Validating skills and competencies of migrants and refugees

The number of refugees and new migrants who reach Europe, escaping from wars or critical life conditions and looking for new life opportunities, has increased dramatically in recent years and is likely to continue growing in the coming years. These newcomers face many challenges in settling into Europe and among these are the obstacles to accessing the labour market or continuing their studies.

Migrants and refugees are in practice often prevented from enjoying their rights by many legal and practical barriers. This also represents an obstacle to their integration in hosting societies. One of the main challenges newcomers and refugees face is that, although they are often educated and skilled, their competences may not be recognised in the host society. There are many reasons for this: their skills and knowledge may not fit into predefined bureaucratic policies and procedures; documentation is lacking; or the curriculum they followed does not match certification structures in the host country. This hinders their access to the labour force and to continuing their studies, jeopardises their chances of fully integrating in the new society as citizens, and represents a source of discrimination and social marginalisation. The main purpose of the VINCE project is to adapt existing proven methods to include disadvantaged people in higher education (HE), so that they meet the needs of the newcomers.

An efficient assessment of migrants' and refugees' prior learning can be critical in enabling them to access the labour market and/or continue their educational studies and improve their qualifications. Recognising and validating the skills and competences acquired through non-formal and informal learning supports the social inclusion and empowerment of migrants, who often have limited opportunities to access formal education. The process of validation of non-formal and informal learning helps to bridge educational inequalities, and offers further pathways for the development of the skills needed in life and in the labour market. Furthermore, by being given the chance to describe their educational and employment experiences and supported in a reflection and analysis of their prior learning, they will be enabled to begin to establish links between that and future opportunities for in education and work, bridging the gap between past and future.


Aims of the project

The main aim of the VINCE project, which will start in December 2016, is to train professionals to make the necessary adaptations to existing practice of validation of non-formal and informal learning, so that they will effectively meet the needs of refugees and newly arrived migrants. There are 3 particular features which need to be reviewed and adapted:

The first of these relates to documentation: practice to date has been able to use documentation of formal qualifications, of relevant work experience and various forms of informal learning as a tool for constructing some form of portfolio of evidence of learning for the assessment process; and such documentation even if not immediately available, has always been relatively easy to obtain. However, it is unlikely that refugees and newly arrived immigrants will have such documentation and even more unlikely, especially if they come from war and conflict zones, that they will be able to obtain it, so alternative strategies will have to be developed.

The second feature is that VNIL current practice has focussed on non-traditional learners of the country in which the HEI is located, therefore although the candidates often need additional support to familiarise themselves with the procedures and expectations of HE they usually have an understanding of the national culture. In this respect newcomers will be additionally disadvantaged by a lack of familiarity with Europe in general, with the host country, and with the procedures, expectations and language/terminology of HE. Additional advice, guidance, access/induction and language support will therefore be needed.

Thirdly, the overall approach, including bureaucratic, linguist and psychological support, may need further adaptation to meet the specific needs of refugees and new migrants, often from conflict zones and difficult personal and family circumstances.


Project outcomes

The project will develop four major outcomes:

  • A set of Guidelines, comprising introductions to EU higher education, participating higher education institutions as well as validation schemes and procedures in place.
  • A training course and tools for the validation professionals working with newly arrived migrants and refugees, following the 4 stages of validation set out in the CEDEFOP guidelines.
  • A set of policy recommendations targeting at EU/national decision makers and higher education institutions to bring about an efficient validation system which takes into account newly arrived migrants and refugees’ situation and needs, improving their chances to enter the labour force
    or continue their studies in their host country.
  • An interactive platform, which will encourage validation professionals to share knowledge and experience and, exchange with other professionals.


The VINCE project partnership is composed of 13 partners, comprising different types of organisations from various sectors: Higher education institutions, VET providers, NGOs, Associations/European-wide networks and an independent Quality Assurance Agency under a Ministry of Education and Research. The project is coordinated by EUCEN, the European Network of Higher Education Institutions.

VINCE has been awarded for funding in the framework of the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union (KA3 | Initiatives for policy innovation - Social inclusion through education, training and youth).

Link to VINCE Website