Barriers, functionings and capabilities in dropout among refugee students in higher education institutions
Velzen, L.A. van
MetadataShow full item record
In the Netherlands refugees request asylum every year, in 2011 the amount of requests was 11.590 (Vluchtelingenwerk, 2012). Among these refugees, there are individuals that pursue a degree in the higher education. For refugees it is often difficult to enter and stay in the Dutch education system, due to factors related to their refugee status. Therefore, the University Assistance Fund (UAF) helps refugees, because they believe that higher educated refugees can be of added value for the Dutch society. Due to specific barriers refugees encounter, dropout among this group is high and happens for different reasons than dropout among native Dutch students. The goal of this research is to find which constraints refugee students encounter in certain higher education institutions, in order to be able to decrease the dropout rate. The research question is: How do specific barriers, functionings and capabilities lead to dropout among refugee students in four Dutch higher education institutions? The four institutions are the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the Hogeschool van Amsterdam, the Universiteit Utrecht and Fontys Hogeschool Eindhoven. To answer the question an integrated theoretical framework, combining Sen’s capability approach (1979) and Bean and Metzner persistence theory (1985) has been used. The methods used are in-depth interviews with several employees from the four institutions and with twelve refugee students who have dropped out at one of these institutions. The results of the interviews have been analyzed by applying the theoretical framework and is based on Boeije’s coding method for qualitative research (2005). The results of the interviews with the employees provide the vision on refugee students and diversity of every institution. Due to the embedded core values of the institutions, the VU has a diversity policy and the HvA has arrangements for refugee students. The UU is a large university with a relatively small non-western and refugee student population. Therefore, they do not deem it necessary to provide special arrangements. Fontys has a decentralized way of policy-making. Only for the most important values they have policies on the institution level and refugee students are a too small group to make policies for. The interviews with the dropouts show a diversity in reasons for dropout and opinions about arrangements at the institutions. The main reasons for dropout were care responsibilities, language problems and lack of counseling at institutions. Refugee students indicate the need for extra arrangements, but on the other hand refugee students say that it is their own responsibility to succeed in their study. It turns out that at least part of the refugee students would benefit from special arrangements. The recommendations of this study are mainly for the UAF, because the UAF, sometimes in cooperation with institutions, can provide the best resources for refugee students. The organization of an introduction day for new refugee students at an institution, in collaboration with the UAF, is considered useful. Meeting fellow refugee students and knowing where to find help is something the interviewees missed. Better communication between the institutions and the UAF can lead to better organized activities for refugee students at institutions. Also, a mentor system were older UAF students help new students with adjusting to the new institution and prevent them from the mistakes they might have made is considered useful. Furthermore, keeping better track of their dropout students and the reasons for dropping out are the main recommendations for the UAF to decrease the dropout rate among their students.