Q: What is the qualifications recognition and how can you get it?
A: Law 148/2002 (art.2) foresees that individual Italian universities bear the responsibility of the assessment of periods of study carried out abroad and of foreign qualifications and degrees for academic purposes (access to higher education, continuation of university studies, award of Italian university degrees).
The documentation required for the assessment of foreign qualifications to enroll is established by individual universities in autonomy, therefore it may vary across universities (e.g. translations and / or legalizations, exam certificates, diploma supplement, Statement of validity issued by the Italian diplomatic representations, CIMEA certificates or any other attestation useful to verify the elements of the foreign qualification).
Some of these documents may be difficult to retrieve for foreign citizens, especially when they are already in Italy. This difficulty is further amplified for asylum seekers and refugees who for obvious reasons cannot or do not want to contact the authorities of their country of origin to obtain any missing documents.
For this reason, Italian law allows beneficiaries of international protection to obtain a qualification recognition “even in the absence of certification from the State in which the qualification was obtained, where the person concerned proves that he or she cannot acquire said certification”.
Depending on the case, the procedures may vary:
“Statement of Comparability”, issued by CIMEA to beneficiaries of international protection, free of charge.
“Statement of validity“, issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs through a specific request service for beneficiaries of international protection.
EQPR (European Qualifications Passport for Refugees): the Council of Europe has developed an assessment procedure for cases where the documentation is incomplete or even absent.
To understand which procedure is best suited for your situation, we recommend that you contact the university where you would like to enroll.
Q: Are there ways to get financial support to continue my studies?
A: In Italy these forms of financial support fall within what is called the “Right to study” (DSU). The cost of university education often represents an insurmountable barrier for beneficiaries of international protection who want to pursue higher education. In fact, lack of livelihood is often coupled with inexistent family or friends’ networks in the country of asylum.
Support for refugee students can take various forms, such as exemption from tuition fees, scholarships, contribution to accommodation and food costs and expenses associated with study, access to free of charge university accommodation, supply of IT tools and education materials, etc.
To help beneficiaries of international protection, most Italian universities provide an exemption from tuition fees. Furthermore, there are two scholarship programmes in Italy:
Since 2016, every year, the Ministry of the Interior, in collaboration with the Conference of Italian Universities Rectors (CRUI), offers 100 scholarships for students beneficiaries of international protection.
The call for applications is usually out in the beginning of July at https://borsespi.laziodisco.it/, or the CRUI or Fondazione CRUI.
The Ministry of Education, University and Research (MIUR), through the “Single Fund for Student Welfare and the Right to Study”, offers grants for the Right to University Study (DSU) on a yearly basis. These scholarships are accessible to all students (Italian and foreign citizens), on the basis of income and merit requirements. Simplified income certification procedures are foreseen for students who are beneficiaries of international protection. The grants are managed by Regions, in ways that may vary from one region to another. The calls for applications are usually out in the beginning of June and stay open, according to the region, throughout the summer. To find the call for applications of each region or university, you can check the DSU website.
Opportunities in Italy or other countries
If you are looking for opportunities to study in Italy or other countries, visit UNHCR Opportunities, where you can find academic programmes or scholarships verified by UNHCR to continue your studies.
Q: What are the main challenges for a meaningful inclusion of refugees in universities?
A: The university system can be difficult to understand for a young person navigating it for the first time. It is not unusual for a student to take some time to settle in and understand the functioning of the academic institution. Asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection encounter even more obstacles due to their specific situation.
In addition to the language barrier and encountering an education system that may have significant cultural and methodological differences from that of their country of origin, most asylum seekers and refugees have interrupted their studies for several years and therefore need to regain their study habits.
Without tools to help them bridge the gap, these differences risk compromising their integration into a new academic environment right from the start.
Q: How can universities foster the integration of refugee students into the local community?
A: Like any foreign student, refugee students also face the challenge of integrating into a new reality, in a foreign country, which most likely they did not choose. For all of them this means a new language, culture, and different habits, and in many cases the absence of a support network.
Of course, a refugee student can already be perfectly integrated in a context in which they may have lived for years, but they may also have recently arrived in Italy or have just left the reception path, and therefore find themselves for the first time without a support network, perhaps in a completely new city for them, where they moved specifically to continue their studies.
In the absence of a family or a support network, as it often happens, it might be natural for them to turn to their new adoption community, the university, to seek support, guidance, participation.
The support to integration provided by universities can benefit from the collaboration with existing resources in the area (e.g. information and legal helpdesks for foreigners), also by building structured networks (through contacts, protocols, collaboration procedures) and inclusion policies that make it possible to overcome the limits of interventions based on ad hoc calls and projects.
A positive integration in the local context contributes not only to making the refugee feel more at ease, an essential precondition for a successful academic pathway, but also to facilitate the “post”, the transition to the world of work.