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swissuniversities and the Swiss universities are operating within the scope of their possibilities to address the difficulties and obstacles faced by refugee academics and researchers. This entails the dossier "adapted access to tertiary education for refugees", as well as membership of the network "Scholars at Risk".



Adapted access to tertiary education for refugees

A large proportion of the people who have fled to Switzerland since 2015 come from countries with highly developed tertiary education systems. Accordingly, the number of refugees who qualify for an academic education or continuation of their career at a university has also increased. The Swiss institutions of higher education are aware of their social responsibility and have reacted to this development, establishing various programmes to promote the professional and intellectual skills of refugees and enable them to continue their academic careers. At the same time, there remain obstacles to successful enrollment at a university, namely the recognition of documents, language level, cultural differences, economic restrictions and uncertainty of residence status for asylum seekers and temporarily admitted persons. swissuniversities plays an advisory and coordinating role in these issues and is committed to enabling closer exchange between institutions.


The hurdles to an adapted approach can be shown by means of a 3-phase model:


1. Recording educational background, Allocation to cantons

This phase includes a clarification of the qualifications and potentials of refugees in Switzerland. In addition, the exchange of information on migration policy restrictions falls into this phase.


2. Qualifying measures, Admission

This phase represents the bridging period to admission, which is the basic condition for potential students to start studying at a Swiss institution of higher education.


3. Integration to the Swiss academic environment

This phase begins with the successful admission of the candidates to the respective institution and also includes the financial and logistical safeguarding of their studies.


The mandate of swissuniversities relates primarily to phase 1 and partly to phase 2. swissuniversities maintains also close contact the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM), the Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education (EDK) and other cantonal and national players on the question of assessing potential.  For questions and issues relating to phases 2 and 3, responsibility lies with the universities as part of their autonomy.

In addition, swissuniversities organizes an annual meeting of the responsible people for the programmes at the Swiss higher education institutions. This networking is intended to promote the exchange of information, questions, good practices or problems relating to the reception and integration of refugees in Swiss higher education.


At the international level, swissuniversities follows relevant developments and is in regular contact with various players. These include, for example, the European University Association (EUA), as well as an exchange within the framework of the annual DACH meeting (Germany, Austria, Switzerland) of the Rectors' Conferences.


In addition, swissuniversities acts as an advisory board member for the "Perspectives - Studies" project of the Swiss Student Union (VSS). The project provides refugees interested in studying with an overview of the Swiss higher education landscape, the various programmes and their requirements.





Scholars at Risk

swissuniversities has been a member of the "Scholars at Risk" network since June 2017. The network aims to protect researchers persecuted because of their opinions and to prevent attacks on the freedom of researchers. By joining the network, swissuniversities is demonstrating the solidarity of Swiss higher education and its commitment to academic freedom and institutional autonomy. At the same time, the importance of allowing scientists to carry out their research activities under acceptable conditions is stressed.


The Swiss Section (SAR Switzerland) is committed to supporting and disseminating the values and objectives of Scholars at Risk. Its tasks also include sharing information and best practice documents, as well as planning joint activities with its section members. Founded in May 2017, the Swiss Section of SAR now consists of 19 universities as well as the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences and swissuniversities.