UBU-Refugee Programme

A holistic programme designed for applicants and/or beneficiaries of international protection who wish to start or continue their university studies.
Good Practices

UBU-Refugee Programme

A holistic programme designed for applicants and/or beneficiaries of international protection who wish to start or continue their university studies.

The project in brief

The project is implemented by University of Burgos (UBU) in Spain. It began in March 2022 and is an open-ended programme.

The UBU-Refuge Programme is aimed at students who wish to start or continue their university studies at the University of Burgos. It is a holistic programme as it offers beneficiaries different resources to address three different areas: education, employability and social integration. Among them: free enrolment, Spanish courses, accommodation, maintenance and accommodation grants, counselling, employment and support to the integration with the support of UBU Volunteers group.

The project aims to:

  • Promote the integration of refugee population in the terciary education, attending to their difficulties and needs.
  • Improve the integration of refugee students into the academic community as well as in the city of Burgos through the creation of permanent support networks.
  • Promote the access of the target students to non-precarious accommodation.
  • Promote the employability of the target students.
  • Achieve the linguistic integration of the students by Spanish courses if necessary.

The participation of the community and the involvement of the University were crucial elements in achieving the implementation of this good practice. In addition, the funds dedicated to the development of the project have been essential in order to reach the number of beneficiaries of the programme. Without these partnerships and the high degree of involvement of the entire community of Burgos (NGOs, families, students, etc.), the results obtained and the maintenance of the programme would not have been possible.

Main activities of the Good Practice

The UBU-Refuge Programme has two modalities of access: the transition course, aimed to students who do not reach the minimum language level required and, on the other hand, "regular" access through the incorporation of students through regular Bachelor's, Master's or Doctorate studies.

The transition course takes place over a period of 6 months in which students can use all the resources provided by the UBU.

The course is structured in three training modules:

  1. Language training;
  2. Employement Orientation
  3. Sustainable Human Development.

This last training is developed given the imperative need to build greater humanitarian societies, to defend the welfare and rights of all people, to take into account nature as a fundamental substratum and sustainability of life.

As for services offered to students, the UBU provides:

  1. Spanish courses. Free access to Spanish courses during the academic year.
  2. Accommodation. Students have the support of the UBU to find accommodation, with three modalities offered: host families, rented flats and university residences.
  3. Maintenance and accommodation grants. The amount varies between €250-500/month. The Centre also advises students on how to apply for grants and aid from outside the centre.
  4. Counselling. Students in the Programme have access to legal, administrative and psychological support services.
  5. Employment. Support in the search for employment and/or internships.
  6. Volunteer group. Students will be assigned one UBU student volunteer and one academic mentor who will support them in the management of their administrative issues and in the generation of social networks.

Partners involved

  • Junta de Castilla y León
  • Diputación Provincial de Burgos
  • Cátedra Francisco González Alonso promoted by Gonalpi S.L. and Inmobiliaria Doble G
  • Fundación Carlos Sunyer
  • Fundación Gutiérrez Manrique
  • Particular donors

What challenges were encountered in delivering the project and how were they overcome?


  • Lack of administrative protocols to facilitate the incorporation of students with missing documentation or translated documentation to the studies offered by the University of Burgos.
  • Lack of training and employment orientation programmes for highly qualified people. The training programmes available to them are specially designed for people with low qualifications.
  • Lack of a grant/aid programme to provide access to university for beneficiaries of international protection. Most of them do not have sufficient financial resources to cover the costs of studying at university.
  • Difficulties providing students with affordable and stable accommodation options.
  • Difficulties building social networks outside migrant communities and the organisations that serve them.

How they were overcome

  • Resolution of the Rector authorising the conditional enrolment of beneficiary students. With this resolution, students have been able to provide documentation during the academic year.
  • Collaboration established with the employment department of the University of Burgos and with private entities to offer courses and guidance to high and low qualified students.
  • Collaboration with private entities to fund scholarships for students
  • First reception in host families for the creation of stable and long-lasting support networks. In addition, the volunteer group allows an additional way to the academic and social integration of the students.
Three young children playing - two are on a rope swing while the third cheers them on

Results of the Good Practice

  • More than 1000 applications received since March 2022
  • Admission of 28 applicants (26 students and 2 lecturers) since March 2022.
  • 95 host families offered themselves to host students for free.
  • 1 student lives with a host family, 10 in university residences and 6 in rented flats.
  • All students are receiving aids and grants to cover their personal expenses.
  • The group of volunteers is made up of 67 UBU students and lecturer.
  • The admission process has been formalised and has an internal protocol for all UBU staff involved in the admission and monitoring process.

In what way does the good practice meet one or more of the four objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees?

Objective 1: Ease the pressures on host countries

The UBU-Refugees Programme is a holistic initiative aimed at promoting the access and continuity of applicants and/or beneficiaries of international protection to tertiary education, but also focuses on their employment and social integration in the host country. To achieve this goal, the programme offers different services, such as Spanish courses, accommodation options and scholarships. This directly relieves pressure on the national host system by offering an alternative to the beneficiaries. These students make use of the resources offered, thus relieving the overload on the system. In addition, the collaboration with local NGOs and the dissemination of the programme among them has allowed students to be referred not only to Spanish courses offered by the UBU for refugees, but also to access the programme or to find accommodation when they need it.

Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance

The financial and social support provided to beneficiaries also contributes to increasing their autonomy. On the financial side, the scholarships offered to students enable them to cover their personal expenses and give them a financial autonomy they would otherwise find difficult to achieve. We also consider that the social integration support we offer is one of the fundamental elements in achieving this autonomy. Newly arrived students join host families and create strong bonds and support networks among themselves. This allows them to generate long-term stability and constant support that serves as a basis for their development in the host country.

Objective 3: Expand access to third-country solutions

In this aspect, the UBU made great efforts to facilitate the safe arrival of the beneficiaries of the Programme to Burgos. Since the program started at the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Ukrainian students became the first participants. An important task became how to communicate the program to the attention of people who were its potential participants. For this, UBU contacted the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine to disseminate information among university students. Admission to the programme was decided by some of the participants while there, in Ukraine. Therefore, they were provided with comprehensive support, starting from financial assistance for the trip, and ending with the provision of invitation letters to avoid problems when crossing the border.

Objective 4: Support conditions in countries of origin for return in safety and dignity

Finally, their integration into the university has a direct impact on their home countries. The beneficiary students have the opportunity to continue their training and acquire a higher qualification that they can reinvest in their countries of origin.

Next steps

The University of Burgos has a clear intention to extend this programme in the long term and increase the number and the cultural diversity of beneficiaries. Considering that the Programme already functions for more than one year, UBU is able to continue it successfully. As for beginning of it, the majority of participants were those affected by the war in Ukraine, but for the academic year 2023/2023, people of other nationalities joined the Programme as well. Therefore, the admission process has been formalised from the beginning of the programme in March 2022. Also, stable collaborations have been established with public and private entities that will allow the continuity of the programme, including the collaboration for the granting of places in the university residences.

Are there areas in which support would be required to continue and/or scale up your good practice?

One of the main needs of the programme is financial funding for scholarships and grants. Each academic year, the UBU allocates a total of 3600 euros per student for accommodation and maintenance grants. In other words, the 17 students who take part in the Programme, next academic year will mean an investment of more than 60,000 euros if all of them apply for the scholarship. And if UBU receives more applications, more budget will be needed. The intention of the UBU is to continue and increase the capacity of the programme, but to do so it is essential to offer financial support to the applicants.

Submitted by

Sara Gutiérrez González, Director of the Centre for Cooperation and Solidarity Action, University of Burgos (UBU) - Spain

Contact the project

[email protected]