Refugees on Their Way to German Higher Education: A Capabilities and Engagements Perspective on Aspirations, Challenges and Support
Keywords:Access to Higher Education, Agency, Capabilities, Engagements, Prospective Refugee Students
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.
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