Major Scholarship Programs for Refugees Pursuing Higher Education in Canada


Canada is known around the world for its welcoming refugee policies and emphasis on education as a pathway to success. Each year, thousands of refugees arrive in Canada seeking safety and new opportunities. While starting over in a unfamiliar place brings many challenges, education can help refugees integrate, pursue their dreams, and give back to their new communities. This article is your definite guide to scholarships, bursaries, and a diverse array of financial aid programs available to help refugees in Canada afford post-secondary education.

Whether you recently arrived as a protected person or have been in Canada for years rebuilding your life, continuing your studies should be within reach. This guide will help navigate the application process and requirements for various refugee scholarship programs. With determination and the right financial support, refugees can attain degrees, diplomas, and certifications to qualify for in-demand careers. Education is truly a resettlement tool and investment in Canada’s economic and social future.

Technical eligibility criteria and deadlines will be clearly explained. Real stories from refugees who accessed scholarships will inspire and show educational dreams can be realized here. 

Key Terms

Before diving into specific scholarship programs, it’s important to define some key concepts:

  • Refugee – As per the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, a refugee is someone who has fled their home country and cannot return due to a legitimate worry of persecution based on reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.
  • Protected Person – In Canada, a refugee claimant whose refugee claim has been accepted and is legally authorized to remain permanently in the country.
  • Resettled Refugee – Someone who has been resettled to Canada from a refugee camp outside the country through government or private refugee sponsorship programs after being recognized as a refugee by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
  • Bursary – Non-repayable financial awards offered based on financial need or merit. Bursaries help cover costs like tuition, books, and living expenses.
  • Scholarship – Financial awards offered based on academic merit or other achievements. Scholarships do not need to be repaid.

Major Refugee Scholarship Programs in Canada

Now let’s break down some of the largest and most accessible scholarship options available specifically for refugees and protected persons in Canada:

Government of Canada Refugee Scholarship Program

Administered through Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), this national initiative provides 500 scholarships of up to $3,000 each year to refugees and protected persons pursuing post-secondary studies in Canada.


  • Legally present in Canada as a protected person or resettled refugee
  • Accepted into a full-time post-secondary program at a designated learning institution
  • Demonstrate financial need

Application period:

  • January-March annually

Pathways to Education Canada Scholarship Program

Working with post-secondary schools across Canada, Pathways provides financially disadvantaged refugee youth with scholarships and mentoring support.


  • Legally present in Canada with protected person status
  • Accepted into eligible certificate, diploma, or undergraduate degree programs
  • Demonstrate financial need


  • Up to $8,000 per year for up to 4 years of study

Application period:

  • Ongoing intake based on partner institution deadlines

Provincial Student Aid Programs

Every Canadian province and territory offers financial assistance like bursaries, grants and loans for post-secondary students based on a combination of financial constraint and merit. Refugees are eligible to apply.

Eligibility criteria vary but generally includes:

  • Protected person status or recognized refugee claimant
  • Accepted at eligible post-secondary institution
  • Residency in the province/territory
  • Demonstrate financial need

Application periods:

  • Check provincial student aid authority websites for annual deadlines.

This covers some of the largest dedicated refugee scholarship funds in Canada. But there are also many institution-specific awards, as well as other private programs. Keep reading to learn more options.

Success Stories of Refugees with Scholarship Support

Hearing the real experiences of refugees who attained scholarships is inspiring. Their journeys of overcoming obstacles to continue their education in a new country show what’s possible with determination and financial assistance.

Farhad’s Story

Farhad and his family fled conflict in Afghanistan as refugees in 2010. After being resettled in Toronto, he pursued ESL classes and enrolled in college through a provincial student aid loan. In his third year of computer programming studies, Farhad received a $5,000 scholarship from Pathways to Education Canada. He has since graduated and now works as a software developer, saving to bring his siblings to Canada. “Scholarships changed everything for me. It allowed me to focus on studying without worrying financially,” says Farhad.

Amira’s Journey

Amira’s family sought asylum in Canada in 2016 after fleeing violence in Syria. During a period of waiting for her refugee claim to be processed, Amira heard about the Government of Canada Refugee Scholarship program. She applied and was awarded $3,000 towards her first year of university, where she is now studying nursing. “Receiving this scholarship gave me hope when I needed it most. Now I’m following my dreams of helping others as a nurse here in Canada,” says Amira.

These stories exemplify the power of education in empowering refugees to access career opportunities and fully participate in their new communities. Scholarship funding helps overcome financial barriers that often impede access to post-secondary schooling. With continued support, more refugee success stories are sure to emerge across Canada.

Additional Scholarship Options

Beyond the large national and provincial funds, refugees have access to these other potential scholarship sources:

Private Sponsorship Scholarships

Many refugee sponsorship groups offer bursaries specifically for privately sponsored refugees. Reach out to your sponsoring group or organization for details on any scholarships available.

Scholarships from cultural/religious organizations 

Groups representing refugee communities in Canada occasionally offer financial awards. Research prominent diaspora associations online.

Institutional Scholarships

Colleges and universities provide various internal scholarships open to all students, including refugees. Ask your school’s financial aid office about deadlines and eligibility.

Scholarship Websites & Databases

Websites like and maintain extensive pan-Canadian scholarship directories. Search by criteria like “refugees” and “international students.”

Employer Scholarships

Some companies offer scholarships specifically for refugees, immigrants, or international students in skill areas where they need talent. Explore corporate programs.

While competitive, these additional options expand the scholarship opportunities accessible to refugee students dedicated to furthering their education. With strategic applications, financial aid is within reach.

Essential Tips for Applying

Now, you have an overview of various refugee scholarship programs across Canada. Here are some crucial tips for strong applications:

  • Meet all eligibility requirements – Check you fulfill necessary criteria like student status, program of study, financial need proof, etc.
  • Submit complete applications on time – Review instructions closely and provide all requested materials by published deadlines to avoid disqualification.
  • Highlight your story compellingly – Share in a personal statement how you overcame challenges as a refugee and why education is important for your future goals.
  • Request transcript early if required – Some funds need grades, so order your transcript ahead of deadlines from your current or past schools.
  • Ask others to review your applications – Get feedback on your writing from advisors, tutors, or friends. An extra set of eyes helps catch errors.
  • Follow up regularly – Make a note of scholarship decision timelines. Politely check in if you have not heard back by communicated dates.
  • Explore multiple options – Increase your chances by applying to scholarships from a variety of organizations suited to your profile.

Thoroughly going through application requirements and following instructions will boost your odds of success. Scholarship applications take effort, but access to funding is well worth it.

Looking Ahead: Continuing the Journey

For many refugees who recently arrived, embarking on post-secondary education felt like an impossible dream. But as the stories above show, with determination and financial assistance through scholarships, dreams are achievable in welcoming countries like Canada.

After graduating, new doors will open to professional careers that give back to communities. Those who attain scholarships today will be positioned to make a difference tomorrow through their knowledge and skills. The contributions of refugee scholars strengthen Canada’s future workforce and innovation potential.

Though the path has obstacles, remember many helping hands exist along the way. Reach out to this guide and other resettlement resources when questions arise. Keep striving and applying yourself each day. Your community is rooting for your success.

With Canada’s diverse, multicultural population as our strength – and education as an equalizer – refugees today will uplift generations to come. The journey of rebuilding after displacement may feel long. But every milestone, every scholarship and degree earned is a victory for a brighter tomorrow. Your story is only beginning – I hope this guide has equipped you with the tools to continue walking.


What proof do I need to show financial need for scholarships?

Most scholarship programs require documentation of your financial situation, such as notices of assessment from the Canada Revenue Agency, proof of income, tuition/living cost estimates, and information about other financial resources. Check specific award guidelines and have all requested documentation ready when applying.

How do I request transcripts from my past schools?

Contact the registrar’s office at any secondary or post-secondary institutions you previously attended. They can advise you on the process and costs for certified official transcripts to be sent to you or directly to scholarship organizations. Order well in advance of deadlines so there is time for delivery.

What if I don’t have perfect English yet?

Many funds accepting refugee applications will consider applications written in languages other than English. Use translator tools or ask an advisor for assistance. Emphasize your motivation rather than focusing on language barriers. Improving English is also part of the educational process that scholarship funding can support.

Which programs can scholarship money be used for?

Most refugee scholarships can be applied towards tuition, mandatory fees, books, and supplies for eligible certificates, diplomas, and undergraduate university programs in Canada. Check specific award terms for allowable expenses – some may also cover living costs such as rent, food, or transportation.

How long does it take to receive scholarship funds?

Timelines can vary by program, but as a general guide, expect to receive scholarship money within 2-4 months of submitting a complete application and being selected as a recipient. Funds may be issued directly to your school account or via reimbursement after providing tuition receipts. Plan finances accordingly.

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