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Widening Refugee Participation and Access to Higher Education through Collective Impact Initiatives – Insights from Germany

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Widening refugee participation is a major challenge for western higher education systems. The purpose of this article is to understand key behaviours and outcomes of a cross-sector alliance between a German public university, the local government and non-profit organisations that led to the implementation of a refugee study-orientation programme to support refugee access to higher education. We develop our conceptual model based on the collective impact framework. Using a mixed-methods case study design, we analyse programme documents and email communication to understand organisational behaviours. We then analyse the registration data and university records of the refugees (N = 539) to evaluate the programme's effects on widening participation and refugee access to higher education. We find that the cross-sector alliance utilises five key behaviours that can facilitate widening refugee participation and access to higher education: defining a common agenda, developing shared measurements, ongoing communication, mutually reinforcing activities and implementing a coordinating backbone organisation. We contribute to research by extending the collective impact framework regarding contextual, organisational and individual preconditions. Based on our findings, we derive practical implications for public universities, local governments and non-profit organisations.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2019

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  • The journal is based on the belief that there are neglected links between research and theory, and policy and practice in the promotion of widening participation in post-compulsory education and lifelong learning. It aims to provide a forum for the development of theory, the addressing of policy questions and the dissemination of innovative practice in the field of widening participation and lifelong learning.
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