Aiming Higher

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.

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 5% 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.

Now, UNHCR is calling on companies, foundations and individuals to help raise the further $23 million needed by 2023 to bridge the funding gap and ensure the remaining refugee scholars are not left behind.

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.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency - Esther smiles into the camera. She is a third-year student in commerce at Makerere University in Kampala.

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 $23 million needed by 2023 to get 1800 refugee students like Esther into higher education.

There are three ways to support Aiming Higher:

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

Donate today

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 Anna Petursdottir ([email protected]) for more information about donations to the campaign.

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 Simon Jackson ([email protected]).

About 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.

Are you a refugee or asylum seeker who is looking to obtain a scholarship? Search the range of scholarship opportunities here

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency - Monther Alhoshan smiles happily into the camera, wearing a suit and a tie. One week ago he graduated in law from nearby Al-Albayt University,

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 students like Monther with your donation

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 2%.

The UNHCR Refugee Scholarship programme is:

  • Cost-effective: on average a scholarship costs just $3200 per year. This includes tuition and fees but also associated costs like housing, transport and food.
  • Fair and inclusive: the programme actively ensures there is equal and inclusive access.
  • Focused on career readiness: though improving the preparedness and employability of students. This includes career readiness trainings, skills training, internships and mentoring as well as volunteering and networking opportunities.

What we have achieved so far

Since its launch, Aiming Higher has raised over $15 million dollars through the generous investments of corporations and individuals, making it possible for 1194 scholars to complete four full years of their higher education.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency - Bahati Ernestine Hategekimana looks straight into the camera, hinting a smile. The 25-year old is studying nursing thanks to the DAFI scholarship she won in 2014.

Bahati Hategekimana from Rwanda recently completed a Nursing degree on a UNHCR refugee scholarship

"Thank you for being there for me and for supporting me when the doors of opportunity would open. Passing this exam means that I am finally a registered nurse!"

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.