Refugees on Their Way to German Higher Education: A Capabilities and Engagements Perspective on Aspirations, Challenges and Support

  • Michael Grüttner German Centre for Higher Education Research and Science Studies (DZHW)
  • Stefanie Schröder German Centre for Higher Education Research and Science Studies (DZHW)
  • Jana Berg German Centre for Higher Education Research and Science Studies (DZHW)
  • Carolin Otto DZHW
Keywords: Access to Higher Education, Agency, Capabilities, Engagements, Prospective Refugee Students

Abstract

In recent years, the number of new asylum applications in Germany has risen with a peak in 2015. Many refugees arrive with high levels of prior education and corresponding educational aspirations. Hence, German universities and preparatory colleges (so-called ‘Studienkollegs’) have created additional preparatory courses and supporting services for refugees. Heretofore, little is known about the specific challenges for prospective refugee students seeking access to higher education in the German context. We focus on key individual, social, and institutional conditions for integrating refugees into the German higher education system. How do prospective refugee students value higher education? What are the key challenges and supporting factors on their way to higher education in Germany? Our analysis is based on 17 exploratory interviews with prospective refugee students, staff of higher education institutions and counselling services. We combine educational sociology and refugee studies and rely on the capability approach and its close relation to the conception of agency to theorize our empirical findings. Reconstructing the challenges and coping strategies along with the key concepts of the capability approach reveals the different strategies of prospective refugee students to achieve their aspirations as well as the frustrating institutional limits of agency. Finally, we will discuss implications for higher education policy in Germany.

Author Biographies

Michael Grüttner, German Centre for Higher Education Research and Science Studies (DZHW)

Michael Grüttner is a researcher at the DZHW in the Projekt “Refugees' pathways to German higher education institutions” (WeGe). His mean research is on education, well-being, social participation and professional counselling. After his social science studies at the Universities of Hamburg (B.A.) and the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg (M.Sc.), he worked at the Institute for Employment Research in Nuremberg and at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in the project National Educational Panel Study (NEPS).

Stefanie Schröder, German Centre for Higher Education Research and Science Studies (DZHW)

Stefanie Schröder is a researcher at the DZHW in the project “Refugees' pathways to German higher education institutions” (WeGe). Her main research is on widening participation in higher education and study success. She studied political science, sociology and history at the University of Münster, Germany. From 2010 until 2012 she was involved in the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) project "Examination of study progress and study success". Since 2012, she is a researcher at the DZHW, first working in the projects "ANKOM – Transitions from vocational to higher education" and "Evaluation of the funding competition 'Advancement through Education: Open Universities'".

Jana Berg, German Centre for Higher Education Research and Science Studies (DZHW)

Jana Berg holds a doctoral position at the DZHW-project 'WeGe' on access to higher education for refugees in Germany. Her main research is on Asylum and the Internationalisation of German Higher Education. She studied Linguistics (B.A.) and Sociology (M.A.) at the Johannes Gutenberg-University in Mainz and the University of Vienna.

Carolin Otto, DZHW

Carolin Otto is working for the German Centre for Higher Education Research and Science Studies (DZHW) in the research area "Educational Careers and Graduate Employment", focussing on drop-out research. She studied Sociology and Psychology (B.A.) at Martin Luther University in Halle, followed by a master's degree in Criminology and Social Research Methods at London South Bank University.

Published
2018-12-16