Higher Education
supporting Refugees
in Europe

Complutense University of Madrid (ES)

Our initiative, the “UCM Refugees Welcome Plan” aims at:

  1. Social and educational reception of refugees. 2. Development of values, attitudes and solidarity actions among UCM Community and Madrid’s society, promoting (3) a conscious critical and committed society. The Plan is developed throughout four interrelated lines of action: L1. Awareness and information. L2. Promotion of welcome actions. L3. College acceptance and university social action. L4. Cooperation with experts’ institutions & actors.

We provide support to colleges, UCM institutions and students’ associations that want to promote their own activities. We exchange information and collaborate with local and regional governments and NGOs, as well as the Conference of Rectors of Spanish Universities (CRUE) and the Conference of Rectors of Public Universities of Madrid (CRUMA). We also have designed a specific system for volunteers’ management, including communication mechanisms, training, monitoring and recognition of credits. Moreover, an internship programme is also offered. We also foster integration of teachers and researchers into UCM research groups.

Complutense University of Madrid (ES) Photo

UCM Refugees Welcome event 2015. © Complutense University of Madrid.

Complutense University of Madrid (ES) Photo

Enrolment of refugee students 2016. © Complutense University of Madrid.

We have conducted sensitization activities through talks and debates, films and documentary projections, etc. We have been collecting humanitarian aid for the Syrian people through the “Association Support for the Syrian People” which we concluded before Christmas (2015 & 2016). For the International Day of Refugees (20  June) we run audio-visual competitions together with the city council: the winner of “Somos Refugio” (We are Refuge) can be viewed here.

For refugee students, there is an individual support protocol that includes support through the documentation recognition processes, temporal integration as listeners or visitors until full enrolment can be obtained, tuition waiver and/or scholarship upon enrolment, peer-to-peer support, one-to-one tutoring by teachers, Spanish language classes and psychological counselling at the University Clinic of Psychology.

Duration: From September 2015.
Refugee students: 16 part-time and full-time students attending degree courses. 20 students in the Spanish Language Center (CEE).
Refugee researchers: 1 - so far we have not yet received any requests from researchers. Next academic year we will address the challenge of reaching out to the university with a new protocol.
Strategy links
The “UCM Refugees Welcome Plan” is developed by the Inclusion and Diversity Support Unit (UCMd+I), headed by the Rector’s Delegate (Management Board). Further information on diversity at UCM can be found here.

The Refugees Welcome Plan has also transformed the official enrolment procedures of the university. It has been included as a specific activity area in the broader University Volunteering Programme. It has been staffed and there is now  a permanent office.
We have a partnership agreement and collaborate with the municipality office. We take part in the permanent “Conference of Rectors of the Madrid Universities” (CRUMA). We have signed partnership agreements with NGOs, organisations and institutions which receive and take care of the refugees in Spain.
The Plan and the protocols we have been able to design influence UCM diversity from a transversal perspective. Our whole approach seeks to ensure that procedures for access and admission for refugees are facilitated and to make more flexible the procedures for all students, not only at the administrative level, but also at the academic and learning levels.
Funding structure
The estimated cost per refugee student is around 5 000€ per year. The initiative is funded by the university itself (general budget). The registration fee of the refugees’ students is taken care of by the university as part of the Refugees Welcome Plan (full or partial scholarship). We are also looking into specific sponsorships from firms and institutions. Meanwhile, state universities are working together to generate a fund for refugees from the regional and national government.