About the Disability Rights Scholarship Programme

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The Disability Rights Scholarship Program offers awards to individuals from China, Czech Republic, Mexico, and select countries in Africa and Eurasia for a one-year Master of Laws (LLM) degree.

The program’s objective is to provide disability rights advocates and lawyers with the necessary expertise to develop new legislation, jurisprudence, policy, research, and scholarship to harness the innovations and opportunities offered by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The CRPD, which entered into force in May 2008, presents a paradigm shift in the field of disability rights and provides a framework for promoting the inclusion and full participation of persons with disabilities in their communities. With the knowledge and networks gained through the program, we expect that Fellows will deepen their understanding of international law with a focus on disability rights, and gain the tools necessary to engage in a range of CRPD implementation strategies, such as: challenging rights violations in their home countries by drafting enforceable legislation consistent with the CRPD; utilizing enforcement mechanisms set forth in the Convention; taking forward disability rights litigation requesting CRPD-compliant remedies; engaging in disability rights advocacy; and developing law, education, or other academic curricula informed by the CRPD.

Eligibility Criteria

The Program does not discriminate on the basis of age, race, color, sex, religion, sexual orientation, or disability. Candidates with disabilities are particularly encouraged to apply. The competition is merit-based and open* to those meeting the following criteria:

  • be a citizen and legal resident of Mozambique, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania; Mexico, Czech Republic, Georgia, or Ukraine, at the time of application;
  • have work experience in the legal profession or advocacy focusing on human/disability rights;
  • have an excellent academic record with a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.; in exceptional circumstances, those without a LL.B but with substantial relevant experience may be considered)—degree must be awarded by the application deadline;
  • have demonstrated leadership in the field of disability rights;
  • be proficient in spoken and written English or French and able to meet university-designated minimum scores on standardized language tests; 
  • be able to participate in an intensive academic writing program in August or September 2019;
  • be able to begin the graduate program in August or September 2019;
  • be able to receive and maintain visa or study permit required by host country;
  • demonstrate a clear commitment to return to home country to contribute to advancing the inclusion and full participation of persons with disabilities in their communities.

Ineligibility Criteria

  • Employees of the Open Society Foundations and employees of local administering organizations (and their immediate family members), who are directly involved in the administration of scholarships are not eligible, nor are individuals receiving other Open Society Foundations-funded support during the fellowship period

Fellowship Terms The fellowship provides:

  • tuition and mandatory university fees;
  • monthly stipend for room, board, and other living expenses;
  • program-related travel; 
  • accident and health insurance during the program;
  • funds for educational materials and professional development;
  • all costs associated with pre-academic summer program and annual conference;
  • support for students with disabilities to obtain reasonable accommodations necessary for participating in the program of study.

The fellowship does NOT provide funding for dependent family members.


Competition is merit based, and selection is made on the basis of academic excellence, professional aptitude, leadership potential, and proven commitment to work in the field of disability rights in the home country. Selection proceeds as follows:

  • Preliminary Selection and Testing: Applications are first reviewed by representatives from the regional program administration, host university consortium, and Open Society Foundations. Applicants chosen to continue in the competition as semifinalists are required to take an official TOEFL or IELTS, the costs of which are covered by the program. Most participating universities require a minimum TOEFL of 90-100 (Internet-based exam) or IELTS of 6.5.

  • All applicants should research local options for TOEFL or IELTS testing to ensure results are available by February 2019. Those with disabilities should contact the testing agency as early as possible to make arrangements for any necessary accommodations during testing.

  • Interviews and Final Selection: Semifinalists are interviewed by representatives from the Open Society Foundations, host universities, and other experts. The interview panel then recommends candidates for finalist status and subsequent university placement based on the quality of the written application, interview evaluations, and standardized test results.

University Placement

Fellows are matched with universities according to their chosen area of specialization, academic profile, and professional aspirations. Final decisions concerning host university placement are made by the program selection committee, which includes university admissions staff and faculty, although finalists may be asked their preference.

Visa application: Upon receiving the university placements, students are responsible for securing required visas for both the summer school and for the host university.

Participant Responsibilities

Pre-Academic Summer Program:

Grantees are required to participate in a four-week intensive pre-program (location to be determined) before starting study at host universities in August or September 2019. The program consists of classes in academic writing, social science, and humanities-based seminars. Immediately after the summer program, finalists attend a pre-departure orientation.

Fellowship: Fellows must uphold the academic standards of the host institution and undertake full-time study for the program’s duration. Failure to maintain academic and professional standards as defined by the host university may result in dismissal from the program. Failure to follow the laws governing foreign students in the host country will result in dismissal from the program.

How to Apply 

Applicants are encouraged to apply online. To apply online please go to:  https://scholarshipprograms.submittable.com/submit/5e03670a-4376-4752-be21-
62e9edd63e82/2019-disability-rights-scholarship-program to register, and then follow instructions.

Applications in other formats may be requested by contacting one of the  Regional Coordinators, whose contact details are provided below. 

Further Inquiries

Please contact one of the Regional Coordinators with further questions about the program or the application process.

More information

  • Read more about the Disability Rights Scholarship Programme
  • Disability Rights Scholarship Program Guidelines
  • Disability Rights Scholarship Program Recommendation Form
  • Submit an application online


Completed application forms and all necessary accompanying documents, along with a copy of your passport, must be submitted to the appropriate Regional Coordinator by 3 December 2018.

Regional Coordinator

Residents of Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania

Centre for Human Rights
(c/o Mr. Jehoshaphat Njau)
Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria
Pretoria, 002, SOUTH AFRICA
telephone icon +27 (0) 12 420 35 87
Gmail Logojehoshaphat.njau@up.ac.za
website icon 1www.chr.up.ac.za

Residents of Mexico, Czech Republic, Georgia, or Ukraine: 

Disability Rights Scholarship Program
Open Society Foundations
Scholarship Programs
224 W. 57th St.
New York, NY 10019 USA
telephone icon +1-212-548-0175
Gmail Logodrsp@infoscholar.org
website icon 1www.opensocietyfoundations.org/about/programs/scholarship-programs

Video: Disability Rights Scholarship Programme

About Open Society Foundations

The Open Society Foundations work to build vibrant and tolerant societies whose governments are accountable and open to the participation of all people. As a non-government organisation, it seeks to strengthen the rule of law; respect for human rights, minorities, and a diversity of opinions; democratically elected governments; and a civil society that helps keep government power in check. The foundation helps to shape public policies that assure greater fairness in political, legal, and economic systems and safeguard fundamental rights. It implements initiatives to advance justice, education, public health, and independent media. The Open Society Foundation also builds alliances across borders and continents on issues such as corruption and freedom of information.

Working in every part of the world, the Open Society Foundations place a high priority on protecting and improving the lives of people in marginalized communities and this included Persons with disabilities (PWDs).

Website: www.opensocietyfoundations.org


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