The integration of descendants of immigrants is one of the main challenges facing education systems in Europe. Portugal is no exception - the significant presence of this population, in particular with African origin, in schools in major urban areas has made an important impact in sociological research in recent years, contributing to the reinterpretation of old and new social inequalities. Little is known, however, about the educational paths of these students and their inclusion in higher education. There is a growing number of students with immigrant background in European Higher Education, showing the generational advancement and extension of the residence time of young people in the host or birth countries (Bohonnek et al. 2010, Koucký et al., 2010; Singh, 2011).
In the realm of scientific production, there are still few studies which account for the trajectories of the descendants of immigrants at such an advanced level as higher education (Fernandez-Kelly & Portes, 2008). Despite evidences of a progressive shortening of the differences between native students and those of immigrant origins in the lowest levels of education, these seem to persist in the highest levels (Kao & Thompson, 2003). At the same time, existing studies point to a progressive rise in the presence of immigrant descendants in higher education (Kim, 2011).
Another tendency observed in this level of education is that of higher levels of school failure among students of immigrant origins (Griga & Mühleck, 2011), which takes shape through lower school success, less intense study practises, higher rates of delayed grade conclusion, and lower interactions with academic staff (Walpole, 2008), as well as an accumulated disadvantage due to previously unsuccessful school trajectories (Jackson, 2012) and a higher probability of abandonment (Broecke & Nicholls, 2007; Singh, 2011).
Lately, a number of policy initiatives have arisen which promote diversity and multiculturalism in this level of education; however, they did not have an impact on the reduction of perceived discrimination among students of immigrant origins, namely in the UK (Stevenson, 2012).
The idea of proportionality, which is vastly disseminated in the European context and is associated with the promotion of equity, suggests that higher education “should reflect the diversity of the population” (London Communiqué, 2007; Santiago et al., 2008), and should thus necessarily include diversity in terms of national and ethnic origins.
The access of young people of immigrant origins to higher education represents an important indicator of social inclusion and of impact of public policies. This emerging reality is the research focus of the project "Educational Paths of young Africans (PALOP) that access higher education".
Bohonnek, A., A. F. Camilleri, D. Griga, K. Mühleck, K. Miklavič & D. Orr (2010). Evolving Diversity: An overview of equitable access to HE in Europe, EQUNET Consortium,
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