Improving the Intake of Refugee Students

Equitable access to higher education

Incluusion, the refugee program at UU, has initiated a new project to facilitate smoother integration of refugee students into (Master) degree programs. The project aims to work towards equitable access to higher education for this specific group of students.

I believe we can do even more to welcome students with a refugee background to our programs. This is not only important for the students themselves, but also for us as a university, so we don't miss out on talented students.

A clear path

One of the goals is to improve the information provided to students. "Much of the standard information does not apply to refugee students, as there are often slightly different rules in place. For instance, not all students are aware that they do not have to pay an application fee for their enrollment if they have refugee status. It is also often unclear for students whether they can meet the admission requirements or not," says Senf. Through this new project, Incluusion, in collaboration with the Communication & Marketing department, will work towards information that is specifically tailored to the often unique situations of refugee students.

In addition, Incluusion will look at the application processes together with the International Student Admissions (ISA) department. "Refugee applications are complex for the university, because each situation is different," says Senf. "However, I believe that we can achieve more uniformity in how we handle refugee applications and ensure that we do not create barriers that we can try to lower with some time and effort." This will involve using the knowledge gained in international projects on the admission of refugee students to higher education. "We absolutely do not want to lower the admission requirements for this group, but we do want to explore how a refugee student can (eventually) meet the admission requirements. This way, students understand what is necessary in order to gain access."

First step

As a first step, research was conducted in 2023 to identify the exact barriers that refugee students face in gaining access to UU Master's programs. The research included both institutional and situational barriers. In other words, it also addresses barriers beyond the university. Senf: “As a refugee student, you have to deal with many bureaucratic organisations like the COA (Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers) and the municipality to which a status holder is linked. It is challenging to navigate these different organisations as a newcomer in the Netherlands.” The research is almost complete and the results will help determine the focus points of the new project. Furthermore, the research also looked into the facilitating factors in the admission process, which will be helpful to look at as well.


Through the Incluusion program, approximately 200-250 refugee students annually participate for free in English taught Bachelor courses from various degree programs. Although Incluusion is a good introduction to the university for students, it is noticable that the number of students transitioning to full-time degree programs at UU is not that large.

Research among former Incluusion students shows that nearly half of the students wanted to continue their studies at UU. The majority of students who intended to apply for a program indicated that they did not complete their application, because they found the procedures complicated or unclear. In addition, there is a small group that was not admitted. The applications from refugee students are often complex due to different educational backgrounds, lack of specific documents, financial situations, and legal and program-specific admission requirements.

Incluusion hopes to contribute to the inclusivity and internationalization goals of the university with this new project, ultimately leading to a more diverse student population. 

The project is led by Incluusion in collaboration with International Student Admissions (ISA) and Communication & Marketing (C&M), among others. “We are glad that our colleagues at ISA and C&M are collaborating with us on this project. Our expertise complements each other well, and together we can identify areas where improvements can be made,” concludes Senf.

Do you have questions or would you like to collaborate? Please get in touch with Lina Senen (Incluusion) or Daphna Berger (Communication & Marketing) via