EFMD launches EXIL: ‘sharing EXperiences in Integrating dispLaced students’


EXIL is a two-year Erasmus+ Cooperation Partnership project designed to improve the inclusion of Ukrainian refugee students into European Higher Education Institutions (HEIs).

On 23 May 2024, the kick-off meeting for EXIL took place at Poznan University of Economics and Business. EFMD invites its members who have welcomed refugee students into their institution to get in touch and share their experiences with us.

EXIL emerged in response to the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine and as a commitment to help the Ukrainian students who had to flee their country and resume their studies in European HEIs. The primary objective of the project is to improve the inclusion of Ukrainian refugee students in European HEIs.

The insights and recommendations from the EXIL project will also more broadly benefit the integration of refugee students who are victims of other wars and crises. This will be done through a holistic approach of complementing pedagogy with support services and accompaniment to provide them with a safe and inclusive learning environment.

EXIL is led by Poznan University of Economics and Business and EFMD oversees the content and quality assurance of the project. It brings together European HEIs with different experiences and approaches in welcoming refugees, including Haute Ecole de Namur-Liège-Luxembourg (HENALLUX), Kozminski University, Université Lyon 3 Jean Moulin, New Bulgarian University, Kauno University of Technology, and the Ukrainian Catholic University.

The role of HEIs in integrating refugee students

Refugee students face multiple challenges; including dealing with interruptions to their studies and adjusting to a new learning environment. Supporting the education of refugees and displaced youth is a complex task, but universities have a clear role to play in helping refugee students establish new lives in new countries.

Policymakers and universities can implement many measures to remove barriers to the inclusion of refugees. Since 2016, the European Commission has supported EU Member States in their efforts to integrate refugees into their education and training systems, including inclusive education and training, from early childhood to higher education, focusing on faster recognition of qualifications and language learning.

Since the full-scale aggression at the beginning of 2022, countries in Eastern Europe were among the nations to receive the highest number of refugees from Ukraine, of which a large number were students. For example, Poland received over 1 million refugees within the first few weeks of the invasion.

HEIs have been at the forefront of an exemplary solidarity movement. They have mobilised their efforts to welcome refugees, converting sports halls and student dormitories into emergency housing, and implemented the right conditions to allow Ukrainian students to continue their studies. EXIL is born out of this necessity to streamline and coordinate these efforts to better accompany and integrate refugee students across borders.

What EXIL will achieve

EXIL will research and identify the key learning points from the crisis in Ukraine in order for universities to be better prepared for similar situations. With the conflict now entering its third year, we can observe and assess the first results of the longer-term measures taken to facilitate the inclusion of refugee students.

In this light, it is essential to map and document what has already been achieved to reach a better understanding of the needs and constraints of refugee students and provide guidance on how to integrate and accompany them. EXIL will produce practical recommendations for all university actors to prevent isolation and stigmatisation of refugee students, contributing to a more tolerant and welcoming higher education community.

To achieve its goal, EXIL will deliver:

  • A multi-country report describing the needs, expectations, and constraints of the refugee students.
  • A collection of best practices on how HEIs can improve the inclusion of refugee students.
  • Two Recommendation Guides on how to adapt pedagogy to the needs and constraints of refugee students and the support services to create an inclusive learning environment for refugee students.
  • A “Special Interest Group” (SIG) will gather experts on the topic to raise awareness and continue the discussion in the EU regarding the role of HEIs in humanitarian crises and in welcoming refugee students. To reach a bigger audience, the results and recommendations will be disseminated in various channels, including podcasts, conferences, national events and publications.

The results of the EXIL project will regularly be shared with EFMD members on social media platforms and during EFMD events.

EFMD needs you!

Is your institution involved in any initiatives towards refugee students? Your activities could bring very useful inspiration and best practices to EFMD members.

If you are interested in contributing to the EXIL project, we would love to hear from you! Is your institution involved in any such initiatives? We would love to hear from you also!

Do not hesitate to get in touch with us at projects@efmdglobal.org.

For more information on EFMD International Projects, please visit our websiteFor additional insights, trends and perspectives about EFMD International Projects, visit the conversation here.

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