Access to higher education for refugees

Doctors. Lawyers. Physicists. Humanities scholars. Psychologists. Every day, smart, highly skilled people are forced to flee their country of origin and seek refuge in Switzerland. Although they want to make a contribution to life in their new home, access to the Swiss higher education system and skilled jobs remains very difficult for many of them, despite their qualifications. Exacting language requirements, no recognition of earlier educational achievements and diplomas, and funding issues are just a few of the obstacles that stand in their way. In keeping with their commitment to promoting greater institutional openness and equal access to higher education for refugees, the Swiss Student Union (VSS) launched two programmes: Perspectives – Studies and INVOST – Integration pre-studies at Universities of Applied Sciences.


Perspectives – Studies

Perspectives – Studies, launched by the VSS in 2016, seeks to make it easier for refugees to access higher education. As part of this programme, we advise refugees, support local projects, brief professionals and lobby policymakers.

Published in 2016, the position paper and the demands set out in Hochschulzugang für studentische Geflüchtete [university access for student refugees] inform the programme’s activities. In 2020, we worked with more than 50 student refugees and student volunteers to update these demands. Our list of demands is set out here.

The core element of this project is, an information platform designed specifically for refugees who are interested in enrolling at a university and for professionals who work with the refugee and asylum-seeker community. Perspectives – Studies is working with over 17 local projects launched since 2016. Based in the universities themselves, these projects provide refugees with a range of measures, including help with preparing for university admission and other key support services. You can find more information and contact details here: Overview of university projects.

Another strand of our work involves briefing education and integration professionals and bringing the different stakeholders together. The goal of these efforts is to ensure that well- qualified refugees receive the advice and support they need to embark on a course of study. Last but not least, we also lobby policymakers at the national, cantonal and university level to ensure that equal access to higher education extends to refugees too.

Are you a refugee in Switzerland, interested in studying in Switzerland? Or do you want to have your degree recognised? Are you helping and supporting refugees and are in need of information about studying in Switzerland? Do you want to start a project supporting highly qualified refugees?

Contact us. Pespectives – Studies will support you with its knowledge and network.


Project Team Perspectives – Studies Swiss Student Union: Sabine Zurschmitten, Nora Burla and Simone Keller, perspektiven-studium[at]

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A current insight:
Kompass UniBE – Eine neue Praxis der “Integration”? | bsz bärner studizytig | 12. März 2023
Heute brauchen akademisch gebildete Flüchtlinge noch Glück | Bildung Schweiz | Dezember 2022


INVOST – Integration pre-studies at Universities of Applied Sciences

INVOST – Integration pre-studies at Universities of Applied Sciences provides highly qualified refugees with targeted support measures designed to prepare them for admission to a course of study at a University of Applied Sciences and Arts (UAS). By helping to prepare refugees with academic potential for university admission, INVOST facilitates fuller integration through higher education participation.

INVOST is a collaborative programme between the Swiss Student Union (VSS-UNES-USU), the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Western Switzerland (HES-SO) and the School of Engineering at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW).

The HES-SO and the FHNW School of Engineering are set to launch pilot projects in the 2021 autumn semester. Designed specifically for refugees who are interested in and have the potential to undertake a degree course, they include services such as language classes, subject-specific preparatory courses, the opportunity to sit in on lectures (‘auditor’ status), exams, mentoring, as well as assistance with the application/enrolment process. The aim is to familiarise participants with the requirements they must meet to study at a Swiss university, and provide them with the necessary support and advice to help them transition to a full degree programme. The projects will run for three academic years.

The Swiss Student Union is the INVOST programme coordinator and provides the two participating UAS with support in the form of knowledge transfer, networking with the relevant integration and education stakeholders, strategic activities, as well as awareness raising and information efforts.

Alongside concrete preparatory and support measures at the Universities of Applied Sciences, interinstitutional cooperation with the relevant education and integration stakeholders is also essential to ensuring the sustainable integration of well-qualified refugees via the higher education pathway.
The pilot projects are intended to serve as a model for future efforts aimed at guaranteeing greater institutional openness at the university level and equal higher education opportunities for refugees.

Contact project management INVOST Swiss Student Union
Rahel Müller Aho

A current insight:

Funding Partners