Higher education nurtures a generation of future change-makers that can take the lead in identifying solutions to refugee situations. Higher education is a priority for UNHCR outlined in the Education Strategy 2012-2016, forming an integral part of UNHCR's protection and solutions mandate.
UNHCR's DAFI higher education scholarship programme, best known by its acronym DAFI, plays an integral role in enabling refugees worldwide to access higher education .Since its inception in 1992,, the DAFI programme has grown considerably, enabling over 2,240 refugee students annually to study at universities and colleges in 41 countries of asylum in 2014.
The DAFI programme enables young refugees to continue post-secondary education and motivates refugee children to stay in school and succeed academically. For students and graduates, the DAFI programme serves as a foundation for social and professional development, allowing them to build careers in competitive fields of employment. The social returns of the DAFI programme exceed investment at the individual level. Highly educated refugees reduce economic and psychological dependence of whole communities in asylum, improving their self-reliance and preparing them for long-term solutions.
The strategic priorities of the DAFI programme are to:
- Promote self-reliance and empowerment of the sponsored student and his/her family with the skills needed for gainful employment;
- Develop qualified human resources and build the capacity and leadership of talented refugees in order to contribute to the process of reintegration in the home country upon repatriation;
- Contribute to the refugee community pending a durable solution or repatriation (many graduates work in refugee camps, particularly as teachers and community workers);
- Facilitate integration, temporary or permanent, and contribute skills to the host country, if repatriation is not or not yet possible;
- Provide a role model for other refugee students, particularly for girls to advance their education and demonstrate benefits of education.