This article explores the role of policy in influencing refugee educational and occupational aspirations and how this translates into promoting or hindering certain integration paths. 29 refugees in the canton of Vaud in Switzerland were interviewed and asked about their educational and occupational aspirations. Three policies were identified as having an important influence on their aspirations formation namely, asylum policy, integration policy in addition to university access and degree recognition policy. Findings show that the three policies combined contribute to creating what I refer to as ‘Low Ambition Equilibrium’. This means that on one hand these policies promote the quickest and most accessible integration paths to reduce refugees’ dependence on the welfare state. On the other hand, the experience of forced migration combined with a ‘policy-dense’ environment create a lot of uncertainty in the life of refugees and the urgency to find a lost ‘normality’ at the expense of their aspirations. © 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

DOI: 10.1080/1369183X.2023.2235902
ISSN: 1369183X