Scholars at Risk

About the Program

Throughout the globe, outstanding scientists, humanists, social scientists and other scholars are the victims of sectarian, ideological or territorial repression and violence. Many are driven abroad or find themselves unable to return to their home countries. In the past, the University of Toronto has managed to find, from time to time, a place for such scholars on an ad hoc basis. In 1999, the Massey College/University of Toronto School of Graduate Studies Scholar-at-Risk Program succeeded the Massey College/PEN Canada Writer-in-Exile Program. (Applications from writers who have been at risk are still accepted.) Inaugural scholars were Martha Kumsa, originally from Ethiopia, and Reza Baraheni originally from Iran. With initial funding from the Donner Canadian Foundation, the program provides, on an annual basis, an established mechanism through which we are able to receive scholars who are already in Canada.


The program serves two purposes: it provides humanitarian assistance for a small number of distinguished academics and outstanding students, and at the same time, it enables such scholars to contribute to the intellectual life of the University. Recipients are selected through a process of scholarly adjudication and are received by an appropriate academic home – an established academic unit of the University – as well as Massey College. Accommodation at Massey College is not always available but scholars are invited to take part in every aspect of life in this diverse community while living off-campus.


In November 2001, the program became a member of the Scholars-at-Risk Network headquartered at New York University under the directorship of Dr. Robert Quinn, and the partnership has grown to include working with the Scholar Rescue Fund at the Institute of International Education which provides, where possible, matching funds for individual eligible scholars.

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  • Overview
  • Purpose
  • Eligibility
  • Application Process
  • Contacts & Resources

Student Deadline: May 7, 2021

Level of Study: Research-stream Master’s or doctoral

Required Legal Status: Domestic / International

Results: Mid-June

Value and Duration:

Up to $10,000 for one year. Fellowships will be awarded and are to be held by students in addition to the program’s normal funding commitment (for those within the funded cohort).

Recipients are granted the status of Scholar-at-Risk at Massey College in the University of Toronto. Scholars-at-Risk are invited to become a member of the Massey College community, with the membership fee waived by the College as part of the Fellowship.

Established with initial funding from the Donner Canadian Foundation, the School of Graduate Studies and Massey College provide this Fellowship, on an annual basis, as an established mechanism through which the University of Toronto is able to support eligible candidates who meet the criteria listed below. The Fellowship offers financial support for academic endeavours and the opportunity to participate in the Massey College community.


Applicants must:

  • Be a current or newly admitted graduate student who meets one of the following criteria:
    • who is, or has been within the last 5 years, an asylum/refugee seeker anywhere in the world (regardless of status in Canada); OR
    • whose current or proposed program of study has been impacted by changing political environments in their country of current or future study, including changes in immigration law;
  • Be registered, or have accepted an offer of admission as a new or transfer student to a full-time master’s or doctoral program at the University of Toronto for the upcoming academic year;
  • Have an outstanding academic record as demonstrated by a) transcripts and b) research potential or other measures of scholarship;
  • Demonstrate a commitment to enhancing the student experience of their peers through previous extracurricular leadership at a university or commitment to community outreach and involvement, as demonstrated by extracurricular activities beyond academe; and
  • Demonstrate financial need within a financial need assessment form (ie: the Total Need number is close to $0 or less).


  • The Scholars-at-Risk Fellowship does not provide any form of assistance in obtaining travel visas or refugee status claims. Applicants who do not meet all of the eligibility criteria cannot be considered.
  • Recipients may reapply to hold the award for a second year, provided they continue to meet all of the above criteria, for a lifetime maximum of two years.

A complete application will include all of the following items (no other supporting documentation will be accepted):

  • Completed and signed application form;
  • Statement of Intent describing how the applicant meets all of the Scholars-at-Risk Fellowship eligibility criteria. This statement should include background information on why the candidate came to Canada, or why they are seeking to study in Canada; their current circumstances, and why they are pursuing their chosen graduate program (2 pages max – single spaced, 12 pt font);
  • Transcripts from all post-secondary institutions (scans of official, unofficial, student-issued or web transcripts are permitted);
  • Curriculum vitae outlining academic achievements, scholarships and awards received, plus publications, work experience, and extracurricular involvement both inside and outside a university. Extracurricular experience should be clearly separated into two categories: inside and outside of the university context;
  • Copy of University of Toronto Offer of Admission letter, if not currently registered in a U of T grad program;
  • Proof of asylum/refugee seeker status;
    • In most cases, multiple documents will need to be submitted. Examples of such documentation are:
      • Passport or birth certificate from home country;
      • Email correspondence with Consulate/Embassy;
      • Email correspondence with humanitarian Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs);
      • Immigration application form from Department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada showing claimant applied for immigration as a refugee;
      • Letter confirming applicant has been approved to remain in Canada as a temporary resident while application for permanent residence is reviewed (issued by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada);
      • Interim Federal Health Certificate stating eligibility of coverage of health care costs based on immigration status (issued by Government of Canada);
      • Letter confirming application for permanent residence in Canada under humanitarian and compassionate considerations has been received (issued by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada);
      • Letter confirming Status Verification as Protected Person (issued by Department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada);
      • Notice of Decision letter that claimant has been determined as a Convention refugee (issued by Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada);
      • Refugee Protection Claimant Document (issued by Citizenship and Immigration Canada);
      • Document/email explaining extension of Refugee Protection Claimant Document, if expiry date has passed.
  • Completed SGS Financial Need Assessment Form;
  • Additional Supplementary Documentation to support the candidate’s eligibility; and
  • One (1) Letter of Reference regarding leadership and community involvement – maximum two pages, written by an individual who knows the candidate in an academic or a non-academic capacity.  For further details regarding the letter’s content, please see list below;
    • The letter must clearly state the name and contact information of the referee, remain confidential and must not be reviewed by the applicant;
    • By the application deadline, the referee must email the letter as a PDF attachment directly to with “Scholars-at-Risk Reference Letter” in the subject line​. For the PDF file, please use file naming convention “Applicant last name, first initial – SAR2021Ref”.

The content of the letter of reference should address the following:

    • Personal achievement:
      • impactful involvement and achievement in professional programs/associations such as sports, arts, science, business etc.
      • entrepreneurial achievement (start-up company); and/or
      • foreign travel and study.
    • Involvement in academic life:
      • mentoring/teaching;
      • supervisory experience;
      • involvement in student government and in the institution community, including committees, teams, senate, boards, ethics committees, etc.;
      • project management;
      • roles in academic/professional societies; and/or
      • organization of conferences, meetings, courses etc.
    • Volunteerism/community outreach:
      • community involvement in charity or not-for-profit organizations.
    • Civic engagement:
      • parliamentary page positions and internships;
      • political activity; and/or
      • elected positions.
    • Social skills:
      • develops positive relationships with a diverse range of people;
      • cares about and listens to what others say and gives feedback;
      • knows how to motivate individuals;
      • is persuasive;
      • is supportive of peers;
      • is able to negotiate;
      • is viewed as trustworthy, ethical and dependable;
      • is well-respected; and
      • displays mastery of presentation skills and public communications.


Applicants will be contacted directly in mid-June.

For more information, please contact:

Emily Mockler
Director, Partnerships and Programs
Massey College
4 Devonshire Place
Toronto ON M5S 2E6

Tara Lock – Graduate Awards Officer (Internal)
School of Graduate Studies
63 St. George Street, Room 214
University of Toronto M5S 2Z9
(416) 978-2386
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