Apart from teaching, research and service to society, since 2015 higher education systems and institutions in Europe have faced an additional expectation–to respond to the largely unexpected yet nevertheless growing demand for higher education by refugees. This study explores system and organizational level responses to such environmental pressures in Germany and Flanders, both affluent systems, but different in terms of size, attractiveness as destination and the extent to which their languages are widely spoken. Relying primarily on document analysis and interviews, the study highlights three elements of policy dynamics: policy styles, main drivers, and extent of involvement of non-state actors. While, as expected, in both systems the dynamics were re-active, solution-driven, and with strong involvement of non-state actors, contrary to expectations both countries responded primarily in a bottom-up manner. The study provides a conceptual tool and a first empirical insight into this novel phenomenon.

DOI: 10.1080/03075079.2018.1525697
ISSN: 3075079