Collaborations facilitating social integration (e.g. administrative procedures, accommodation, language, family issues, socialising)

Social integration, in a narrow sense, may refer mainly to socio-cultural integration enabling the creation of personal connections/networking of international PhD students/researchers/academics, and their family members with their local and other international doctoral and academic fellows. In a broader context, it covers also other integration activities like finding a proper place for living, opportunities for career development, language learning, smooth access to the labour market and education to family members, access to health care, etc. However, also handling all the administrative issues related to relocation (residence permits, health/social insurance, tax, vehicle registration, pets, etc.) in smooth, clear procedures helps a lot for better navigation in the new setting. Being comfortable with the local environment may be substantial to the overall PhD/academics' performance.

Often international welcome centres or one-stop shops established by local/regional/national authorities or associations of several HEIs/research organisations in the city can take over many of the mentioned responsibilities, provide services in a structured manner for a critical mass of clients, promote the city/region efficiently, organise various events about life in the country/city, provide labour-market orientation and dual-career counseling services, offer domestic language courses, etc.

Here we focus on listing possible partners for collaborations to provide more advanced and higher quality services and a broader portfolio of them. Practical steps on how to establish them are also briefly drafted. Although establishing collaborations with numerous external partners might seem a laborious effort, such synergies might bring fruit in clearer/more detailed guidelines, databases, shared responsibilities, better information flow, and even saved human/financial resources.


Better communication and cooperation Improved quality of service Support mental health and wellbeing Improved access to information Improved procedure/efficiency Increased enrollment and retention Enhanced safety and security Social integration Improved visibility

Basic information

Categories Social Integration & Daily Life Family Matters Networking Language Support, Language Policy Accommodation Safety, Healthcare & Wellbeing Administrative & Legal Support Social security, Health Insurance, Taxation Institutional Processes Promotion & Visibility Visa, Residence & Work Permit Profesional & Academic Development Institutional strategy
Mobility stages During mobility phase Institutional setup
Delivery schedule Continuous
Importance Important to have
Scale of organizational change
Target groups PhD student/Early career researcher R2 - R4 researchers Lecturers (incl. Language Teachers) Internationals spouses/family members
Types of contracts of researchers Full degree student Visiting scholar Employee in training (interns, research fellows, postdocs) Fixed term employee Exchange student Permanent employee
Career stages of researchers Less than 6 months 6-12-months of experience 1-3-years of experience 3-10 years of experience 10-15 years of experience
Lengths of stays of researchers 3-6 months 6-12 months More than 12 months

Practice setup

Newly arrived international PhD. students and academics/researchers are in need of provided information and assistance, especially about 1. Registration duties at official authorities, 2. Accommodation, 3. Family settlement - seeking schools/pre-school facilities, job for a spouse, free-time activities, clubs, 4. Health care - finding general practitioners, specialists, paediatricians, dentists; 5. Efficient local travel/parking policies, 6. Local language understanding/speaking, 6. Socialising - building the local network of peers (colleagues, friends, diaspora community), 7. Other after-arrival administrative issues, 8. Further career and professional growth.

To facilitate the speed and scale of integration into everyday life, it is worthy to cooperate with local partners to create synergies and cost-effective approaches. As a result, a broad mix of services enabling both fast and long-term settlement might be designed. Although other practices go into detail of providing hints on the particular assistance (esp. Customised assistance: visa & residence permit, Customised assistance: work-related issues, Customised assistance in offering accommodationCustomised assistance: social integration and daily life issues Networking events for international PhD students and academics/researchers, Networking events for family members), this practice shall provide an overview of various possibilities of collaborations and suggest basic steps for their establishment.

Integration activity

Possible collaborators Possible outputs
Registrations and understanding regulations (residence, health/social insurance, tax)

  • Immigration office

  • EURAXESS centre

  • IOM Migration information centre

  • EURES centre

  • One-stop-shop centre

  • Health insurance company

  • Ministry of Labour 

  • Tax office/Tax Advisor

  • More straightforward and client-friendly procedures and guidelines

  • Commented forms/templates in English

  • Expert consultations as needed

  • Trainings/seminars/webinars for support staff

  • Seminars/webinars for internationals (e.g. taxation duties, labour law specificities, health insurance and sickness benefits, family benefits)

Accommodation - If HEI accommodation capacities are not sufficient

  • Housing owners - e.g. municipality offering council housing or other organisations

  • Real estate agencies

  • Contracted extended housing facilities

  • Accommodation database

  • Ensured reliable client assistance in English for accommodation seeking

  • Rental agreements available in English

  • A commented example of a rental agreement

Schools/pre-school facilities

  • Founders of local public kindergartens/nursery schools (e.g. municipality, regions)

  • International schools and schools with extended English/other languages education

  • Public schools/pre-school facilities

  • National/regional authorities recognising education

  • Contracted day-care centres

  • Established contacts with founders of the local public kindergartens/nursery schools

  • Established contacts with international school headmasters

  • Database of schools/day-care centres

  • Detailed school/pre-school registration guidelines in English

  • Clear education recognition procedures and guidelines

Job seeking for spouses

  • Local branches of international companies (where the command of various global languages might be an asset)

  • Major employers/associations (as potential employers of HEI graduates but also of family members of internationals)

  • Recruiters/Head hunters/HR specialists

  • Career advisors/coaches

  • Municipality

  • Labour law specialists/authorities (national regulations applicable to employment of internationals and general labour conditions)

  • IOM Migration information centre

  • EURES centre

  • One-stop-shop centre

  • Career fairs

  • CV writing tips reviewed by HR specialists

  • Labour/Employment law procedures and guidelines reviewed by experts

  • Job-seeking tips reviewed by HR specialists

  • Seminars/webinars introducing the local labour market, employment conditions applicable to foreigners, labour law specificities

  • CV writing workshops

  • Career coaching sessions, etc.

Health care

  • Health care providers (general practitioners, dentists, major clinics, spas, recreational facilities)

  • Database of various local English/other international language speaking doctors/specialists

  • Contracted GPs/dentists (for all staff from the HEI)

  • Vouchers to clinics (for all staff from the HEI)

  • Employers' contribution to health care products/spas....

Local travel/parking

  • Municipality/local authorities

  • Public transport authorities

  • Clear guidelines related to parking around the workplace

  • Employee/Student card accepted/usable at various institutions including external service and transport providers

Local language learning - in case this service cannot be provided by the HEI via internal resources

  • Language clubs/schools/centres

  • Municipality

  • IOM Migration information centre

  • One-stop-shop centre

  • Expat centres

  • Language courses of the national language as the foreign language at various proficiency levels

  • Signposting to online courses or e-learning modules

  • "Language Cafe"/thematic conversations - in the campus/city with local language experts to ensure conversation on specific topics of interest


  • other HEIs/universities in the city/region

  • Researchers associations (e.g. Eurodoc, the association of young researchers)

  • Municipality

  • Museums/galleries/theatres

  • Expat centres/diaspora network (organised e.g. via social media)

  • Sports associations

  • Foreigners associations (organised e.g. via social media)

  • Language clubs

  • IOM Migration information centre

  • Tourist board

  • One-stop-shop centre

  • Guided city tours

  • International Day

  • Field trips

  • Regular international get-togethers

  • Social hours/coffee/beer hours

  • Board game nights

  • Quises nights

  • Cooking classes

  • Sports events, hikes, concerts

  • Balls/gala

  • Christmas/summer parties

  • Visits to museums/botanical gardens

  • Vouchers/discounts for all HEI staff

Other administrative issues (driving licence, pets, number plate of imported car, bank) - collaborations on demand especially in case of occurring challenges

  • Banks

  • Transport authorities

  • Veterinary clinics

  • IOM Migration information centre

  • One-stop-shop centre

  • More straightforward and client-friendly procedures and guidelines

  • Databases

Career development for academics/PhD graduates/researchers

  • other HEIs/universities in the city/region

  • Career advisors/ trainers/coaches and their associations in various areas

  • EURAXESS Centre

  • Euroguidance Centre

  • Enterprise Europe Network

  • Field-specific employers´ associations

  • Potential non-academic employers of PhD graduates

  • Chambers of commerce

  • Start-up supporters

  • Trainings/seminars/webinars

  • Career talks/profiles

  • Site visits to companies

  • Internships

  • Career/networking/matchmaking fairs

  • External supervisors

  • Coaching/mentoring programmes

  • Spin-offs

One-stop-shops at local/regional level

  • Regional/local organisations set up for the purpose of welcoming of e.g. highly educated internationals, or education/research development staff established by the municipality, regional/national authorities

  • Other HEIs/research organisations in the city

  • IOM Migration Information Centre

  • EURAXESS centre

  • Career centres

  • Cooperation framework based on provided services

  • Mutual signposting

  • Shared/ divided responsibilities

  • Promotion of HEIs/research organisations

When you plan to establish strategic partnerships and effective collaborations consider the following steps

  • First of all - a strong support by the top management of the HEI is needed for building of any type of strategic partnerships. Clear benefits and possible outputs of such collaborations have been stated here.

  • Design survey/collect and analyze data on the target group (incoming Ph.D. students and academics), especially regarding the information on the length of mobility, country of origin, whether they are coming with their family members, what services they need most, and even their ideas (incl. e.g. recommendations for types of social networking events they would appreciate)

  • Explore your local conditions and services for international PhD. students and academics offered by various units within your organization (faculty IROs/Welcome offices, ESN, Research offices, HR departments, etc.). Ensure exchange of information (regular meetings, updated website information)

  • In general - explore potential partner organizations and get in contact with their representatives (see the list above), further

    • introduce goals, benefits for both parties, outcomes, possible impact

    • suggest practical steps and activities on both sides, especially in case of cooperation with other HEIs/unversities and research organisations in the city/region - define the set of jointly offered services,

    • agree on the framework (including funding of services by the partners, time frame), operational rules and details (information flow, responsibilities and cooperating units/departments on both sides, contact details, steps and their timing)

    • define joint visibility/communication efforts

  • In case of collaboration with various national/local authorities - create a pool of experts (immigration, health insurance, social security, taxation, the law of tenancy, labour law, family issues, etc) - regular workshops/seminars with external actors are very effective in building mutual trust and subsequent effective cooperation.

  • For any events directly aimed at PhDs/academics and their family members - plan content, timing (periodicity, duration, time of the day) and structure 

  • Define the best way to communicate the activities (e.g., mailing list, social media, newsletter) - one of the survey questions can be dedicated to the most optimal communication channel, however different services/activities might require different channels.

  • Integrate the advanced/updated services based on collaborations into the daily routine of respective departments/units - in case of need define specific internal procedures and guildelines how to collaborate with different stakeholders, for what purposes, when, how, by whom.

Challenges to consider:

Securing social integration of international PhD students/researchers/academics may be quite demanding for the resources of one single institution, therefore it is important to seek local synergies and establish strategic partnerships and effective collaborations (within respective local contexts - institutions/cities/regions) and thus saving budget and working power, creating critical mass in terms of the number of international PhD students and academics on a local/regional level for effective activities and buddy system, and last but not least creating new ideas/develop activities together. 

Due to current pandemic developments, preventive measures, and possible future trends, more and more events and activities will have to be pursued in an online or at least hybrid format. There will be a higher need for trainings of HEIs support staff to efficiently deliver activities and services in online formats.

Cost of practice setup
Time required for practice setup
Personnel effort required for practice setup
Actors involved in practice setup
  • HR Department
  • IRO/welcome centre
  • PR department
  • Language department
  • Students association
  • Researchers association
  • Career development centre
  • Centre of continuous/adult education
  • Dormitory/accommodation facility
  • Rector's office / Vice-Rector for International Affairs
  • Study department
  • Research office
  • Doctoral school
  • Library
  • Project management office
  • Leisure activities centre (sport centre, museum, garden)
  • Legal department
  • Incubator
  • Centre of language/studies preparation
  • Science park
  • IT support department
  • Quality assurance office
  • Campus health center
  • Communications and Marketing
  • Day-care centre
Partners involved in practice setup
  • Municipality
  • Language centre
  • Tax office
  • IOM migration information centre
  • EURAXESS centre
  • Other HEI/research organisation in city/region
  • Tourist information centre/board
  • Career advisor
  • Real estate agent
  • Immigration office
  • Medical centre
  • Eures office
  • Job platform
  • Museum
  • Employer (with high demand of international staff)
  • Employers association
  • Local NGOs or charities
  • Local healthcare professionals
  • Local school/pre-school facility
Indicators for evaluating progress/quality of practice setup
  • Process organization developed
  • Procedures or bylaws are defined or updated
  • Number of collaboration agreements with external partners
  • Strategic document in place
  • New policy designed
  • A visibility/promotion plan designed
  • Number of processes designed
  • Database filled-in with data
  • Peer learning activity (s) set up
Description of collaboration

Internal Actors

@Rector's Office/ Vice-Rector for international relations, especially in decentralized universities with numerous faculties, the top management bodies may initiate/support setting up a dedicated office/welcome centre at the central level that could provide comprehensive support services and personal assistance to incoming academics, including organizing various social events. The office may provide support to individual faculty IROs, keep in touch with external partners and manage external collaborations. The top management representatives are also crucial for buiding up new partnerships and negotiating official collaborations.

@IRO/welcome centre - central role in coordinating/managing the collaborations with external partners.

@Erasmus Student Network (ESN)/ buddy programme  - in coordination with IRO offices, the local Erasmus Student Network, besides supporting international Bc/Master degree students, can provide a basis/inspiration for support also to incoming international PhD students and academics to adjust to the new environment and facilitate smooth social integration. 

@HEI Career Centre can establish collaborations with companies, and local chambers of commerce which can be also relevant for internationals spouses (dual-career service). They can set up a networking programme matching PhD. students and company employees, enabling PhD. students to join site visits to the participating companies, get introduced to the companies, and have opportunities to network with companies.

@all other internal units/departments - they might be involved based on the specific area of collaboration developed. However, it is essential to think of respective internal departments/units that could be counterparts/experts at the side of the HEI for any developed collaboration.

External collaborators - only selected major ones

@Other HEIs/research organizations in city/region/interregional consortium of universities - local networking is essential for the support of international PhD students and academics. They may join their forces and use the resources more efficiently to create a so-called " one-stop-shop" and plan and offer a joint " Welcome Service", especially, if also smaller institutions are involved. Apart from providing relocation-related information and assistance to incoming internationals, they can also organise joint welcome and other social networking events or even create one mixing place leading to effective networking between local and international PhD students and academics. Locally organized activities have proved to facilitate the integration into a new social community.

@Municipality/City Council - many municipalities have set up a welcome centre providing information, assistance and counselling to all foreigners coming to study, work and live in the area. They run council housing or their own databases of accommodation offers. Negotiations and a partnership with a municipality might secure some accommodation within the council housing. It can be also involved in social networking events, and provide the city/region promotion-related materials in English (e.g, brochures, city/local travel (discount) cards, and a website with various cultural events held in the city/region). City council representatives (ideally, the mayor) could have a welcome speech at the Welcome event. The City council can also promote various events for families (Christmas markets, cultural programmes, summer cultural events, voluntary activities for better social integration of spouses, cultural events where internationals from different countries can present their culture, sports activities (runs), etc). The municipality can also provide a venue/premises for cultural events or talks where also international PhD students and academics could be invited and actively involved in programme (talks, public discussion forum).

See also the actors in delivery for further inspiration.

Practice delivery

Turn the collaborations into practical activities for international PhDs/academics and their family members: 

  • customised assistance provided,

  • welcome package updated,

  • databases filled in with relevant information,

  • information on the website/FAQs with clearer procedures specified,

  • specialised events with experts organised,

  • networking events organised,

  • career training provided,

  • contacts with labour-market representatives enabled,

  • activities for family members organised,

  • language training organised, etc.

In practical delivery of those services Buddy/guide system (voluntary university students/staff members helping internationals get into the social life of the institution, city, or region) might be helpful (see also the practice Welcome buddy/guide for international PhD students, academics and researchers)

Cost of practice delivery
Time required for practice delivery
Personnel effort required for practice delivery
Actors involved in practice delivery
  • IRO/welcome centre
  • PR department
  • Language department
  • Doctoral school
  • Students association
  • Career development centre
Partners involved in practice delivery
  • Municipality
  • Language centre
  • IOM migration information centre
  • EURAXESS centre
  • Other HEI/research organisation in city/region
  • Tourist information centre/board
  • Museum
  • Employer (with high demand of international staff)
  • Local expat centre
  • Local NGOs or charities
Indicators for evaluating progress/quality of practice delivery
  • Number of buddies recruited
  • Average satisfaction rate
  • Number of events organized annually
  • Number of researchers involved in events annually
  • Number of events participants annually
  • Number of trainings implemented annually
  • Number of researchers assisted annually
  • Number of collaborative assistances carried out annually
Description of collaboration


@EURAXESS centre typically provides a wide portfolio of integration services, organises some kind of social events for incoming PhD students/academics/researchers. EURAXESS members also have expertise in mobility-related as well as career development topics and can be invited as guest speakers at various events. It can also promote various events via the national EURAXESS portal and dedicated social media.

@Tourist information office/board in cooperation with IROs can provide materials and professional guides for the guided city tour, during pandemic many of them have prepared virtual city tours, and videos (also in English, or at least with English subtitles) that can be recommended to incoming international students and academics.

@Local ex-pat centre - in several cities ex-pat centres organise welcome events for all internationals on a regular basis, they also organise lectures, seminars on various topics of interest relevant to internationals, inviting internationals to speak and share their experience, or run domestic language cources. 

@IOM Migration information office organises regular webinars on various migration-related topics, and relevant legislation changes offers free language courses for third-country nationals. IOM representatives can be also invited as experts to various events. The IOM legal team can be consulted regarding complicated visa/residence permit issues.

@Local NGOs that are assisting foreigners with an integration process through various volunteering programmes, and educational and networking activities (e.g., Mareena in Slovakia). 

Examples of practice

Dresden Concept Research Alliance


The DRESDEN-concept research alliance was founded in 2010 and currently comprises 33 research institutions, including TU Dresden and local institutions of the Max Planck Society, the Leibniz Association, the Helmholtz Association, and the Fraunhofer Society, as well as renowned, cultural institutions that conduct research.

The mission of DRESDEN-concept is to strengthen cooperation among its partner institutions and identify and exploit synergies in research, teaching, infrastructure, and administration. This is also illustrated by the acronym DRESDEN, which stands for Dresden Research and Education Synergies for the Development of Excellence and Novelty. Examples include identifying and coordinating research priorities, jointly attracting top staff and talents, or the joint use of resources. An integral part of the Dresden concept is a Welcome Centre hosted by the TU Dresden providing a comprehensive portfolio of services to international PhD students, researchers, academics, and their family members (assisting with relocation, administrative duties, accommodation, social integration activities, buddy guide assistance, etc).

By networking across institutional and subject boundaries, DRESDEN-concept offers researchers an ideal environment for science and innovation. The physical proximity of the partners, the sustainable use of infrastructures within the alliance, and the establishment of joint research priorities make Dresden an outstanding location for science.

TU Dresden and its partner institutions are on their way to jointly further develop the Dresden science hub towards a DRESDEN-concept Science and Innovation Campus.

Find out more

Tartu Welcome Centre


4 institutions (the University of Tartu, Estonian University of Life Sciences, Tartu Municipality, and Estonian Ministry of Culture) joined their forces to create a Tartu Welcome Centre to provide support to all foreigners coming to Tartu to settle in. The centre provides assistance with relocation, provides free consultations, assistance with registry services, organises cultural and networking events, collaborates with several real-estate agencies to help with finding proper accommodation for incoming foreigners, etc.

Find out more

Bizkaia Talent Collaboration


Non-profit associative initiative promoted by the Provincial Government of Bizkaia in collaboration with a group of universities and major companies with a clear mission: to foster and facilitate the implementation of the necessary conditions for attracting, connecting, and retaining in Bilbao, the Historic Territory of Bizkaia and the Basque Country in general, highly qualified people in the areas of knowledge and innovation.

The Biskaia Talent offers networking opportunities for international talent coming to the region, relocation assistance, dual career services, Financial Aid Programme, based on collaboration with local companies publishes and promotes jobs for highly qualified internationals, professional support services, fairs and other events.

Find out more

EURAXESS Service Centre Brno Support for international researchers in the South Moravian Region


4 HEIs/research institutions and South Moravian Region joined their forces and created a Support Service centre for all foreigners coming to the South Moravian region (Brno) in the Czech Republic. The centre is funded by the Czech Ministry of education. It offers assistance with visa & residence permit, accommodation, banking, health insurance, medical care, children & family, Czech culture and language, and social
events as well as with career development. When it comes to residence permit application the centre arranges group appointments at the local Immigration Office with the aim to facilitate the residence permit procedure.

Find out more

International House Copenhagen


The International House Copenhagen is a "one-stop-shop" specialising in the reception and retention of international talent. The objective of the house is to provide international newcomers with the best possible start to life in Greater Copenhagen by giving them the comfort of a one-point entry. It provides registration services, organises events, informs on culture and leisure activities in Copenhagen and the vicinity, offers a wide range of job and career programs for international citizens living in many municipalities in Greater Copenhagen, and provides assistance with relocation. All the services are free of charge.

Find out more