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International Higher Education Scholarships and Fellowships for Social Justice: The Role of Foundations

by Mirka Martel; Selma Talha-Jebril

Apr 1, 2021

While a lot of research has been done on the role of philanthropy in the United States' higher education system, there is considerably less literature on U.S. and non-U.S. foundations that have funded international scholarship and fellowship programs that focus on social justice, particulary in the last two decades. This study shares findings and reflections about recent initiatives and offers recommendations on what we know is working effectively in this growing landscape. This paper aims to investigate three key questions:

  1. Why are U.S. and non-U.S. foundations increasingly interested in investing in international higher education?
  2. Why are philanthropies currently focusing on higher education as a form of international development for social change?
  3. What can we learn from recent higher education programs that have brought about positive change in social justice through scholarships and fellowships?

Notably, we examine scholarship and fellowship programs that are committed to reducing long-standing disparities in higher education. Our study suggests that philanthropic giving for higher education initiatives that specifically promote access and equity among underserved and marginalized communities deserve critical attention and more research. This observation is the principal motive for our study.