Aiming Higher

A campaign to fund talented refugee scholars

UNHCR’s Refugee Scholarships Programme (DAFI) enables gifted young refugee students to pursue a university degree or similar higher education. With this campaign, our goal is to give an additional 1,800 refugees across the globe access to higher education by 2023.

Our vision is a future where all refugees are included in the communities that host them. Where refugees are able to participate in education and employment and become not only self-reliant but vital contributors to local economies.

Expanding access to secondary and higher education for refugees is central to achieving this vision which is at the heart of both the Global Compact for Refugees and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Yet, right now, gaining access to higher education is still a battle against the odds for refugees with only 3% enrolled in higher education.

This is why in December 2020, we launched Aiming Higher, a campaign to change this through funding scholarships for talented refugees.

Are you a refugee or asylum-seeker looking for a way to study at a university or pursue other forms of higher education? Click here to browse scholarship opportunities and academic programmes.

The difference you can make

Aiming Higher is a call to invest in the best chance we have for a collective future – smart, dedicated young minds.

Higher education for refugees not only helps the scholars but their whole community. It paves the way for employment and realizes their potential to actively contribute to their local economies; whether refugees are hosted in a country of asylum, have been resettled or have returned home.

Esther, South Sudanese scholar studying Commerce in Uganda

“UNHCR’s Refugee Scholarship (DAFI) has turned my life around, socially and academically. My family has hope that things will change for them. They are waiting for me to graduate, then they will send my younger siblings to university. They will walk in my footsteps.”

We’re calling on you and your companies, organizations, foundations and employees to help raise the HK$178 million needed by 2023 to get 1800 refugee students like Esther into higher education.

Make a personal donation

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

Engage your organization by setting a challenge to raise funds for refugee scholars

We can support you and your team to create a memorable experience for employees or members and raise funds for refugee scholars. Please contact us at [email protected] for more information.

Support Aiming Higher through your company or foundation

Your company or foundation can ensure that refugee scholars can become the leaders of tomorrow. For more information, please contact us at [email protected].

The UNHCR Refugee scholarship programme

UNHCR’s Refugee Scholarships Programme (DAFI) is the longest-running and largest standalone higher education scholarship programme for refugees. Right now, there are students in 53 countries. Over its 28-year history, it has supported more than 18,500 young refugee women and men to pursue their undergraduate degrees.

Monther Alhoshan from Syria, studying law on a UNHCR scholarship

“I was accepted in the programme in 2014. I cannot even describe how I felt that day. I was getting my hopes and my dreams back. Education is everything in my life. Eventually, I want to go back to Syria and serve our people there, by using my skills and my knowledge.”

Help fund scholars likes Monther

The many challenges that refugees face do not stop refugee scholars from excelling in their chosen disciplines. In 2020, only 1% of DAFI students had to repeat an academic year and the programme has an extremely low dropout rate of less than 3%.

Why the UNHCR Refugee Scholarship programme? This programme is:


on average a scholarship costs just HK$25,000 per year

Fair and inclusive

the programme actively ensures there is equal and inclusive access

Focuses on career

though improving the preparedness and employability of students

What we have achieved so far 

In the first five months of the campaign, Aiming Higher has raised over $4 million dollars through the generous investments of corporations and individuals, making it possible for 1,250 scholars to complete one full year of their higher education.

When you multiply that with the communities and people who experience the ripple effect of that education, the impact is almost impossible to fathom. 

And this is only the beginning. With the help of Aiming Higher, the UNHCR scholarship programme is poised to see ever-larger numbers of graduates becoming part of the global refugee scholarship alumni family. 

Other testimonials:

Vickie, a Rwanda scholar studying Administrative Science (IT, languages and computer) in Uganda

“What pushes me to study is to inspire other girls to do the same, to follow my example. I want to be a role model. 

My message to all refugees is: ‘Don’t give up. Keep the candle burning. The sky is not even the limit’.”

Mohammad, a Syrian scholar who did BA in Education and MA in Curriculum Design in Jordan

“Educating the younger generation is the best way for any society to build its future. The more skills I acquired, thanks to my studies and to the scholarships I received, the more confident I felt. My future is looking better now than it did some years ago.”

Learn more about UNHCR’s education programme