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Aiming Higher

Aiming Higher

UNHCR’s refugee higher education programmes support talented refugee scholars and enable them to pursue university degrees or similar higher education qualifications.

Our goal is to provide access to higher education for at least 15% of refugees by 2030.
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Investing in the future

Our vision is a future where all refugees are included in the communities that host them, and where refugees can find meaningful employment. We look forward to a future where refugees are not only self-reliant but vital contributors to local economies.

Expanding access to higher education is fundamental to achieving this vision.

Yet, right now, refugees are still battling against the odds. Just 7% of refugees are currently enrolled in higher education, compared to a global average of 42%.

UNHCR is calling on companies, foundations and individuals to help us reach our 15by30 goal of enabling 15% of refugees to access higher education by 2030.

Will you help us raise $100m to ensure that talented refugee scholars don’t get left behind?

Join our Aiming Higher campaign and invest in the best chance we have for the future – supporting smart, dedicated young minds.

Higher education for refugees not only helps individual scholars, but their whole communities. It paves the way for employment and helps refugees realise their potential to actively contribute to their local economies, whether they have been resettled, are living in a host community, or have returned home.

Are you a refugee or asylum-seeker looking for a way to study at university or pursue other forms of higher education?

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Bernice, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, recently completed a degree in Electrical Engineering in South Africa

“Being a refugee woman in the male-dominated field of engineering is a unique kind of challenge. The DAFI Scholarship not only transformed my academic prospects but also reinforced my belief in the power of empowering women in STEM. It gave me the means to pursue a master’s degree in Italy, enhancing my knowledge, abilities, and perspective on the world.

“One’s gender should never be a hindrance to pursue one’s passion, but rather a reason to smash down stereotypes and tear down boundaries.”

Help students like Bernice with your donation


UNHCR’ refugee scholarships programme

UNHCR’s refugee scholarship programme (DAFI) is the longest-running and largest, standalone higher education scholarship programme for refugees. It has been running for more than 30 years, and in that time, it has supported more than 24,000 young refugees to pursue their undergraduate degrees.

The UNHCR Refugee Scholarship programme not only includes tuition and fees, but also associated costs like housing, transport, materials and food. This means that refugee scholars can focus fully on their learning and reach their potential.

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56 countries

currently hosting DAFI students

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over 24,000 young refugees

supported to undertake tertiary studies since 1992

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18,818 applications

to the DAFI programme in one year

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Sahar, a Syrian refugee, is currently studying English-Arabic Interpretation in Jordan

“The DAFI scholarship helps me to continue my education, I thought the scholarship will only cover my tuition fees, then I had my first meeting with DAFI team, and they provided lots of concrete help in terms of psychological support. I figured out it's not just a scholarship that covers the tuition fees to go to university, it's a scholarship that supports you psychologically and financially.”


Helping refugees overcome challenges

Refugee scholars face many challenges, but it does not stop them from excelling in their chosen disciplines. The programme has an extremely low dropout rate, of 1% on average.

The UNHCR refugee scholarship programme is:

  • Cost-effective: On average, a scholarship costs just $3,200 per year, including tuition, fees and living costs.
  • Fair and inclusive: The programme actively ensures there is equal and inclusive access.
  • Focused on career readiness: Students have access to career readiness trainings, skills training, internships and mentoring, as well as volunteering and networking opportunities, to improve their employability and preparedness for the world of work.

Digital higher education

Since the COVID pandemic, there has been an increased focus on the role that digital technologies can play in unlocking higher education opportunities for refugee students.

Digital higher education combines in-person and online learning to bring flexible, accredited and contextual learning to refugees. It also enables students to connect with top-tier universities all over the world, wherever they may be living.

Digital higher education programmes are hosted in connected learning centres, within refugee communities. These centres are managed and facilitated by refugees themselves, who collaborate with UNHCR and universities to make academic courses and support services available to students.

There are a range of benefits to digital higher education programmes. This way of learning creates opportunities for refugees who can’t otherwise access higher education due to policy or logistical barriers. They also have access to a wide range of courses and greater flexibility in how to study.

Learning digitally also helps refugee students to find online employment, whether that’s in their host country or somewhere else entirely, giving them the greatest chance to find work.

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Liudmyla, a Ukrainian refugee studying Business Management in Slovakia

“Leaving [Ukraine], I made a promise that I would do everything to acquire certain knowledge and skills that would help me and my country in the post-war period.

“I took part in the DAFI program, which helped me develop in the directions in which I was interested. For example, it was an opportunity to improve [my knowledge of] Slovak and English languages, which I am sure I will need in the future. Thanks to the DAFI program, I got the opportunity to visit some countries and learn more about their culture and traditions.”


Ways to support Aiming Higher

It costs an average of $3,200 to cover the cost of a year’s scholarship place and $12,800 for the whole length of a degree.

By joining our Aiming Higher campaign, you’re not just helping individual students, but their families, their communities, and beyond. The potential impact of your support is limitless.

Make a personal donation

Provide a young refugee scholar with the opportunity to attend higher education, or contribute towards the cost of books, transport and living costs.

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Fundraise with your organization

We can support you and your team to create a memorable experience for employees or members and raise funds for refugee scholars. 

Please contact Anna Petursdottir ([email protected]) for more information.

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Support via your company or foundation

Your company or foundation can ensure that refugee scholars can become the leaders of tomorrow. 

Please contact Jessica Sutton ([email protected]) for more information.

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