Access to education


Country Report: Access to education Last updated: 15/05/23


Nikola Kovačević

The right to education is a constitutional right in Serbia further governed by a number of laws, primarily the Law on Basics of the Education System.[1] Specific degrees of education are regulated by the Law on Primary Education,[2] the Law on Secondary Education,[3] and the Law on Higher Education.[4]

Under the Law on Basics of the Education System, foreign nationals, stateless persons and persons applying for citizenship shall have a right to education on an equal footing and in the same manner as Serbian nationals.[5] The Asylum Act also guarantees the right to education of asylum seekers and persons granted asylum.[6] A person granted asylum is entitled to preschool, primary, secondary and higher education under the same conditions as citizens of Serbia.[7] It is also important to highlight that primary school is free and mandatory, and that underage asylum seekers are to be ensured access to education immediately, and no later than three months from the date of the asylum application.[8] Secondary education is also free of charge, but is not prescribed as mandatory.

The Integration Decree foresees assistance by the Commissariat for Refugees and Migrations to persons recognised as refugees in entering the educational system.[9] The Commissariat is to assist recognised refugees who are children and enrolled in pre-school, elementary and high-school education, as well as illiterate adults, who are to be enlisted in adult literacy programmes in cooperation with the Ministry of Education. The assistance provided to children includes provision of textbooks and education material, assistance in having foreign degrees recognised, learning support and financial support for engaging in extracurricular activities.[10] However, the Government’s Decision failed to recognise persons seeking or granted asylum as a category entitled to free of charge textbooks.[11] Thus, the Integration Decree is not harmonised with the Government’s Decision governing free of charge textbook

The Professional Instruction on the Inclusion of Refugee/Asylum Seeker Students in the Education System of Serbia further regulates access to education for refugee children.[12] If the refugee children have proof of prior education, enrolment is made according to their age and level of education completed.[13] On the other hand, if they do not have any proof of prior education, enrolment is based on a test which aims to assess their level of knowledge.[14] For each student, the school is required to develop a Support Plan that should include an adaptation and stress management programme, an intensive Serbian language programme, an individualised teaching activities programme, and an extracurricular activities programme.[15]

The alignment of rights to higher education represents a novelty because refugees before could access higher education only under the conditions applicable to all other foreign citizens, including regarding school fees. Although the issue of the validation of foreign diplomas potentially concerns all recognised refugees, still their validation is most wanted in the sectors where employment is conditioned by the possession of an adequate license such as medicine or law practice.[16] However, the problem regarding validation lies in the fact that refugees must cover the costs of this process by themselves. For now, the costs of validation are covered by NGOs.[17]

The Integration Decree also foresees Serbian language courses and courses of Serbian history, culture and constitutional order for persons recognised as refugees. The persons entitled to Serbian language courses are those who do not attend regular schools in Serbia, those who do, and persons older than 65. Persons not attending regular schools are entitled to 300 school periods of Serbian languages classes during a single school year, while those engaging in businesses requiring university education may be provided with another 100 periods in a school year. Persons attending school have the right to be provided an additional 140 school periods of Serbian language classes, whereas those above 65 are provided with 200 school periods of the Serbian language adapted to the needs of everyday communications. The courses may be provided at regular or foreign language schools, whereas the adapted Serbian language classes may likewise be provided by enterprises suggesting a suitable programme and capable of employing the required staff.[18] The classes are to be provided in the area where these persons reside, and if this is not possible, transport costs are to be covered by the Commissariat.

The Commissariat is to enlist the person in question in a Serbian language course within two months of the decision to grant asylum becoming final. If the person does not attend the courses without good cause, they lose the right to new or additional language classes.

Concerning the study of Serbian culture, history and constitutional order, persons recognised as refugees are provided lessons that may, in total, last up to 30 hours annually. Again, if the person does not attend the classes, the Commissariat is not obliged to provide for new or additional ones.[19]

The conclusion that can be made is that access to education is more or less adequately guaranteed in the legal framework, but an entire set of problems still exists in practice. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) urged Serbia to facilitate more effective inclusion of children, including migrants, to be included in primary education.[20]

All children granted asylum regularly attend elementary or secondary school.

In 2021, with the help of the UNHCR office in Serbia, the ENRIC/NARIC Center of the Qualification Agency of the Republic of Serbia joined the Council of Europe project of the European Qualification Passport for Refugees.[21] The outcomes of this project are yet to be seen in 2022, but there were at least 4 foreign diplomas recognised in 2022.




[1] Official Gazzette, no. 88/17 and 27/18.

[2] Official Gazzette, no. 55/13, 101/17 and 27/18.

[3] Official Gazzette, no. 55/13, 101/17 and 27/18.

[4] Official Gazette, no. 88/17, 27/18 – other laws and 73/18.

[5] Article 3(5) Law on Basics of the Education System.

[6] Articles 55 and 64 Asylum Act.

[7] Article 64 Asylum Act.

[8] Article 55 (2) Asylum Act.

[9] Article 2(4) Integration Decree.

[10] Article 6 Integration Decree.

[11] Decision on Financing Procurement of Textbooks from the Budget of the Republic of Serbia for School Year 2019/2020, No. 451–2660/19, RS Government (Belgrade, 21 March 2019), Official Gazette no. 22/19.

[12] Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development Instruction No. 601-00–00042/17–2018 of May 2017.

[13] Ibid, 1-2.

[14] Ibid. 2.

[15] Ibid, 3.

[16] BCHR, The Right to Asylum in the Republic of Serbia 2018, 87-88.

[17] BCHR, The Right to Asylum in the Republic of Serbia 2019, 178,

[18] Article 4 Integration Decree.

[19] Article 5 Integration Decree.

[20] CERD, Concluding Observations on the Combined Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Periodic Reports of Serbia, 3 January 2018, CERD/C/Srb/Co/2–5, para. 27 (c).

[21] More on the European Qualification Passport see on the following link:

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection