Application procedure

What is DAFI?




The DAFI (Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative) scholarship programme offers refugee students the possibility to earn an undergraduate degree in their country of asylum. Through the dedicated support of the German Government, and private donors, the programme has supported over 14,000 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 to the refugee community, and to facilitate peaceful coexistence with host communities during displacement;
  • Strengthen the protective impact of education by encouraging lifelong learning for young refugees;
  • Foster future role models for refugee children and youth to demonstrate the impact of education on individuals, communities and societies.

The scholarship covers a wide 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.




Are DAFI scholarships available in every country?



DAFI scholarships are provided in a variety of countries, including those hosting significant refugee populations. In 2019, DAFI scholarships are available in 52 countries, namely:

Sub-Sahara Africa: Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia & Zimbabwe.

Middle East & Northern Africa (MENA): Algeria, Egypt, Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, Syria & Yemen.

Asia & Pacific: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan &Tajikistan.

The Americas: Ecuador & Mexico.

Europe: Azerbaijan, Russian Federation, Turkey & Ukraine.




How many students can benefit in a given country?


The number of applications received in most countries exceeds the number of available scholarships. The number of scholarships offered in a country depends on a range of factors related to tertiary education opportunities for refugees and available funding for the DAFI Programme overall. Decisive factors for the allocation of scholarships across countries are: (i) the total number of refugees in the country, (ii) the number of refugees completing secondary school, (iii) the quality of educational institutions, (iv) the cost of scholarships, (v) the support structure available for students and (vi) the post-graduate employment opportunities.




What expenses can the scholarship cover?


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, refugee are required to pay fees applicable to international students, which are often considerably higher than fees for national students. 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 covers the costs of housing on or near the university campus. Where students live with their parents or other family arrangement, accommodation is not paid. Local travel allowance covers the daily travel between the university and home, or to an internship or research site.




Who can apply?


To be eligible for DAFI, the candidate must:

  • have refugee status;
  • have successfully completed secondary schooling to a standard sufficient to perform and succeed in 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.




Who cannot apply?


  • Individuals with an advanced resettlement process;
  • Individuals above 28 years of age;
  • Individuals who already hold a tertiary or higher-level degree.



What are the main selection criteria?


The DAFI Programme supports socio-economically disadvantaged and academically deserving refugee students in the first country of asylum. Priority is given to:

  • qualified refugees who have no means of financial support for university studies, or who are excluded from application for scholarships available to nationals;
  • students whose studies were interrupted due to displacement, and who possess proof of previous university or college studies in their country of origin;
  • refugee students who have proficiency in the language of instruction at universities or colleges in their country of asylum;
  • students who choose shorter and inexpensive courses with high chances of employment (such as computer studies, paramedical and teaching professions, etc).

Other aspects taken into account throughout the selection are:

  • objective to achieve gender parity;
  • individuals with different needs;
  • student commitment to community support, voluntary work etc.;
  • fair distribution of scholarships among urban and camp-based refugees;
  • ethnic and religious diversity.



Is the DAFI Programme limited to designated subjects of study or degrees?


DAFI scholarships support undergraduate courses of four or fewer 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 selected by applicants 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-applciation 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. School and university certificates will be verified prior to the selection of candidates.



How do I apply?


  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.



Can I apply for a partial scholarship?


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




Can I apply for postgraduate studies?


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




What are the selection procedures?



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. Following submission of complete application form and material, suitable candidates are shortlisted and invited to interview. Interviews are conducted in-person by a Selection Committee usually consisting of UNHCR staff, a representative of the German Embassy, education sector partners, staff of universities or other academic institutions, and Ministry of Education or other government officials. 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.



I am a refugee in a country of asylum with a current DAFI Programme and I meet the criteria, but I am not proficient in the language of instruction. What should I do?


You should ask UNHCR or the partner organisation if language courses are offered or can be made available to allow you to gain proficiency.




I am a refugee in a country of asylum where there is no DAFI Programme, but I meet the criteria and would like to apply. What should I do?


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




I am a recent returnee to my country of origin. Can I apply for a DAFI scholarship?



In repatriation operations, and upon approval by UNHCR Education Section, returnees qualified to assume university education are eligible for a DAFI scholarship under the following conditions:

  • A DAFI programme exists in the country of origin;
  • The student has 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


How does the DAFI Programme ensure accountability during assessment procedures?


By its policy and guidelines, the DAFI Programme sets principles and standards valid in 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 in UNHCR country offices or partner organisations are trained on DAFI procedures and constantly report back to UNHCR headquarter. During participatory assessments, accountability is ensured through the inclusion of various stakeholders such as the German Embassy, other NGOs or organisations providing scholarships, academic institutions, or national Ministries and the sponsored students themselves. In case applicants perceive some irregularity during their assessment, they are encouraged to report to UNHCR headquarter.



Upon selection

If selected, will I be sponsored automatically until I finish my studies?



DAFI scholarships may apply for up to four academic years. Renewal of the scholarship is dependent upon 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 review and possible discontinuation of the scholarship. Challenges contributing to poor academic performance should be raised with UNHCR or the partner early on and reasons for poor or non-performance, such as long absence due to certified sickness, should be adjusted for.






What responsibilities do DAFI students have?



The award of a DAFI scholarship is accompanied by strict responsibilities and expectations of each DAFI student, as specified in the Scholarship Agreement. 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, attractiveness and dynamic of the programme.


What are grounds for discontinuation of a scholarship?


  • Repeated failure of 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, compliance with laws and regulations

Suspicion of fraud or seeking unfair advantage will lead to suspension of benefits, pending investigation.


Will UNHCR help me to find employment after completion of my studies?


UNHCR cannot assist refugee students to find employment. UNHCR and partners do assist students to develop skills for career readiness and employability through training, volunteering and networking.

Students are encouraged to contact potential employers, organisations, embassies, NGOs and private sector companies for this purpose and 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.





If you have further questions, please contact your nearest UNHCR country office.