Needs, Barriers, and Support Systems for Refugee Students in Germany

  • Bernhard Thomas Streitwieser George Washington University
  • Maria Anne Schmidt HTW Berlin University of Applied Sciences
  • Katharina Marlen Gläsener Beuth University of Applied Sciences Berlin
  • Lukas Brueck Robert Bosch Foundation
Keywords: higher education, refugee crisis, Germany, integration, refugees


This paper details the results of a study of 25 students of refugee background (SoRB) from Syria, Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan at two technical universities of applied sciences in Berlin who were participating in preparatory courses to matriculate or were already engaging in their first semesters of study. The research shares what these refugee students feel they need in order to succeed in German higher education, and what they see as barriers. The data are organized around Baker, Ramsay, Irwin and Mile’s (2017) analytical framework of hot (familiar-informal), warm (familiar-formal) and cold (unfamiliar-formal) sources of support. This study is relevant at a time of both a massification of participation in higher education leading to greater student diversification and the development of more holistic support for all students, and an increasing mood of political agitation in countries traditionally open to migration.

Author Biographies

Bernhard Thomas Streitwieser, George Washington University

Bernhard Streitwieser (PhD, Columbia University) is an Assistant Professor of International Education & International Affairs and UNESCO co-Chair in International Education for Development at George Washington University in Washington, DC. His research looks at access and integration of refugees and migrants into German and U.S. higher education; internationalization of higher education and global competition; and student exchange and study abroad. In 2016 he established the Berlin Refugee Research Group to study Germany’s response to its refugee crisis, and in 2017 he joined the steering committee and leads the research arm of the U.S. University Alliance for Refugees and at-Risk Migrants. He has written over 45 articles and book chapters and three edited books.

Maria Anne Schmidt, HTW Berlin University of Applied Sciences

Maria Anne Schmidt is coordinator of the refugee program at HTW Berlin University of Applied Sciences and part of the Berlin Refugee Research Group since 2016. Her research interests include social business, religion, refugee integration, and international education. Maria’s work has previously appeared in the Business & Professional Ethics Journal.

Katharina Marlen Gläsener, Beuth University of Applied Sciences Berlin

Katharina Gläsener is a Guest Professor for Digitization of the Economy in a multicultural Society at the Beuth University of Applied Sciences Berlin, Germany. She received her PhD in Business Administration from the University of Hamburg, Germany. Since 2016 she has been part of the Berlin Refugee Research Group and the Refugees@Beuth Group and she gives lectures for refugees on the subjects Society, Economy, Responsibility and Problem-oriented Learning. Her research focuses on diversity management, power, human resource management and design thinking.

Lukas Brueck, Robert Bosch Foundation

Lukas Brück holds a joint master’s degree in Education Policies for Global Development from Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, University of Oslo, Malta and Amsterdam and currently works as a junior project manager for the Robert Bosch Foundation. Prior, he worked for the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) in Germany and Georgia and in 2016 was a visiting scholar at the George Washington University School of Education and Human development. His research focuses on the integration of refugees in national education systems, both in Germany and in developing countries. Besides his academic interest in refugee education, he started a volunteer-run language school for refugees in his hometown, for which he received an honorary award from the Mörlenbach City Council.