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Understanding scholarships for refugees and asylum seekers

Unfortunately, people who are seeking asylum or refugees with temporary protection visas are often unable to access financial support from the government to go to study in Australia. If you are in this situation then you could face high fees to continue your education, or, even worse, not be able to attend at all.

On the bright side, many of the universities and other institutions have created specific scholarships for refugees and asylum seekers, which means if you are in this position then you may be able to access alternate funding to allow you to study.

What should you look for?

Not all scholarships are the same:

  • Some will cover all of your fees as well as provide a living stipend which covers some of your other costs, like accomodation, transport, and food
  • Other scholarships just cover some or all of your fees, and
  • Some just provide a living stipend, but don’t cover the fees.

Most universities will offer a scholarship specifically for refugees and asylum seekers. Sometimes these are labelled ‘Refugee Scholarship, but they may also be called Humanitarian Scholarships, Sanctuary Scholarships, or Asylum Seeker Scholarships.

Here’s how you could get a refugee scholarship to cover your study costs:

We know that you might face additional barriers in applying for a scholarship if you are from a refugee or asylum seeker background, and the process is not always straight-forward, but there are some steps you can follow to start the process:

  1. Work out where you want to study
    This will determine where you apply, and what kind of scholarship you apply for. Not all scholarships cover all types of education, so if you want to finish secondary school you will need to find a scholarship that allows you to do that. If you’re thinking about university then you need to know that not all universities offer all types of degrees, so you need to find one that offers the course that will lead to the career you are interested in.
  2. Search for eligible scholarships
    Sometimes you can find these on Google, but you could also try reaching out to the place where you would like to study, because they may also be able to help you find funding. You could also try using a refugee scholarship search engine, like this one from the Refugee Education Special Interest Group, and we’ve listed a few good ones below. The UNHCR also has a great database with loads of global opportunities here.
  3. Check open and closing dates
    You can only apply at certain times of the year, so check out when applications open and also when the close. You will want to make a note of any closing dates so that you don’t miss the deadline!
  4. Read the eligibility criteria
    You will only be successful if you meet the eligibility criteria, so check that you have the right visa number and meet other criteria like the length of time you’ve been living in Australia. For many of the university scholarships you need to have received an offer from that university before you can apply.
  5. Get your documentation together
    This one can be tricky – you’ll need to get a range of documents together to support your application. You can expect to provide your visa details, as well as travel documentation, and you’ll also need evidence of your academic abilities. We always suggest that you start this process as early as possible, and keep all your documents together so you can use them to apply for multiple scholarships.
  6. Complete the process BEFORE the closing date
    This includes sending across all supporting documentation by the deadline. Usually you won’t need to complete an interview or any other procedures, but if these are part of the process then get onto them as well so you don’t miss out.

Check out these refugee and humanitarian scholarships:

SSI Allianz Refugee Scholarships – Between $1500 and $5000
For people from refugee backgrounds in NSW, Victoria, and Queensland

Deakin Sanctuary Scholarships – 100% tuition fee waiver, plus $6,000 annual stipend, plus academic and social support
For undergrad and postgrad study at Deakin

UQ Refugee and Humanitarian Scholarship – 100% tuition fee waiver, plus $8,000 annual stipend
For undergrad and postgrad students at UQ

ANU Humanitarian Scholarship – 100% tuition fee waiver, plus $21,000 p/year for Year 1 and 2, and $13,000 p/year for Year 3 and 4
For undergrad students with an offer to ANU

UNSW Sanctuary Scholarship –  100% tuition fee waiver, plus $5,000 annual stipend, plus on-campus accomodation
For coursework students with an offer for UNSW

Adelaide Refugee & Humanitarian Undergraduate Scholarship – 100% tuition fee waiver, plus $2,500 once-off payment
For all single programs (excluding medicine, dentistry etc.)

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