Identifying Scholarship Programs for Refugees – an increasing challenge

Identifying Scholarship Programs for Refugees – an increasing challenge

Academic scholarship opportunities for refugees from war-torn countries like Syria are plentiful; unfortunately, for applicants, accessing useful information is often complicated and navigating a university’s bureaucracy is extremely strenuous and time-consuming.

In researching scholarships for Refugee Pathways, an NGO that provides comprehensive information for displaced people related to complementary resettlement, I found that many universities were excited to use their refugee scholarships to highlight the work they do in their community and for refugees and other displaced persons in need of continuing education. For interested students, alumni or community members, some schools offer quotes and feel-good stories in press releases about refugees who had previously benefited from these scholarships. However, for would-be-applicants, many schools did not provide easy-to-use information about academic scholarships.

Information regarding an application deadline or required documentation and other materials, as well as information pertaining to application fees often remained challenging to identify for people who are looking for scholarships designated for refugees. Oftentimes, university websites do not have a web page dedicated to their scholarships for refugees, making such opportunities difficult to identify. When available, universities buried required information deep down on a website – frequently in sections, I would not have assumed.

Unfortunately, many of the schools based in North America that I researched had no information available online. Most schools only listed a contact person in the press release announcing a certain scholarship, and some of those contacts did no longer work for the university when I emailed to inquire about the scholarship and application process. At this point, the only option for finding the necessary information was to call the university, which would be outrageously expensive and challenging for refugees living outside the country and difficult for those not comfortable speaking in English.

It was not very easy to identify who to contact regarding a specific scholarship, and when calling a university, such calls would lead to hours on the phone navigating through the university system to reach the right person. This was because few persons knew who the point of contact was for a specific scholarship program. Sometimes, I would spend hours on the phone only to find out that the scholarships that I previously identified online were no longer available. When the scholarships were still available, I worked with university administrators to gather application information so we could publish these opportunities on the Refugee Pathways’ website and social media platforms. You can see an example of our work here.

For those living in or having fled war zones, navigating the labyrinth of university bureaucracy is a barrier. Imagine if it is increasingly challenging for us to identify complementary resettlement opportunities such as scholarships, how difficult might it be for a displaced person affected by war and conflict who does not fluently speak English and has little means to call a university for assistance in the application process?

Our work at Refugee Pathways builds an informational bridge between refugees and academic opportunities at universities around the world. More broadly, the team at Refugee Pathways works to serve the humanitarian needs of displaced people by providing reliable information on complementary resettlement pathways as they seek legal protection and safety through relocation. Our goal is to empower refugees in their decision-making process and search for legal and safe passage. It is our mission to do this through an online platform providing free access to comprehensive information concerning legal and safe complementary relocation programs, such as humanitarian visas, family reunification, academic scholarships as well as private sponsorship programs to ensure that every displaced person can reach safety in a dignified manner.

By Caleb Reed for Refugee Pathways