Assistance for young refugees from Syria: A scholarship programme

The federal government of Germany has supported Syrian refugees in different ways - by financial local support or by receiving refugees in Germany. Since 2013 the federal government and the federal states have made decisions that allow the reception of more than 20 000 Syrian refugees.  

However, considering the millions of civil-war refugees, who had to flee to Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Egypt, the need for humanitarian aid is growing. At the Berlin symposium for the protection of refugees in June 2014 Federal President Gauck declared that Germany could do more for refugees. A scholarship programme would be a further step towards a strong engagement concerning protection and assistance of refugees.

A scholarship programme for refugees from Syria would provide targeted support for students and young scholars who had to interrupt their studies or couldn’t even begin them. Those are not only Syrian nationals but also Palestinians and other groups of stateless persons like Kurds, who lived in Syria before the war but were denied citizenship by the Syrian regime. Regardless citizenship: young refugees from Syria have hardly any chance to receive higher education.

It is mainly young people who are living in refugee camps – many of them in the age of university students and with a high motivation to study. But there are few or no possibilities for young refugees to do so in the host countries in the Middle East. Even schooling for the children of refugees is a huge problem: more than half a million children remain without elementary education. For young adults access to higher education is even more difficult. Young war victims need prospects to prevent them from becoming a “lost generation”. A solid education can offer this long-term prospect – for a young generation from Syria and for Syria as a whole. 


Practical Implementation of a scholarship programme

In Germany the The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) would be in charge of  implementing a scholarship programme for refugees from Syria. The DAAD is the biggest funding organisation for the international exchange of students and researchers worldwide. Its budget is mainly funded by the federal ministries, primarily the German Foreign Office, but also by the European Union and a number of enterprises, organisations and foreign governments.

In the Foreign Office the Minister of State Prof. Dr. Maria Böhmer is responsible for education and could, together with Foreign Minister Dr. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, give the decisive impetus for a scholarship programme for Syrian refugees.

The group of refugees who could benefit from such a programme should not be too narrow and include graduate students as well as undergraduate students. 

German scientific foundations could contribute

In Germany, scientific, political, and religious foundations offer scholarships and are internationally engaged via their foreign bureaus / offices. They could contribute essentially to the implementation of a scholarship programme for Syrian refugees. Important foundations to be addressed are, among others, Deutsche Studienstiftung, Hans-Böckler-Stiftung, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, Böll-Stiftung, Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung, Hans-Seidel-Stiftung, Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung, Evangelisches Studienwerk Villigst, Cusanuswerk, and the Ernst-Ludwig-Ehrlich Stiftung

What do other countries do? The examle of the USA 

In spring 2012, the Institute of International Education Syria Consortium for Higher Education in Crisis was founded, a joint venture of the Institute of International Education, the Illinois Institute of Technology, Jusoor and the U.S. State Department. In addition, another 40 organisations, mainly from the US, but also from Europe or Mexico, contributed after the establishment of this project. 13 colleges contributed 2.3 million Dollar for 70 scholarships. In 2013, the project was expanded, now working with to the amount of 7 million dollars, granting 600 scholarships. Among the new partners is the Global Platform for Syrian Students, which was founded with the support of the former President of Portugal, Jorge Sampaio. This platform was supported by the European Council, the Arab League, and the Mediterranean Union, and it received a lot of feedback from Syrian students and refugees. Moreover, a project aiming at facilitating e-learning in the Zaatari refugee camp was initiated.



Further international examples 

  • UNHCR grants scholarships to Syrian refugees through the DAFI programme
  • The Erasmus-Mundus programme by the EU was opened for Syrian refugees, though it does not finance an entire course but only single semesters.
  • The Swedish Institute Study Scholarships grants 15 to 30 scholarships for master courses. 

Facebook: Updates on scholarships for refugees from Syria 

There is a continuously updated Facebook-page informing about scholarships


Contribute! What can I do?

  • Sign this public appeal for the establishment of a scholarship programme for refugees from Syria!
  • Forward this appeal! The more people support it receives, the bigger are the chances it will be implemented.
  • In case you are a student yourself: ask your professor and institution to sign the appeal!
  • Write a personal message to Secretary of State Prof. Dr. Maria Böhmer (Staatsministerin im Auswärtigen Amt) and Foreign Secretary Dr. Frank-Walter Steinmeier (Außenminister) and ask them to initiate a programme envisaged in the appeal.
  • Contact the MP of your precinct. He or she could start or contribute to a parliamentary initiative to establish such a scholarship programme for refugees from Syria.
  • Organise information meetings on the issue of Syrian refugees! Many people still don’t know about their trajectory and situation.
  • Get in contact with Syrian refugees in your neighbourhood and offer your support in coordination with other volunteers! Since the outbreak of the war thousands of refugees have fled to Germany. Many might welcome support, for example in learning German or helping their children with their homework.
  • Show solidarity and support refugees and their rights when they are confronted with discrimination and racist hate speech.
  • Make donations to organisations that help Syrian refugees! In Germany, you can donate directly to UNHCR or via the Uno-Flüchtlingshilfe. Pro Asyl or regional refugee councils support refugee’s rights in Germany and Europe.