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

Value & Duration: Up to $10,000 for one year

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

Required Legal Status: Protected Persons or International

Results: Late June 2022

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, together with Massey College provides this Fellowship, on an annual basis, an established mechanism through which the University of Toronto is able to receive international graduate students who fall into one of the two categories listed below. The Fellowship offers students financial support for academic endeavours and the opportunity to participate in the Massey College community. Please note that the Fellowship does not provide any form of assistance in obtaining travel visas, or refugee status claims.

Eligible international students fall into two categories:

  1. Students who are currently in Canada as Protected Persons under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (Canada), but unable to return to their home countries; or
  2. Students whose academic careers have been impacted by changing political environments in their country of current study, such as by changes in immigration law.

Applicants must:

As of the application deadline, be a Protected Person under subsection 95(2) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (Canada) and be living in Canada; or be a graduate student whose current program of study has been impacted by changing political environments in their country of current study, such as changes in immigration law;

Be registered, or have accepted an offer of admission as a new or transfer student to a full-time research stream master’s or doctoral program at the University of Toronto for the 2020-21 academic year;

Have an outstanding academic record as demonstrated by transcripts and other measures of scholarship;

Demonstrate financial need through the application process;

Priority will be given to applicants outside the funded cohort; and

Have demonstrated a commitment to enhancing the student experience of their peers through previous extracurricular leadership at a university and commitment to community outreach and involvement, as demonstrated by extracurricular activities beyond academe.


In order to hold the Fellowship, students must register and remain registered for the full duration of the 2019-20 academic year.

Scholars-at-Risk Fellowship recipients may reapply to hold the award for a second year, provided they continue to meet all eligibility criteria.

Application Process

Applicants must submit an electronic copy of their completed application as a single PDF file via email to by the application deadline.

Applications that are incomplete, ineligible or are submitted after the deadline will not be considered.

Application Package:

Completed and signed application form;

Statement of Intent describing why the applicant should be considered for the Scholars-at-Risk Fellowship.  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, 12pt 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 program;

If applicable, proof of Protected Person status (e.g. copy of the letter of determination from the Immigration and Refugee Board or Citizenship and Immigration Canada or Protected Person Status Document); and

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 visit the SGS website.

The letter should be on institutional letterhead, must clearly state the name and contact information of the referee, and remain confidential and not be reviewed by the applicant;

Letter must be emailed directly from the referee as a PDF attachment to with “Scholars at Risk Reference Letter” in the subject line by the application deadline.

Letter may 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.

Massey College

Massey College offers residence and provides a unique, congenial and intellectual environment for graduate students of distinguished ability in all disciplines to share in a rich and stimulating community. Applicants may explore additional opportunities at Massey College including applying separately to become a Junior Fellow.  Junior Fellows in financial need are eligible to apply for Massey Bursaries to help offset their fees.

Deadline to submit a Junior Fellow application is May 6th. Details available on the Massey College website.


Applicants will be contacted directly in late June 2019.

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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