Unity for Tertiary Refugee Students

Unity for Tertiary Refugee Students (UTRS) is a refugee-led organization, which works towards making tertiary education open and accessible for refugees and asylum-seeking students by lobbying on their behalf, identifying or creating funding opportunities for them, and promoting their rights and well-being in South Africa.
2004South Africa

CEI Plus Status

Program Results Status
Monitoring and Evaluation Reporting

Location Data

Western Cape, Gauteng, and KwaZulu NatalCape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban, and PretoriaPeri-Urban, Rural, Urban

The current tertiary education climate at institutions of higher learning in South Africa poses a number of issues for foreign refugee and asylum-seeking students, including documentation requirements and high costs for foreign learners. Unity for Tertiary Refugee Students (UTRS) was founded in 2004 by a group of young refugees and asylum seekers from different countries who encountered these problems while applying for tertiary education in South Africa. This program addresses the issues related to migrants in an effort to make tertiary education open and accessible to them. This is done by identifying and/or creating funding opportunities from which the most needy and deserving refugee and asylum-seeking tertiary students can benefit, by raising awareness and educating host communities about refugees in South Africa, by promoting integration and social cohesion within the student communities at tertiary institutions, and by influencing current education policies by lobbying on behalf of refugee and asylum-seeking students.

The core of the UTRS program is the workshops that are provided free-of-charge to refugees and asylum-seekers pursuing tertiary education. Regular workshops include orientation workshops, short skill courses, sessions on connecting with NGOs, curriculum vitae compilation, bursary assistance, workshops for qualified young professionals looking for jobs, parent workshops, and career workshops.

UTRS has managed to reintegrate refugees who have abandoned their studies into the university system by negotiating on a case-by-case basis with their respective institutions. Through UTRS lobbying and advocacy efforts, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Pretoria has settled outstanding fees of some refugee graduates at tertiary institutions, has raised the age limit to qualify for the DAFI bursary program to 30, and has increased the number of bursaries being offered to refugees and asylum seekers to over 100 per year.

In addition to working with refugee and asylum-seeking students, UTRS also works with local high school learners, in Career Preparedness Workshops. These workshops addrses the gap at the secondary level in helping students prepare for tertiary education. Through the workshops, potential tertiary entrants are better prepared to enter academic life and to make better use of the scarce resources available that enable tertiary education. In this way, UTRS is able to 'give back' to the host community. 

Who we work with: