Since 2015, Germany has followed a welcoming policy for refugees and has made efforts to integrate them in German society through initiatives such as development programs. However, very few refugee students have actually managed to enter German Higher Education (HE) institutions. Using a qualitative methodology, the researcher interviewed Arab refugee students studying in pre-academic and academic degree programs in Germany, to obtain answers to the following two main questions: 1) What are the main challenges that refugee students have experienced on their path to Germany as a host country? 2) What are the challenges that refugee students faced in HE in Germany and how does the German HE system respond to their needs? The findings suggest that, despite Germany’s desire to open up access to HE for refugees, the implementation of the policies adopted often sets administrative and social challenges to refugee students along their pathways to German HE institutions. These challenges include rigid access policies and procedures, unwelcoming public discourse and feelings of alienation. Nevertheless, students positively valued the new window of opportunity and universally applicable procedures offered in Germany, although they had not quite provided adequate responses to the refugees’ needs. The paper concludes with implications for policy makers wishing to open pathways for refugees to HE in intercultural academic spaces where they can interact and integrate within the academic community in preparation for their full integration into their host society.

DOI: 10.1016/j.ijedudev.2021.102459
ISSN: 0738-0593