At its Council meeting on 23 October 2015 the European University Association (EUA) called on policy makers at both EU and Member State level and higher education institutions in Europe to enable refugee students to gain access to higher education, and to remove all obstacles that may prevent them from doing so. European countries have for years committed themselves to fair recognition, social inclusiveness and increased internationalisation, most recently in May 2015 at the Bologna Ministerial meeting held in Yerevan.
The recent influx of refugees into Europe underlines the fact that the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East is not a regional problem but an emergency with global implications and a matter of the utmost concern for Europe and its future. Moreover, the countries in question are the neighbours or near neighbours of the European Union, the importance of which EUA has highlighted in a recent response to the European Commission's European Neighbourhood Policy consultation.
Urgent action is necessary, requiring leadership and a willingness to accept responsibility for addressing and managing this crisis by all actors in society; thus also Europe's universities. This will require good coordination and a broad consensus on the integration and support of displaced students and scholars.
There are already numerous examples of universities, their staff and students responding to the current emergency by providing support to refugees in general and by reaching out to refugee students, academics and researchers. Still, universities can do more.