Student Refugee Program

Simon Kuany grins as they start the walk to Convocation Hall to graduate from mineral engineering at University of Toronto.

The Student Refugee Program is the only one of its kind to combine resettlement with opportunities for higher education. Launched in 1978 with the placement of one student at Carleton University, the program has since grown to support over 150 students per year through active partnerships with over 100 Canadian university, college, and CEGEP campuses.

As an official Sponsorship Agreement Holder in Canada, WUSC has a longstanding agreement with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. This agreement enables us to bring refugee students to study in Canada as permanent residents. WUSC identifies refugee students who are in need of resettlement and grants permission to WUSC Local Committees at post-secondary institutions across Canada to sponsor in WUSC’s name.

Crucial to the program’s success is its unique youth-to-youth sponsorship model which empowers students in Canada to play an active role in the sponsorship of refugee students. Our Local Committees raise funds and awareness for the program on their campus and in their community. They also play a critical role in offering day-to-day social and academic support to newly-arrived students.

Going beyond resettlement, the Student Refugee Program also provides an innovative pathway to integration for young refugees. A 2007 study found that 97 percent of sponsored students had completed or were in the process of completing their post-secondary program with many intending to further their education. The vast majority - 85 percent - had found work in their chosen fields after graduation.

Girls attending class in refugee camp

The impact of this program has a ripple effect within the students’ families and communities. By providing refugee youth with opportunities to continue their education, we also reignite their families’ hopes for the future as we equip their children with the knowledge, skills and experiences to build a brighter future for themselves and their families. Such opportunities also encourage other young refugees to stay in primary and secondary school in hopes of applying for the Student Refugee Program upon graduation.

Since 1978, the program has supported over 2,200 young refugees to continue their education in safe and supportive environments on Canadian campuses across the country.

Responding to the Afghanistan Crisis

Following years of progress on education in Afghanistan—which saw national enrolment figures grow tenfold—the future of education for an entire generation is currently at stake.

Time will tell how access to education will evolve within the country. Outside its borders, millions of Afghan youth are already at risk of not completing their studies. By the end of 2020, there were 2.8 million Afghan refugees displaced. More than half a million more Afghans have left their homes since the beginning of 2021.

Canada has committed to resettling tens of thousands of Afghan refugees, but the government needs Canadian individuals and institutions to step up and lend a hand. You can provide education and safe haven to Afghan youth through the Student Refugee Program. Learn more here.

About WUSC

WUSC is a Canadian international development non-profit organization dedicated to improving education, employment and empowerment opportunities for youth, women and refugees in more than 25 countries around the world. For over fifty years, we have empowered our network of post-secondary institutions, private sector partners and volunteers to help build a more equitable and sustainable world for youth. To find out more, please visit wusc.ca.

Students Testimonials

Alfred Orono Orono - Former SRP Student, BA Criminology – University of Alberta

Alfred Orono Orono

Former SRP Student, BA Criminology – University of Alberta

My experiences as a child soldier could have destroyed me, but instead fuelled a passion for championing human rights. In 1993, I finally escaped my captors and spent two years in various refugee camps, until I received the news that a group of young students at the University of Alberta were giving me a chance to pursue my post-secondary education through WUSC's Student Refugee Program. At a time where I felt powerless, I was given a chance at a better future for myself, my family and my community.

Cyrus Silverstrider - WUSC Local Committee Member, University of Toronto – St. George Campus

Cyrus Silverstrider

WUSC Local Committee Member, University of Toronto – St. George Campus

I was very inspired by the direct, positive impact I could have in refugee students’ lives by being an active member of our WUSC Local Committee. I realized I could be a friend, a welcoming peer, and a mentor all in one to help make the students’ experiences in Canada the best they can be. The best part about being involved with my Local Committee is the opportunity I get to glimpse the network of brilliant students that have come to study in Canada. I have had the chance to meet so many students, and I have to say, I am humbled by the joy, positivity, and perseverance they all share.