Refugee students: a major task of WUS/ EUF in France

L’Entraide Universitaire Française (l’EUF)

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 Française (EUF) but remained a member of international WUS until the end of 1990.

Refugee students in France

EUM and the end of the second world war

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 recognised. EUF established 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 percent 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.

Changes following the end of the cold war

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.

Loyal to original values

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 individualisation of refugee students.

Author profile

Hervé Hamon is the President of Entraide Universitaire Française (EUF).