University corridors for refugees (Italy)

"My faculty is really very inclusive. There are so many other international students from all over the world studying with me, I have learned as much from them as from the courses themselves. My tutors are incredible people that have supported me above my expectations; they have become like family. The more refugees have skills, the more they can support themselves. They need knowledge to have a voice, to be empowered, and also to be able to dream again." - Jules, Congolese refugee graduated in Florence

The project in brief

The project was launched by the University of Bologna and Luiss (Rome) in 2019 and expanded to 39 universities in Italy.

It is based on a multisectoral approach, with a broad partnership between the Italian government, religious and civil society organizations, private foundations, universities, and the UNHCR.

The program implementation is organized by local partnerships, which provide the support to the arriving students from several African Coutries. Students arrive on a student visa and are subsequently issued a residence permit for the duration of their studies, two academic years.

The project is based on a MoU signed every year by universities and partners; the MoU – usually – lasts since the publication of the University Calls up to graduation of the students (e.g. second edition of UNICORE, “UNICORE 2.0” started in April 2020 up to 31 March 2023). Currently, fifth edition of UNICORE is running.

Students at an airport posing for a group photo with members of the project

Main activities of the Good Practice

In the framework of UNI.CO.RE project, the Universities assist college students from a refugee background to navigate higher education (up to Master’s degree) and to transition into the professional world. Three activities are underlined:

  1. Engagement in the local student life and community
    We support in the integration in student life and assistance for any problem met during the studies, offered by local students (e.g. “Buddy study”), with the supervision of the Universities. We also support in the integration in everyday life, social inclusion, orientation to access extra-curricular activities (e.g. volunteering) and services offered locally jointly offered by local partners.
  2. Professional Development
    From the moment a student begins with the UNI.CO.RE program, (s)he begins working on his/her work perspective, supported by tutors and/or mentors to professional development opportunities, including networking events, job shadowing, informational interviews, and mandatory internships.
  3. Financial Assistance
    Universities provide a last-in scholarship that covers the remaining balance of students’ tuition after government financial aid and other scholarships. Universities also financially assists with the cost of books, a laptop, health care, mental health support, food and housing, per diem

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


  1. Lower numbers of students selected for the Master’s degree compared to available scholarships in the last edition (UNICORE 4.0).
  2. Low number of women students.
  3. Emotional trauma as a result of experiences in their home countries and also from resettling in a new place and culture.
  4. Graduation on time
  5. Risk of under-employement or unemployment in case of lack of professional development guidance.
  6. Overcome the language barriers to professional development.

How they were overcome

  1. Dissemination activities have been accurately planned in the following edition with good results
  2. Separate rankings have been adopted by the universities (in UNICORE 4.0 and 5.0, pprox. 20% of female students admitted against 5% in UNICORE 2.0)
  3. We have partnered with mental health providers to provide pro-bono mental health support to students in need.
  4. We have strengthened the support local network by engaging peer students, tutors, mentors and supportive families.
  5. We developed corporate partners and help students make the necessary connections and gain the professional skills to be employable upon graduation.
  6. Italian language courses free provided during all the study period.

Results of the Good Practice

  • 18 students from a refugee background have been graduated (Master’s degree) in Italy.
  • All of them are employed or included in professional training paths.
  • Presence of refugee students in the university community constitutes an added value and improve welcoming societies

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

Higher education, professional development and networking help graduates obtain gainful employment and a durable solutions in Italy.

Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance

UNI.CO.RE assists and supports students pursuing higher education and helps them develop their professional skills so that when they graduate, they will have both the knowledge and skills to obtain gainful employment and to better their future.

Objective 3: Expand access to third-country solutions

UNI.CO.RE strives to be a European model of Complementary Education pathways, since it opens avenues for persons in need of international protection that provide for a lawful stay in a third country where the international protection needs of the beneficiaries are met. Beneficiaries of complementary pathways are given legal access to a third country through the education pathway, where they can gradually obtain a more sustainable permanent status. At the same time, they can support themselves to reach a durable solution.

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

Several students wish to take what they learn back to their Countries of origin or to the refugee camps where they once lived. Thanks to the knowledge and skills they have gained through education, many of the student intends to help others, whether that be helping them start and fund business, providing medical care or going back to teach others or to help in cultural mediation.

Next steps

We are working on the UNI.CO.RE. 6.0 edition, in which we are currently working to facilitate and expedite administrative procedures for selection of candidates, updating the existing website to create a refugee-friendly system. We will also continue to engage our alumni so they can serve as mentors for current students.

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

  • Consular services
  • Documentation (convention travel document, average time for issuance residence permit).
  • Job opportunities
  • Gender balance
  • Financial resources from other institutional actors.

Submitted by

Marco Borraccetti, Associate Professor, Delegate for International Agreements and Networks and for University Corridors for refugee students, University of Bologna - Italia - [email protected]

Mariateresa Veltri, Post-graduate fellow and Adjunct Professor, University of Bologna - [email protected]

Contact the project

Partners involved

  • Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation
  • Caritas Italiana
  • Diaconia Valdese
  • Centro Astalli
  • Gandhi Charity
  • 39 Italian Universities:
    1. Universita’ di Bari
    2. Università di Bergamo
    3. Università del Sannio di Benevento
    4. Università di Bologna
    5. Universita’ di Brescia
    6. Università di Cagliari
    7. Università di Catania
    8. Università degli Studi “G. d’Annunzio” Chieti – Pescara
    9. Università di Firenze
    10. European University Institute
    11. Università degli Studi dell’Aquila
    12. Università del Salento-Lecce
    13. Università degli Studi di Messina
    14. Università Statale di Milano
    15. Università di Milano Bicocca
    16. Universita’ di Milano Bocconi
    17. Milano Politecnico
    18. Università degli studi di Modena e Reggio Emilia
    19. Università degli Studi di Napoli L’Orientale
    20. Universita’ di Palermo
    21. Università degli Studi di Padova
    22. Universita’ di Parma
    23. Universita’ di Perugia
    24. Universita’ per stranieri di Perugia
    25. Universita’ di Pisa
    26. Luiss Guido Carli Roma
    27. Università di Roma “La Sapienza”
    28. Universita’ di Sassari
    29. Università degli Studi di Siena
    30. Universita’ per Stranieri di Siena
    31. Università’ di Torino
    32. Torino Politecnico
    33. Università di Trento
    34. Università di Urbino
    35. Università Iuav di Venezia
    36. Università degli Studi del Piemonte Orientale “Amedeo Avogadro”
    37. Università di Verona
    38. Università degli Studi della Tuscia Viterbo
    39. Universita’ di Notre Dame
  • Other local partners