University scholarships available for refugee students

Universities around the world offer scholarships, grants and bursaries to refugee students. Use this guide to find what financial support is available in the US, UK, Canada, Australia and beyond

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Joy Hunter

Student content curator
October 12 2021
Scholarships for students with refugee status


The higher education sector has a huge role to play in supporting and promoting the rights of asylum seekers and refugees around the world.

As places of learning and research, universities are uniquely placed to advocate for human rights and promote learning about refugees and what it means to seek sanctuary.

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Universities can also play a practical role in helping students with refugee status by providing the protection and financial support they need to gain access to higher education. 

Many institutions around the world offer scholarships, grants and bursaries to students who have been forced to leave their home country. Each scholarship has different application criteria, deadlines and levels of financial support.

Below is a list of just some of the scholarships available to refugee students. There will be many others that we haven’t listed so be sure to use this as a starting point and conduct your own research to find the right scholarship for you. 

Other useful resources for refugee students include the UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, which has an extensive database of higher education opportunities for refugees at universities around the world. While it doesn’t focus on scholarships, the Scholars at Risk Network also provides lots of advice and opportunities, as well as a comprehensive list of further resources for refugee students.

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Scholarships for refugee students at UK universities

Article 26 and Sanctuary Scholarships – the Article 26 project works in partnership with Universities of Sanctuary to provide a scholarship covering full tuition fees for foundation, undergraduate and postgraduate courses in the UK, plus a bursary of up to £15,285.

The scholarships have been widely rolled out across UK universities. Participating institutions include the University of Bristol, Keele University, De Montfort UniversityUniversity of SalfordUniversity of Sussex and University of Manchester.

To apply for the scholarship, you must have a place confirmed at a participating university and apply through your institution. You must also hold one of the following immigration statuses, either in your own right or as a dependent:

- Are a UK asylum seeker
- Have submitted an application to the UK Home Office for recognition as a refugee
- Have been granted UK Discretionary Leave to Remain (DLR) or Limited Leave to Remain (LLR) because of an application for asylum.

You must also have a household income of under £25,000 and be ineligible to apply for support from Student Finance England because of your current immigration status.

Birkbeck, University of London Compass Project  the Compass Project is a fund that provides up to 20 students per year with a tuition fee waiver plus an additional bursary to study a university-level programme at Birkbeck, University of London. Applicants must not be eligible to apply for student finance through the UK government.

University of Bath Refugee Bursary a bursary of up to £7,000 for students enrolled on foundation or undergraduate courses at the University of Bath who hold humanitarian protection or refugee status.

University of Cambridge Rowan Williams Studentship – established by the Cambridge Trust, this scholarship covers the full costs of studying (including tuition and living costs) for any degree programme at the University of Cambridge. Applicants need to be from a conflict zone or area of instability, or have been at risk of discrimination, persecution, or another human rights abuse in their home county. You do not need to have formal refugee status to apply.

University of Dundee Humanitarian Scholarship covers tuition fees for postgraduate degrees plus a monthly stipend towards accommodation for students with asylum seeker, humanitarian protection or refugee status.

Goldsmiths University of London International Response Scholarship – offers a full tuition fee waiver and an allowance of up to £8,825 to students with refugee status in the UK. Up to four scholarships are available per year: two for undergraduate programmes and two for postgraduate programmes.

Student Action for Refugees has compiled an extensive list of more than 70 scholarship and bursary opportunities in the UK for refugees, asylum seekers and students with DLR/LLR status.

Scholarships for refugee students at US universities

Charterup National Scholarship for Immigrants and Refugees – an annual one-off bursary of $10,000 to a refugee student at a participating US university.

Students of Salaam Immigrant Student Scholarship awards four scholarships a year worth $3,000 to students who have immigrated to the United States, including refugees. Scholarship recipients will also receive individual career mentorship.

Columbia University Scholarship for Displaced Students  provides full tuition, plus housing and living assistance to students pursuing any undergraduate or graduate degree at Columbia University.

Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans – offers 30 merit-based fellowships worth $90,000 to immigrants and children of immigrants who are pursuing graduate school in the United States.

Scholarships for refugees at Australian universities

ANU Humanitarian Scholarship  covers the full cost of tuition plus an annual stipend to students with an offer for any undergraduate programme at Australian National University. Applicants must be asylum seekers with a Bridging Visa Temporary Protection Visa or Safe Haven Enterprise Visa.

Monash Humanitarian Scholarship – covers the full cost of tuition plus an annual stipend of AUD$6000 to students with an offer for any undergraduate programme at Monash University. Applicants must be asylum seekers with a Bridging Visa Temporary Protection Visa or Safe Haven Enterprise Visa.

University of the Sunshine Coast Asylum Seeker Scholarship – covers full tuition plus an annual stipend of AUD $4000 to asylum seekers on any undergraduate or postgraduate scholarship. Two scholarships are available per year.

Check out Australia’s Refugee Education Special Interest Group website to explore its extensive database of scholarships for refugees in Australia.

Scholarships for refugees at Canadian universities

World University Service Canada Student Refugee Programme – this programme supports registered refugees who have been living in Syria, Lebanon, Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania or Uganda for at least three years by sponsoring their entry to Canada and waiving tuition fees for their first year of study. The programme supports more than 130 refugee students per year through active partnerships with over 80 Canadian institutions.

David Johnston Waterloo Awards for Refugee Students – a range of bursaries is available for refugee students at the University of Waterloo who have come to Canada through the Student Refugee Programme.

Other university scholarships available for refugee students

Open Learning Initiative University Preparatory Program (OLIve-UP) at Central European University, Vienna – this is a full time, fully funded university preparatory programme for people with refugee status, or are in refugee-like conditions, from around Europe. 

UNHCR/JELA Vocational Education Programme for refugees in Japan – this programme is a joint offering from the UN’s refugee agency and the Japan Evangelical Lutheran Association. It covers full tuition fees and other study costs for refugees in Japan pursuing vocational degrees.

Borderless Higher Education for Refugees Scholarships – covers tuition and related study costs for refugee students on several specially designed undergraduate programmes at participating universities, including York University in Canada and Kenyatta University in Kenya.

Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative – funded by the German government and implemented worldwide by UNHCR, this programme grants a range of scholarships to refugees at universities, colleges and polytechnics in their host countries.

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