Call for Applications: Open Society Foundation Disability Rights Scholarship Program

Deadline: December 1, 2017.

The Disability Rights Scholarship Program offers awards to individuals from China, and selected countries in Africa and Latin America 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, OSF expects 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.

Participating Institutions

Fellows will be clustered if possible at select institutions that demonstrate cutting-edge capacity for legal education in international disability rights, and that are interested in forming a consortium of schools dedicated to developing this field and deepening their own capacity with an international perspective.  In nurturing such a network, the Program strives to encourage faculties to incorporate disability rights into existing human rights curricula and participate in collaboratively-designed workshops and research efforts in the field.   Participating schools include:

  • Faculty of Law, McGill University, Canada
  • School of Law, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland
  • School of Law, University of Leeds, UK
  • College of Law, Syracuse University, USA
  • Washington College of Law, American University, USA


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 China;  Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda;  Mexico, Peru  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 Summer 2018;
  • be able to begin the graduate program in August or September 2018;
  • 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.

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.

A note on references:

Referees you list in the application will be automatically contacted by e-mail when you submit your application with a system-generated request to serve as your reference.  We strongly suggest you contact  references in advance with your request.   Referees can send letters to us directly using the link in the email they will receive from Submittable when you submit your application.

Alternatively, reference forms can be downloaded here and emailed directly to the appropriate regional coordinator.

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 2018.  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 2018.  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.

For any inquiries, please contact the appropriate regional coordinator. Their contact information can be found here.


Open Society Foundation’s website.

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