials, and possibly computer equipment;
  3. the activation of training programs for prison staff.


CNUPP has two horizons of commitment.

Firstly, it intends to carry out activities of promotion, reflection and direction of the national university system and of the individual universities regarding the guarantee of the right to study of people detained or in external criminal execution or subjected to detention security measures.

For this reason, the first objective is represented by the commitment to arrive at guaranteeing opportunities for university courses in a widespread manner, even in geographical areas where today they are absent or poorly structured, so that the right to study can be enjoyed regardless of the penitentiary institution in which whoever has an interest finds himself imprisoned.

Hence, the commitment of CNUPP to support and accompany the possible launch of new experiences similar to those carried out so far. Furthermore, guidelines will be proposed establishing the conditions in which can best promote study paths for this particular category of students, support the commitment of teaching and administrative staff and, last but not least, foster encounters between the prison universe and the university community as a whole.

Secondly, CNUPP, in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice (Department of Penitentiary Administration, Department of Juvenile and Community Justice and their peripheral articulations) and with any other institution in the field, intends to define a series of guidelines for fostering higher education possibilities within prisons and more generally for people in situations of limitation of personal freedom. These guidelines, drawing from the experiences carried out so far, will be brought to the attention of the national authorities and the general public.


Autobiographical writing process in prisons

Development of the prison library

Contact details

Consiglio Direttivo – CRUI – Conferenza dei Rettori delle Università italiane


Members of the Board of Directors of the CNUPP (triennium 2018-2020)


Prof. Franco Prina, University of Turin


Prof. Andrea Borghini, University of Pisa

Prof. Emmanuele Farris, University of Sassari

Prof. Marella Santangelo, University of Naples “Federico II”

Prof. Francesca Vianello, University of Padua

University of Palermo delegate

Prof. Paola Maggio

URL of the practice Reference document

Related Web site(s)

Sapienza University of Rome

Related resources that have been developed

Framework agreement for collaboration between the universities and the penitentiary centers of Sicily

Implementıng Agreement For The Establıshment Of The Unıversıty Center Palermo Dıstrıct Penıtentıary




Location/geographical coverage

Italy, national territory, 32 Italian Universities

Background and description

The UniCoRe project was created starting from the experience of two Ethiopian graduated refugees who arrived in Bologna in 2019 to attend a specialist degree course.

The idea of creating University Corridors for Refugees was born from the need to help these young people to overcome the difficulties encountered and to facilitate them in the continuation of their higher studies.

The project aims to facilitate the access of refugee university students to specialised studies in Italy, helping them economically and socially.

Thanks also to an extensive network of partners, scholarship and mentors the students are supported in entering academic life and integrating into the local social fabric.

Main stages

2019, October: UNHCR launches the Manifesto for Inclusive Universities, including recognition of foreign university degrees and university corridors for refugees in Italy.

2020: 10 more Universities join the project for the second year, despite the Covid pandemic.

2021: 24 Italian Universities decided to join the third edition of the project, allowing 45 Ethiopian students to continue their higher education studies in Italy.

2022: version 4.0 of the UniCoRe program is underway. 69 students will be selected to begin degree courses in September 2022. The selected students will be exempt from tuition fees at the universities participating in the programme and will receive financial support for plane tickets and visa-related expenses, as well as a study grant to help them during their stay in Italy.

Stakeholders and Partners

UNHCR Italy is the project coordinator.


  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation
  • Manager Italia and Federmanager business unions for the selection
  • Archdiocese of Bologna
  • Regional Agency of Emilia Romagna
  • Caritas Italiana,
  • Diaconia Valdese,
  • Centro Astalli,
  • Gandhi Charity,


  • University of Bari Aldo Moro,
  • University of Bergamo,
  • University of Brescia,
  • University of Cagliari,
  • University of Campania Luigi Vanvitelli,
  • University “G. Dannunzio” Chieti – Pescara,
  • University of Firenze,
  • European University Institute,
  • University of Salento – Lecce,
  • University of Messina,
  • State University of Milan,
  • University of Milano – Bicocca,
  • Commercial University Luigi Bocconi,
  • University of Modena and Reggio Emilia,
  • University of Palermo,
  • University of Padova,
  • Luiss International University of Social Studies Guido Carli,
  • University of Rome La Sapienza,
  • University of Sassari,
  • University for Foreigners of Siena,
  • University Iuav of Venezia,
  • University of Eastern Piemonte Amedeo Avogadro,
  • University of Verona
  • University of Tuscia – Viterbo.

The 2022 UNICORE 4.0 project is open to students who:

  • Have been recognized as refugees in Cameroon, Niger, Nigeria, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe and are residing in one of those countries.
  • Have obtained a qualification eligible for admission to the Second Cycle Degree Program;
  • Have obtained a degree in or after 2017 and no later than April 30 2022
  • Have never been enrolled by one of the partner universities. Have Grade Point Average (GPA) of at least 3.0 according to the Ethiopian tertiary education grading system or equivalent.

32 universities participating

69 places available for students

300 courses offered

The gender issue is very delicate but subject to attention.

Some universities make separate rankings for female and male candidates precisely at the suggestion of UNHCR.

During the first year of the project no girl applied for the selections. The second year there was a female application and in the third year, in 2021, there were 10 female candidates out of 45 total applications, with an average of 20% which is very high compared to the world average.

In reading this data there are a number of factors to consider.

The target is already graduated students in possession of a three-year degree. At that age, women, especially in these developing countries, already have very burdensome family commitments and you need to pay close attention to them, also because their needs are different from those of men, even married ones.

Therefore, we are thinking about possible developments, looking at other experiences such as the Canadian one which involves the transfer of the whole family, while at the moment UniCoRe is intended only for students.

A fundamental factor of this program is the focus on the university specialization path and on the contribution of the partners, each of which is active on an aspect of the operational support, such as the language course, the computer, the clothing, the subscription to public transport. .

To allow the extension of the benefits to the family unit, it is necessary to ensure their economic sustainability.

Methodological Approach

The entire project has been evolving since its launch in 2019.

In 2022 it can be said that the Agency has so far refined and fine-tuned a successful model and methodology, which could be further improved over time.

The methodology used to verify expectations and needs of the selected students and to establish changes and improvements in the quality of the project offer foresees these phases:

  1. Selection process
  2. Arrival of students
  3. Assessment with universities
  4. Focus group discussion
  5. Drafting a document
  6. Checking strengths and weaknesses and improving the offer

Each year to develop the project UNHCR carries out assessments with universities and partners, always involving refugee students in several meetings, using its own tools to evaluate the project, improve it, refine it.

One of the main tools is the focus group discussion, used at least once a year to gather feedback from the beneficiaries of the project the year before with pre and post support.

For example, one implementation of the project, based on suggestions made during the focus groups by the refugee students themselves, was the use of local radio stations to disseminate the opportunity to apply for the selection and the activation of 40-hour Italian courses (which in the 4th edition became 120, offered by three universities) available upon the students’ arrival in Italy.


The project UniCoRein 2022 offers 69 refugee students the opportunity to attend a master’s degree programme at an Italian university.

This year, since there were many, an online tool was used to collect their feedback which was very high and no critic elements emerge at the time, only some requests for improvement of some aspects such as post arrival care, aspects that certainly with the covid, delays in obtaining residence permits, which is a critical procedure in Italy in general, or that the scholarships are of different entities among the universities have worsened. UNHCR has set a minimum cap on the scholarship, but there are universities that have decided to give more. As the project is unique, students confront and discover these differences, which depend on the decisions of the individual participating universities.

The Agency requires from partners a minimum support for two years or at least up to the specialist degree.

The scholarship is provided either by external partners identified by universities as partners, such as foundations or by the universities themselves on their own funds, or by the university institution for the right to study.

Students apply in July before arriving.

UNHCR only asks that there be a Plan B in which the student or female student is given support in each case.

Of the first and the refugee students who arrived, the first three are graduates, the others are completing the master’s degree course overcoming the difficulties of the language, Covid and the different study method.

This year in Perugia there is the first graduate in two years.

The choices of study paths are very varied, for example:

  • Business management
  • Scientific subjects
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Engineering
  • Computer science
  • Political and international sciences
  • Human rights

Innovation potential

The idea is to have an ad hoc path for refugee students in the context of the complementary role of the UNHCR.

The project is the first Education Pathway in Italy, moreover created without changing the legislation, because the students arrive with a study visa.

It is a project with strong economic, institutional and political coverage at all levels, since international organizations, institutions, universities and local associations are part of it.

On the Italian model, other European countries are developing similar paths in France, Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg.

Therefore the Italian model is an autonomous and pilot channel.

The selection is based not on protection needs but on motivation, on the skills acquired in previous degree courses.

There are already similar Corridors in Germany, but in that country the central authority prevails, while in Italy the strong partnership between various actors involved (volunteer doctors, libraries, small municipalities) prevails across the board.

Success Factors

One of the main success factors of the project is the involvement of partners at all levels, institutional, cultural, social, religious, of the third sector.

Partnership collaboration and activism is key in following the needs of students from their home country.

The choice of the country in which to disseminate and start the selection procedure is also decisive, because the acceptance of the project is subordinated to the importance that country assigns to the protection and facilitation of studies also by refugees.

It is known that there are many refugees in the world and as many countries that play the role of primary asylum (Source: Education 2030: A Strategy for Refugee Education) but it is necessary to identify a good starting country because there are a series of factors to consider such as the policies of access to university.

Ethiopia was chosen because in that country there are policies considered to be of a good standard for access to university and a certain type of university and also for the favour towards refugees in terms of scholarships, exemption from academic fees and other benefits.

It must also be considered that refugees may wish to return to the country of first asylum rather than stay in Italy and therefore contribute to the development of their communities in the countries of asylum and also for this reason the choice of the country in which to start the selections is important because not in all countries allow the return of refugees once they have left.

The project was addressed to Ethiopia in the first 3 years.

Since 2022, there are 8 recipient countries: Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, based on the numbers of refugees present in them. But since the proposal is extremely distant from their reality, it takes some time for refugees to get the idea that it is a really viable opportunity, the first year is always a pilot.


The constraints and challenges to be faced depend on each country: the ability to move, to obtain the documents to leave the refugee camp, to have an internet connection, to have a computer (many refugees only have a mobile phone).

Even if the colleagues of the partner associations on the spot are very helpful and active, there are many problems. For example, in Nigeria where refugees are mainly urban, free to move, paradoxically they are more difficult to reach than those allocated in the refugee camp.

UNHCR has set up contact channels via social networks such as Facebook, whatsapp groups to disseminate information, but it is very complicated in these contexts.

The admission procedure for the selection of candidates will be carried out individually by the universities and is not under UNHCR’s responsibility.

Admission requirements

Application is open exclusively to candidates who:

Are residing in Cameroon, Niger, Nigeria, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe and have been recognized refugee status in these countries in collaboration with UNHCR (candidates are strongly advised to check individual university pages as country of residence criteria may vary);

Hold a qualification valid for admission to the chosen Second Cycle Degree Programme;

Have a Grade Point Average (GPA) of at least 3.0 according to the country of graduation tertiary education grading system or equivalent according to the comparable table issued by the Italian Ministry of Education;

Hold a degree obtained in or after 2017 and no later than April 30th 2022;

Meet the specific admission requirements of the Second cycle degree programme;

Have never before been enrolled in a degree program at any of the Partner Universities.

Proficiency in the English language is required.

Selection criteria and application documents

Students will be selected on the basis of merit.

The evaluation will be carried out by Committees of Experts nominated by each university individually.

Selection process

The participating universities will each identify a Committee of Experts to conduct the selection process, which will be divided into two steps:

Step 1: Evaluation of the documentation. The Committee of Experts will evaluate the documentation according to the following criteria:

  • Academic background and GPA (score: 0-20);
  • Evaluation of CV: professional experience and personal skills (score: 0-10);
  • Coherence between previous studies and selected Second Cycle Degree programme (score: 0-10);

Candidates receiving a score of less than 25 will not be admitted to step 2 of the selection process.

Candidates admitted to Step 2 will be notified by email.

Step 2: On-line interview. Candidates admitted to step 2 will be interviewed by the Committee of Experts, who will evaluate their technical skills, knowledge of the subject and level of English. Interviews will be graded on a scale of 40 points.

Interviews will be held on-line.

Candidates will be notified by email about the date and time of the interview.

Candidates are requested to present themselves for interview with the Ration Card Number or the Refugee Identity Card used during the on-line application. A third party must be present at the beginning of the interview to identify the candidate.

Participation in University Corridors, including the application process, is free.

Lessons learned

It is a successful project, also given the response of the Italian ones.

The children who have arrived are following successful study paths, demonstrating that refugee children can not be a burden but a resource for the countries that welcome them (internships in Banca Etica, at the Canadian Embassy in Italy, …), therefore seeing the refugee in a different perspective, with a profile and skills thanks to which he can access the job for which he studied.

The project aims not only to guarantee a safe legal entry to the refugee, but to build a welcome project around him.

This was the most important message to get to the universities.

For example, a strong point of success, the added value of the project is a great attention to the individual, not only to bring these young people, but also to accompany them in their integration: every refugee lives in the student residence, in the university residence, has a mentor at the university and a volunteer family as a tutor to familiarize him with the environment and the social context.

The family is a bridge between the refugee and the society that surrounds him, as attention to the individual in addition to material equipment (clothes, computer, bicycle or subscription to vehicles).

Caritas has a great role: volunteer families are selected through local partners such as diocesan Caritas and guide them, calling them often, inviting them to lunch on Sundays, taking them to the mountains or the sea, becoming points of reference and in some cases them support in the search for some chore to round up.

The informal network works very well in Italy.


The project is active on a national level.

We intend to work on the economic sustainability of the project.

The idea is to enhance the project by looking more and more for a link between the world of study and that of work: a company finances a boy’s scholarship for two years and then makes him do an internship after graduation.

This is to make the entire project sustainable and self-financed. At the moment, in fact, Caritas has made a large investment, dealing with airline tickets and legal and social protection at the local level in the countries of origin.

In 2022, the local Lions Club was involved in Padua on a proposal from the UNHCR, which financed a city association that was responsible for providing local social assistance, guidance and accompaniment in the area. Having more subjects involved and above all companies to enter the project is one of the sustainability objectives.

Replicability and/or up-scaling potential

The project is being studied to be replicated in France and Belgium.

Similar but not entirely identical models are active in Canada and Germany, but the Italian project is characterized by the richness and articulation of the support offered to the student who exceeds select it.

The conditions to be respected for the replicability and success of the project are:

  • identify a country of first – reception of refugees with favourable study support policies
  • initiate an adequate selection process for the recognition and equalization of qualifications
  • interact with motivated and active partners at all levels: institutional, cultural, economic, social.


Conclude specifying/explaining the impact and usefulness of the good practice. When possible, use anecdotal evidence such as a storytelling or testimony of a man or a woman showing the benefit of the good practice.

Contact details

Andrea Pecoraro, UNHCR Italy, Holy See and San Marino

URL of the practice Reference document

Related Web site(s)–Universit-italiane-accoglieranno-43-rifugiati-dallEtiopia/

Related resources that have been developed