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In 2019, one third of the first-time applicants for refugee status in Hungary were of higher education age, i.e. between 18 and 35 years of age, and one tenth were of secondary school age (i.e. between 14 and 17 years of age). For them, access to higher education could become a long-term integration strategy in Hungary.

The signatory states of the Lisbon Convention, including Hungary, have accepted the minimum system of support and services for the integration of refugees in higher education. The main point of the convention is the recognition of the qualifications of refugees, the creation of the necessary conditions for this, and the promotion of access to higher education.

Access to higher education for persons receiving international protection in Hungary is ensured by the current legislation - in the same way as for Hungarian citizens - but there is no state-supported program to help those receiving international protection in Hungary to catch up, receive language training or enter higher education.

The only program operating for this purpose in Hungary today is the OLive program of the Central European University. There are a number of other good practices in European countries to help refugees participate in higher education. Some grants support enrolment through quotas, while others help enrolment and retention in higher education through talent management or social benefits.

It would be important to facilitate the recognition of previous school qualifications. This is because beneficiaries of international protection do not have the opportunity to make official contact with their own country, which is a serious obstacle in handling admission cases. In the case of students who have already been admitted, documents that can only be issued by the country of origin may be required in order to apply for social benefits. All this would require the development of special procedures on the part of the host institution and a high degree of flexibility.

Although in recent years the range of state scholarship programs that specifically support access to higher education, which specifically target non-Hungarian citizens, has greatly expanded - e.g. the Stipendium Hungaricum - they are not open to refugees. Refugees are also not entitled to language training for foreign students. Opening up these programs would significantly improve their chances.

It seems necessary to compile accurate statistics on the proportion of beneficiaries of international protection in higher education and then design targeted programs based on the data acquired. In the case of a deficiency in the documentation certifying the qualification, a unified procedure must be established for handling the situation, replacing the documents and certifying the competencies. An English-language online information system and personal orientation would be of a great help. Targeted programs are needed for refugees seeking to learn, as well as intercultural competency development among students, faculty, as well as administrators.

Scholarships and social benefits could help to stay in higher education. It would be very important (even during voluntary student programs) to produce and pass on information materials, complemented by legal assistance and mental health counselling, which could help students integrate.

Full policy brief in English version is available here