In recent years, the discourse surrounding immigrant integration has permeated discussions not only at the European Union level but also within the educational systems of individual member states. Since around 2016, significant migration flows and demographic shifts have prompted integration to the forefront of policy agendas across Europe. This is particularly evident in the field of higher education, as, according to the Eurydice[1], 52% of migrants fall within the age range of 18 to 34 typically associated with university studies. However, they are twice as likely as natives to have a low level of education due to limited access to higher education, as reported in the 2018 Bologna Process[2]. This leads to a greater probability of encountering unemployment problems or only finding low-skilled and low-paid jobs, causing not only economic insecurity, but also social marginalisation and alienation. Indeed, exclusion from higher education often has a negative impact on personal development, productivity and economic growth.

Picture by Baim Anif

Therefore, a different strategy is needed to promote inclusion and diversity in higher education, especially in view of the currently quite diversified student bodies in European universities: in order to achieve this, new measures targeting disadvantaged groups need to be implemented. While policies adopted to address this issue may vary between Member States depending on the social and political legal context, most universities have recognized the problem and are developing resource strategies to find solutions.

The commonly used approach is that of guidance, counseling, and mentoring to support students’ access to higher education. Additionally, promoting accessibility to study is an efficient option. This includes providing inclusive teaching materials, flexible study programmes, and opportunities for part-time learning. Financial support is also often available to help students from lower socio-economic backgrounds, such as migrant or refugee students, and may also result in financial aid for accommodation, meals and transports. Many universities offer preparatory courses and recognition of prior learning, giving the chance to immigrant students to enter and succeed in higher education. 

It is essential to recognize that not all countries provide the same level of facilities and services. 

This discrepancy depends on various factors including governmental priorities, the influx of young immigrants—which often correlates with the need for integration measures at the university level—and the specific policies implemented by each state, which can vary widely in their direction and effectiveness. However, despite these challenges, certain nations have emerged with commendable strategies and action plans dedicated to promoting diversity and inclusion. Notable among them, Eurydice[1] identified Finland, Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Sweden, and Malta.

Picture by Tim Mossholder

While inclusion policies have been implemented in some EU countries in recent years, many shortcomings still exist in most of them, preventing the creation of fully egalitarian and inclusive environments. The main challenge remains the lack of awareness within university communities, compounded by insufficient funding, resource constraints, and difficulties in identifying target groups. Moreover, training for both administrative and academic staff is essential, as it would equip them with practical tools in the area of migration and diversity to promote an inclusive school environment that celebrates equality. At the system level, few countries have established national action plans to support their commitment, although this would strengthen the dialogue between higher education institutions, policy makers and stakeholder organisations representing disadvantaged groups. Such cooperation could therefore facilitate the development of specific measures that are tailored to the context and challenges of the system.

In conclusion, this first post presents a general framework for addressing the theme of inclusion, equality, and diversity in European universities towards immigrants. It identifies the strengths and challenges that higher education still faces in ensuring equal opportunities for all students. The upcoming posts will concentrate on specific countries, namely Turkey, Latvia, and Belgium, where a clear lack of DEI policies has been identified.

[1] European Commission, European Education and Culture Executive Agency, Towards equity and inclusion in higher education in Europe, Publications Office of the European Union, 2022, 

[1] European Commission, European Education and Culture Executive Agency, Towards equity and inclusion in higher education in Europe, Publications Office of the European Union, 2022,

[2] European Education and Culture Executive Agency, Eurydice, The European higher education area in 2018 – Bologna Process implementation report, Publications Office, 2018,