WUS International 1920-2020

The office of the WUS International secretariat closed in 1995, nevertheless there remains an active network of WUS committees and contacts globally that work individually and sometimes as partners to deliver projects and programme based on the university community. A brief history of WUS’s remarkable work over a hundred years and the Centenary Celebrations are shown at the bottom of this page.

A key element of WUSI were the biannual international assemblies of country delegates that determined the strategy and policies of the organisation and also elected the International General Secretary.

See the gallery of international photos.

Leysin Assembly, Switzerland 1968

National Committees in 2020

WUS Austria       

World University Service (WUS) Austria is a politically independent, non-governmental organization committed to the promotion of the human right to education on the basis of academic freedom and university autonomy. Since its establishment in Graz in 1983, WUS Austria has been working on the promotion of this aim in various countries all over the world (thus, for example, in the 1980s in Africa, and Southern and Central America). Today the organization has a regional focus on the countries of South-Eastern and Eastern Europe and employs a branch office in Prishtina. While this area remains at the centre of WUS Austria’s work, the organization additionally focuses on other regions such as Central Asia and the Caucasus and is further interested in cooperation with other countries in the world.  

During its more than 35 years of existence WUS Austria has positioned itself as one of the most important operative partners for enhancing knowledge transfer and comparability in Higher Education between EU and non-EU countries. WUS Austria provides operative and technical support and consultancy for a faster, more efficient implementation of the Bologna system and global trends in the Higher Education (HE) sector.
Phone+43 316 382 258
AddressSchmiedgasse 40/3
8010 Graz

WUS Canada    

WUSC (World University Service of Canada)/ EUMC was founded in the 1920s as part of a global network that provided support to displaced students in post-war Europe. Since then, they have evolved into a Canadian global development organization working in over a dozen countries around the world that supports education, economic opportunities, and empowerment for youth, their families, and their communities.

WUSC’s vision is a better world for all young people. It is a more inclusive, equitable, and sustainable world in which all young people, especially women and refugees, are empowered to secure a good quality of life for themselves, their families, and their communities.

WUSC work with a diverse network of students, volunteers, institutions, governments, and businesses to improve education, economic, and empowerment opportunities for young people.
Phone+1 613.798.7477
Address1404 Scott Street, 
K1Y 4M8

WUS Germany        

The core issues of WUS Germany are higher education and defending human rights, especially the human right to education. WUS Germany provides seminars, publications and information. It pursues public relations at political level, institutions, civil society and the media.

WUS Germany takes part in national and international campaigns in the educational and development cooperation sector, offers consulting and carries out scholarship programmes as well as projects. Among its projects are those dealing with Development Education and Global Learning, capacity building for students from Africa, Asia and Latin America and subsidies for experts returning to their countries.

WUS Germany takes part in national and international campaigns in the education and development sector, offers counselling and implements projects.
Phone+49 611 446648
AddressWorld University Service
Deutsches Komitee eV
Goebenstrasse 35
65195 Wiesbaden

WUS in other countries

WUS Denmark (Oxfam / lBIS Denmark)

Oxfam IBIS originates from the world-wide, university-based organisation, World University Service (WUS) founded in the early 1920s. Its work continues in 2020 absorbed into Oxfam Denmark.

Oxfam/IBIS is the Danish member of the Oxfam Confederation , its website describes the full range of its work
Phone+45 35 35 87 88
AddressVesterbrogade 2B
1620 Copenhagen V

WUS / EUF in France

L’Entraide universitaire française/French University Service

L’Entraide universitaire française (l’EUF) is the successor to l’Entraide Universitaire Mondiale (EUM), the French committee of World University Service. EUM was created in 1933 by a group of eminent French intellectuals. Between 1933 and 1939 the French WUS committee participated in international conferences on problems of the university and gave help to students in France who were refugees of the growing Nazism in the German universities. When France was liberated in 1944, the French committee of WUS became autonomous under the name Entraide Universitaire Français (EUF) but remained a member of international WUS until the end of 1990.

At the end of World War 2 EUF affirmed as its cardinal value “the fraternity between universities of all countries and all religions, students and professors, both forming a community of ‘intellectual workers’”. The organisation’s focus was on refugee students in France, recognising their potential contribution to French intellectual life. It was also considered as a modest exemplar of French intellectual, scientific and cultural presence in the world, which earned it important but indirect finance from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.    

In 1970 the additional support needs of refugee students were recognized. EUF established several two cabins in the Alps and a hostel in Paris, supported by French student organisations. Further, in 1979 EUF participated in the creation of the Foundation Entraide-Hostater to assist French and foreign students in the period from the end of their studies till they entered the labour market.

1945-1980 marked the Cold War and by 1970, 80% of EUF’s 290 scholarship holders were from eastern Europe. They were followed by refugees from Cambodia and Vietnam, and then from the dictatorships of Latin America and Africa. Over 10,000 students were assisted during that 36 year period. 

There have been a number of changes following the end of the Cold War. With the multi-polarisation of the world, the country of origin of scholarship recipients multiplied and the participation of women grew. There were also profound changes to French higher education with massive increases in places and demand for more employment-oriented courses together with a diversification of institutions. Employment-ready, professional studies became more important to refugee students and the flight from classical courses in Law, Letters and Sciences was encouraged by the public financiers. Several ministries became involved complicating the situation for refugees, necessitating individualised advice as well as ensuring that students had mastered the French language.

By the end of the 1990s, the European Union had become the most important financial contributor to EUF, with the support of the French state. This took place through the medium of the European Fund for Refugees (2010-2013) followed by the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (2014-2020). This in turn has led to change in the EUF field of activity with diversification of assistance: fewer classical scholarships and more assistance for housing, purchase of educational materials, new enrolments etc. In addition to subventions from the French state and European organisations, support is also received from private institutions. 

Throughout its long history, EUF has always adapted its modes of action to the evolution of the international context, the university and public policies regarding refugees. Today, it remains loyal to its original values: international university solidarity and the associated individualization of refugee students.

See more information about EUF.
Phone+33 01 45 77 24 90
+33 01 45 77 91 69
Address40 rue Rouelle
75015 Paris

WUS Sri Lanka    

at University of Moratuwa

See the WUS Sri Lanka Annual report for 2019/2020.
Phone+94 77 6108505
AddressUniversity of Moratuwa
Sri Lanka


European Student Relief’s UK Committee was established in the 1920s, it became International Student Service (UK )in 1926, then WUS (UK) in 1950 and finally it was renamed Education Action International in 2001 before its demise at the end of 2007.

Following the creation of the WUS UK archive at the Modern Record Centre in 2010 an international symposium was held at Warwick University to discuss Chilean refugees in exile in the UK, many of whom had been funded by WUS(UK)

Research projects have been established in the last decade involving academics, former staff and former refugee awards holders a research project was developed in 2016 on WUS (UK) programme for Chilean refugees in Exile (1973-86).

In 2021 a doctoral programme will begin to study the WUS (UK) programme for Ethiopian and Eritrean Refugee students (1977-1988).

More information can be found under WUS (UK) and the Archives on this website.

WUS national committee contacts and offices

There is a useful list of historic WUS contacts and WUS Committees maintained by WUS Germany. Some are relevant today, including those of the three extant committees in Austria, Canada and Germany, with their partners around the world, while some others including WUS (UK) are historic and date back to the 1990s. The Committees in Austria and Canada also have their own offices and partners throughout the world, with details found by exploring their websites.

WUS Centenary 1920-2020

The major extant WUS Committees in Austria, Canada and Germany have come together to organise a programme to celebrate 100 years of WUS. Originally the three national committees planned joint action whereby WUS Austria would convene an International Centenary Conference, WUS Germany would coordinate the publication of a book to mark the centenary and WUS Canada would develop a research project to create an archive on WUS International. The Covid 19 pandemic has delayed each of these projects, nevertheless they are progressing successfully.

Centenary Conference

The Conference was initially planned for May 2020 in Vienna, rescheduled once for November 2020 and now due to take place in Vienna 21-23 September 2021. See full details about the Centenary Global Conference on “The human right to quality education” on the WUS Austria Website.

Centenary Book

The centenary book is available online on this website.

Centenary WUSI Archival Project

See more about the archives.

A Brief History of WUS International

The first 50 years 1920-1970

In 1920 European Student Relief was established at a meeting of the World Student Christian Federation in Switzerland to respond to the crisis facing students and the university community after the First World War. “Famine, disease and death were stalking Central and Eastern Europe” but the relief work always had the emphasis of help to self-help. By 1926 the major targets of the work had been achieved. Now transformed into International Student Service (ISS), the organisation was determined to promote the service of students toward a lasting peace. Sadly, its work was terminated in 1939.

ISS/WUS International Office 1920-70 in the old town of Geneva Hotel Buissan, 13 Rue Calvin,

ISS was a coordinating body of European Student Relief Fund and World Student Relief from 1939 -1950 during and after the Second World War when it was then established as World University Service with a new global role. The organisation continues today, with its work between 1920 and 1969 described in the publication “50 Years of WUS”.

The second fifty years ( 1970- 2020)

In the 1970s and 1980s WUS was a substantial international movement with committees in over 50 countries of the world running domestic and sometimes international programmes in conjunction with the International Secretariat of WUS based in Geneva. Major funding came from its work in combating racism and apartheid, particularly for work with Rhodesia before independence in 1980 and South Africa before majority rule in 1994. A second major funding stream was to support the refugee scholarship programme which in addition to Southern Africa was extended to refugees from the military coup in Chile in 1973.

Congress of South African Students struggling against Apartheid

By the time that South Africa became a democracy, WUS International faced a major financial crisis and by 1995 it closed down its international office in Geneva though two projects continued in the Netherlands and in Chile.

A number of major institutions that WUS helped establish continue today including World University Service health centres at university campuses in Delhi. Other WUS national committees merged with other national organisations including WUS Denmark that transitioned via IBIS into being part of Oxfam Denmark.

Over time, without the stimulus and coordination of an international secretariat, WUS national committees faded, some gradually, some abruptly. By 2020 there were three major extant WUS Committees in Austria, Canada and Germany, each with many contacts, projects and offices in different parts of the world. As can be seen above, there are other committees and contact that are still active. They carry the name and support the principles of dignity and justice that WUS always stood encapsulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Today, without a WUS international secretariat, they are no longer part of a united global movement nevertheless, they are cooperating together in a number of areas including the centenary events.