Pursuing higher education is one of the top priorities of many refugees after settlement in host countries. However, refugees’ participation in the labour market is the prime focus of integration policies and practices in various host nations, including Norway. This coupled with some complex challenges embedded in institutional policies and practices impede social inclusion of refugees into higher education in host countries. There is hitherto less attention on the role higher education institutions play in social inclusion of refugees into higher education. Hence, this article aims at exploring policies and practices of two universities in Norway regarding refugees’ access to, participation and success in higher education. To address this purpose, the data was collected through in-depth, semi-structured interviews with experts at both universities. Moreover, diverse institutional documents were consulted as supplementary to the interviews. The data were analysed through a step-by-step thematic analysis. The study reveals that the universities’ roles are characterised by ad hoc, spontaneous, and lack of durable initiatives and many of the existing initiatives are aimed at refugees’ access to higher education without considering the participation and empowerment dimensions of social inclusion. Therefore, it is recommended that universities should have clear comprehensive social inclusion policies specifically targeting refugees as equity groups. In addition to this, it is important that the universities implement concrete initiatives such as opening dedicated centres focusing on refugee (higher) education, English language, acculturation and bridging programmes for refugees, to contribute to the empowerment of refugees through higher education.

DOI: 10.1080/00131911.2021.2009443
ISSN: 0013-1911