Skip to content ↓

UWC Refugee Initiative

Lack of access to education is a major issue affecting young refugees, internally displaced and persecuted people. They are five times more likely to be out of school than more fortunate young people. Refugee communities need future leaders with strong abilities, social consciousness and drive for peace and reconciliation.

For many years UWC has educated refugees from conflict hotspots like Syria, Palestine, Yemen, Western Sahara, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Tibet, Colombia and Guatemala. On average around 5% of our students in the IB Diploma years come from a refugee, displaced or persecuted background and benefit from full scholarship provision at one of the 18 UWC schools and colleges.

In light of the dramatic escalation in the number of young displaced people fleeing conflict, persecution or environmental disaster, combined with the need for future post-conflict leadership, there is an urgent need to further increase the number of refugee students being granted access to a world-class school education at a UWC school or college.

This is why UWC launched the UWC Refugee Initiative, which aims to raise the funds for an additional 100 scholarships per year for refugee students since 2016.

To achieve this, we need to raise $7.5 million which will go entirely towards all-inclusive scholarships, covering the full education program, board and lodging, travel, co-curricular activities, educational materials and student welfare during two years.

The UWC Refugee Initiative is supported by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency via a cooperation agreement between UWC and UNHCR. UNHCR is supporting UWC by providing authoritative guidance on refugee policy, technical advice and helping to promote the scholarship program among refugee communities and relevant stakeholders. 


"I was born and raised in a refugee camp in the end of the world, in a forgotten and impossible to reach corner of the great African desert. Yet, UWC put the time and the effort to reach that part of the world, and now here I am."

- Bachir (UWC Costa Rica, 2011-2013)

How to apply

All young people wishing to apply for a UWC refugee scholarship must apply through a UWC National Committee, along with all other candidates. Scholarships for refugee students are not accessible through a separate process. Information on how to apply can be found here

The Rise-UWC partnership offers additional opportunities for students with a refugee background:

  • UWC-Amala Changemaker Foundation Programme for young refugees in Kenya
    A 20 week programme for 15-18 year old students at Kakuma Camp, Kenya.
  • Rise-UWC Refugee Scholarships
    All-inclusive scholarships for 15-18 year olds to join one of our 18 UWC schools. For 2021 entry, the following countries will be eligible to select for these scholarships:
  • Rise global talent program
    This is a separate programme run by our partner Rise which offers lifetime education support, mentorship, funding opportunities and more for 15-17 year olds of all backgrounds.

If you would like to support the UWC Refugee Initiative, visit our Support Us section.

If you would like to learn more about the Refugee Initiative or get involved, please contact UWC International via email to Philine Nau at

For an article from UNHCR on the UWC Refugee Initiative, click here

“My story is about empowerment and the trickling effect of UWC generosity in helping refugee students overcome their challenges and pursue a better life, just like every other 'normal' person. Poor leadership has created millions of refugees globally; however, effective investment in education is the kind of leadership required to un-plague the world from this refugee crisis.”

- Ruddy (Waterford Kamhlaba UWCSA, 2009-2012)