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DAFI Scholarship Programme FAQs

The DAFI (Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative) scholarship programme offers qualified refugee students the possibility to earn an undergraduate degree in their country of asylum. Through the dedicated support of the German Government, UNHCR and private donors, the programme has supported over 15,000 young refugees to undertake tertiary studies since 1992. The strategic priorities of the DAFI programme are to:

  • Promote self-reliance of sponsored students through opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship;
  • Empower students to contribute knowledge, skills and leadership, and to facilitate peaceful coexistence with host communities during displacement and upon return;
  • Strengthen the protective impact of education by encouraging lifelong learning;
  • Provide role models for refugee children and youth to demonstrate the impact of education on individuals, communities and societies.

The scholarship covers a range of costs, including tuition, fees, study materials, food, transportation, accommodation and other expenses. To amplify academic achievement and skills development, DAFI scholars receive additional support through close monitoring, academic preparatory and language classes based on students’ needs, as well as mentoring and networking opportunities.

DAFI scholarships are offered in over 50 countries. Please see the DAFI scholarship page for more information.

The number of scholarships offered in a country depends on the availability of tertiary education opportunities for refugees and funding for the DAFI Programme overall. Factors influencing the allocation of scholarships across countries include: access to higher education; size of refugee population and location; education policies; quality and availability of secondary school; quality of educational institutions; overall cost of scholarship; support systems available to students; post-graduate employment opportunities and other aspects.

The DAFI Programme covers a range of costs depending on the design and needs of the specific country programme and may include:

  • Registration/Tuition Fees: The scholarship covers most registration and tuition fees. In many countries, refugees pay the same fees as national students. In others, refugees are required to pay fees applicable to international students, which are often considerably higher. Registration and tuition fees are generally paid directly to the institution.
  • Subsistence Allowance: Students receive a subsistence allowance to cover costs such as accommodation, food, books and study materials, and local transportation. Allowances are set based on cost of living assessments for the programme location and adjustments are made to reflect changed circumstances during the study period. Housing allowance is intended to cover the costs of secure, appropriate housing on or near the university campus. Where students live with their family or other in-kind arrangements, accommodation is not paid. Local travel allowance covers the daily travel between the university and home, or to an internship or research site. Health care is also included either via existing health care systems or university/campus medical and health services.
  • Student activities: Participation in the DAFI programme often includes a variety of student activities, leadership opportunities, internship support, networking, training and educational events, volunteering and community engagement activities.

To be eligible for the DAFI scholarship programme, candidates must:

  • Have refugee status or be registered with UNHCR or the government in the country of asylum;
  • Have successfully completed secondary school to a standard sufficient to perform and succeed at a tertiary level;
  • Have no other financial means of support for university studies;
  • Select a course of study that is likely to lead to employment in the country of asylum or country of origin;
  • Be 28 years or younger at the beginning of studies;
  • Have no other family member receiving a DAFI scholarship.
  • Individuals with an advanced resettlement process;
  • Individuals above 28 years of age (exceptions may be made depending on circumstances);
  • Individuals who already hold a tertiary or higher-level degree.

The DAFI Programme supports socio-economically disadvantaged and academically deserving refugee students in the first country of asylum. Selection criteria include:

  • Academic merit;
  • No means of financial support for university studies;
  • Proficiency in the language of instruction;
  • Demonstrated commitment to community engagement.


Other aspects to take into account throughout selection are:

  • Disruption of prior tertiary level study due to displacement;
  • Gender parity;
  • Inclusion of diverse applicants – including with respect to location, ethnic, religious, gender orientation.

DAFI scholarships support undergraduate courses of no more than four years’ duration. The programme seeks to make as many scholarships available as possible; as such, longer courses, such as in medicine, will normally not be supported. On an exceptional basis, scholarships may be granted for a longer degree where the programme of study was interrupted and four or fewer years remain to complete the programme in the country of asylum.

Universities and higher education institutions must be nationally accredited. Applicants are encouraged to seek career counselling and guidance about their choice of study. UNHCR offices or their respective DAFI partners may be able to offer pre-application support. During the selection process, applicants should be able to clearly express their reasons for having chosen the particular study subject and relate their choice to expected future employment opportunities or personal ambition.

  1. Verify that there is a DAFI Programme in your country of asylum.
  2. Confirm that you meet the above-mentioned criteria.
  3. Contact the respective UNHCR country office to receive a country specific application form.
  4. Complete the application form and submit as indicated with supporting documents.

NOTE: Applications may not be submitted to UNHCR offices in Geneva or Copenhagen.

Yes. A partial sponsorship under the DAFI Programme is possible if the candidate has another source of funding. Please consult with the UNHCR office in the country of study.

No. Postgraduate studies (M.A., M.Sc., Ph.D. and some postgraduate diploma courses) are not supported under the DAFI Programme.

Competition for scholarships is high and only a portion of the qualified candidates meeting the criteria will be admitted to the programme. The selection process normally involves several steps:

  1. Following submission of complete application form and material, suitable candidates are shortlisted and invited to interview.
  2. Interviews are conducted in-person by a Selection Committee usually consisting of UNHCR staff, education sector partners, staff of universities or other academic institutions, and Ministry of Education or other government officials.
  3. Based on the interview performance and application materials, the Selection Committee identifies scholarship recipients according to the number of DAFI scholarships available in the respective country.
  4. Successful applicants are notified and begin enrolment processes.

Many organisations offer language training in a variety of formats. You should contact your local UNHCR office and other partner organisations to learn about language courses offered and how you may be able to participate.

You should still consult the UNHCR or partner office to make your intentions known and to obtain information about other opportunities that may be available. Meanwhile, you should also aim to identify alternative programmes and scholarships with other organisations, institutions, foundations, embassies, or the private sector. Finally, please refer to the UNHCR Opportunities portal to learn about other higher education opportunities specifically for refugees.

The DAFI programme is available to returnees in several countries. If you are a recent returnee, please contact the local UNHCR office to verify that a DAFI programme exists in your location. DAFI scholarships may be available to returnees who:

  • Have no other financial means or access to national scholarships programmes in the country of origin;
  • Living conditions in the country of origin are sufficiently stable to allow for successful completion of studies.

The DAFI Programme Policy and Guidelines establishes the principles and standards valid to all DAFI assessment procedures. The Guidelines are designed in a protection-sensitive manner and take UNHCR’s Age, Gender and Diversity Policy into account. Persons responsible for DAFI programmes in UNHCR country offices or partner organisations are trained on DAFI procedures and are responsible to implement the programme accordingly. The Policy and Guidelines establish several layers of accountability, feedback mechanisms and annual review of activities. In case applicants perceive some irregularity during their assessment, they are encouraged to submit their feedback or complaint  to UNHCR headquarters.

DAFI scholarships cover up to four academic years. Renewal of the scholarship is dependent upon successful academic performance and timely promotion from one academic year to the next. Academic progress is monitored through submission of period academic reports. Academic failure - whether one course, semester or year - shall trigger a performance review and possible discontinuation of the scholarship. Student facing personal or academic challenges that may or are contributing to poor academic performance should raise their concerns with UNHCR or the partner early on to obtain the necessary support or consultation. Reasons for poor or non-performance, such as long absence due to certified sickness, can be accounted and adjusted for.

The award of a DAFI scholarship is accompanied by responsibilities and expectations of each DAFI student, as specified in the Scholarship Agreement Form. The Scholarship Agreement obliges DAFI scholars to submit transcripts for each academic semester promptly, to conduct themselves in accordance with the spirit and objectives of the DAFI programme, and to participate in DAFI related activities. Scholars are further expected to make the most of their higher education opportunity: to attend all classes, complete academic work to a high standard, and contribute to their community and society during and after the scholarship period. The creative and pro-active engagement of the students forms an important part of the visibility, success and impact of the programme.

  • Repeated failure of academic assignments or examinations
  • Failure to submit academic or other progress reports
  • Failure to attend classes on a regular basis
  • Receipt of double sponsorship
  • Academic misconduct – cheating or plagiarism
  • Failure to maintain a high standard of personal ethical conduct
  • Failure to comply with local/national with laws and regulations
  • Suspicion of fraud or seeking unfair advantage will lead to suspension of benefits, pending investigation.

UNHCR cannot guarantee that students will obtain employment following their studies. UNHCR and partners do assist students to develop skills for career readiness and employability through training, volunteering, networking and internships. Students are encouraged to contact potential employers, organisations, embassies, NGOs and private sector companies, and to make use of online, remote and other opportunities. Current and former students are encouraged to organize themselves through DAFI clubs to network and share information, particularly on internships, employment opportunities and other sponsorships for postgraduate studies.

Have some questions?

For more information, please consult the FAQ