The Aiming Higher Refugee Scholarship Program

When a child is forced to flee their home, continuing their academic studies becomes very difficult.

Education is a basic human right. It’s a vital to gaining employment and building self-reliance. And yet, for the vast majority of refugees, higher education is still out of reach. Currently, only 5% of refugees around the world are enrolled in post-secondary school. 

The Aiming Higher Refugee Scholarship Program is an opportunity to narrow the education gap and change futures by providing essential support to refugees pursuing higher education. 

Aiming Higher Lifts Up the Entire Community 

Access to higher education leads to better outcomes for individuals and entire nations by improving the ability of citizens to contribute to society. Attaining a degree, diploma or technical certification is a huge step towards employment and independence. 

The  UNHCR’s Refugee Scholarship Program (DAFI) helps refugees gain skills to provide for themselves and give back to their communities as professionals, scholars, and civic leaders. The top five fields of study chosen by scholarship recipients include health and medical science, business administration, social and behavioural science, maths and computer science, and engineering. 

Over its 28-year history, more than 18,500 refugee women and men have been supported to pursue their undergraduate degrees, with refugee scholarship recipients currently studying in 53 countries. 

Our goal is to give an additional 1,800 refugees access to higher education by 2023. Your donation to UNHCR’s Refugee Scholarship Program goes a long way – on average, a scholarship costs just $3,200 USD per year, covering tuition, fees, and living expenses. 

The Impact of Aiming Higher

An Aiming Higher Scholarship recipient, Sara, explains the program’s impact in her own words: 

My name is Sara, and writing to you means a lot to me. It’s thanks to the kindness of people like you that I’m now studying medicine, which has always been my dream. I grew up in Syria and I loved school. To this day, I can recall every detail of my primary school – it was beautiful. I remember my class, the seat where I sat, and my teacher. She was so vital and active, and she loved us very much. My classmates were like my brothers and sisters.


But then war broke out, and we were forced to flee Syria. I was 13. I went from being a girl with a beautiful home and school, to having nothing but a small tent in a camp in Iraq. In the beginning, there was no school and that was the most difficult period of my life. I asked my family if we could go back to Syria so I could complete my education, but it wasn’t safe.  


I remember the day my neighbour told me a school was opening in the camp. You can’t imagine how happy I was. I imagined it would be just like my beautiful school in Syria. It wasn’t. It was a big tent, but that didn’t prevent me from being happy there. I made friends and we encouraged each other to work hard and succeed. There was a teacher who tried to instill in us hope for the future. She used to say,  ‘Hard ways lead to a beautiful ending’. 


Being a refugee is very hard, but for me, hope came from being able to continue my education. When I finished school, I heard about UNHCR’s Refugee Scholarships Programme, and I applied.


I have always loved science. I can’t see someone in pain and do nothing. My goal was to study medicine and achieve my dream of becoming a surgeon. So when I got the call saying I had been awarded a scholarship, I cannot describe my joy or the intensity of my happiness. I told my family and they were even happier than me! My mum distributed sweets to the children in the camp to celebrate. 


Without the scholarship, I wouldn’t have been able to go on to higher education. I would have stayed at home. There are many refugees like me, who could become doctors or teachers or researchers or business owners, and it is them I am thinking of now.


The UN Refugee Agency wants to give an additional 1,800 refugees across the globe access to higher education by 2023, and that means taking action now. It’s my great hope that you will take this chance to help. 


You could help fund a scholarship and create a pathway into higher education for a refugee like me. I’m now in the second year. I work hard because to become a surgeon I need to get high grades. As well as studying, I volunteer with the medical team in the camp to get practical experience and learn from seeing the doctors at work.


For me, medicine is a humanitarian profession, and a chance to save lives. When I’m qualified, I want to open a medical centre that treats patients and refugees for free. I want to make sure everyone gets the medical treatment they need. I want to take their pain away and put smiles on their faces. It means so much to be able to make plans, knowing that I’m on track to achieve them. 


Please, if you are able to, help fund a scholarship so a refugee can have the same opportunities as me to follow their dream and achieve their goal.

Support Refugee Education With UNHCR Canada 

Your donation to UNHCR’s Aiming Higher program will help build pathways to higher education for refugees in Canada and around the world. 

Learn more about how Aiming Higher makes a difference in the lives of young refugees. 

Give to the UNr Refugee Scholarship Program today. 

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