Competing Motivations in Germany’s Higher Education Response to the “Refugee Crisis”


  • Bernhard Streitwieser George Washington University
  • Lukas Brück Robert Bosch Foundation, Stuttgart, Germany



Germany, Syrian refugees, post-secondary education, higher education, universities, institutional reform, integration, refugee crisis, public sentiment


In 2015–16 Germany was confronted with over 1 million new refugees, which challenged public and private institutions alike and increasingly divided public sentiments. This article investigates the cultural, political, and economic dynamics as they were in Germany in 2015–16 and in particular how its higher education sector responded. The discussion covers a comprehensive review of media debates, public and private institutional research, new German- and English-language scholarship, and case studies the authors collected of fiffeen universities. The article ends with recommendations as German universities prepare for 30,000–50,000 refugees eligible for study in the coming years. 


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Author Biography

Bernhard Streitwieser, George Washington University

Corresponding Author:

Bernhard Streitwieser, PhD

Assistant Professor of International Education

Graduate School of Education and Human Development

The George Washington University

Washington, DC 20052, U.S.A.

Office: 202-994-4672


The author may be contacted at


Bernhard Streitwieser (PhD, Columbia University) is Assistant Professor of International Education and a co-chair of the UNESCO Chair in International Education for Development at the George Washington University. His research focuses on factors supporting and hindering higher education mobility for refugees and at-risk migrants; he is a member of the UN’s Institute for Training and Research’s University Alliance for Refugees and At-risk Migrants.

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How to Cite

Streitwieser, B., & Brück, L. (2018). Competing Motivations in Germany’s Higher Education Response to the “Refugee Crisis”. Refuge: Canada’s Journal on Refugees, 34(2), 38–51.

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