STAR has been campaigning since 2008 to ensure that people in the UK seeking refugee protection have equal access to higher education and can join us at university as equals. Student activists and Student Unions are in a unique position to affect this change.
As Mala from Bristol STAR says,
“Equal Access is important because everybody deserves the right to education. Asylum seekers are often stuck in limbo for years, without the right to work or to progress their lives. When I think about what asylum seekers have to offer, and how hard they want to work at a degree, I cannot believe that this government and universities are denying people who have been persecuted, and who are now in a financially impossible situation, the right to further their education. We are asking for no more and for no less than what home students receive, we just want it to be equal.”
The Equal Access campaign is being run by STAR in partnership with the National Union of Students (NUS). It is supported by a broad coalition of agencies, including:
Coram Children’s legal centre, British Red Cross, National Union of Students, STAR, Children’s Society, Refugee Council, Helen Bamber Foundation, Refugee Support Network, CARA, Migrant Rights Network, Child Poverty Action Group, Asylum Aid, Refugee Children’s Consortium, Bail for Immigration Detainees, Refugee Education Training Advice Service, City of Sanctuary, Employability Forum, Article 26, The Unity Centre Glasgow, Zimbabwe Association, Boaz trust, Right to Remain, Dost Centre for Young Refugees & Migrants, Regional Refugee Forum:Northwest, Refugee Support network, Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network, Love to Learn, Gloucestershire Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers and The Northern Ireland Community of Refugees and Asylum Seekers
What’s the problem?
Individuals who are waiting for a decision on their asylum application or who have been granted Discretionary Leave to Remain (DLR) in the UK as a result of an asylum claim do not have equal access to university.
They must pay the same fees as international students and have no access to student loans and grants. This excludes most from furthering their education.
As a student network, STAR believes that this is wrong and that colleges and universities should have fair admissions policies for all.
- How can you expect someone who cannot work and who lives on £36 a week to pay £8,500 to £29,200 a year in university fees?
- How can you claim that someone who has fled their country of origin to avoid war, torture and persecution is the same as an international student who has chosen to study in Britain?
- What is the future going to look like if people seeking protection cannot learn the skills they need to build a future?
What’s the solution?
NUS and STAR are campaigning together to open colleges and universities to those seeking refugee protection in the UK. We want:
- All those seeking refugee protection to be able to study as home students
- Students seeking refugee protection to be recognised as having additional needs just like other vulnerable people and to be given the same access to additional support, such as bursaries
A number of universities have already adopted Equal Access including Manchester, Leeds and Royal Holloway.
Campaign for Equal Access at your university
Download the Equal Access campaign guide now to find out how to campaign for Equal Access at your university. You can download the full guide, or just the sections relevant to your STAR group.
7. Campaign resources:
Sign up as a supporter of the campaign
If you are a member of an organisation, university department of student society, why not join organisations like CORAM and Refugee Support Network and ask your group to pledge its support for the Equal Access campaign? It’s simple. Just download and send it back to the friendly team at STAR.
Take Action in support students with discretionary leave to remain
Young people who arrive in the UK to seek protection as children, grow up here and are granted discretionary leave to remain (DLR) have previously been able to attend university as home students alongside their British born classmates. In February 2011 this suddenly stopped. They are now expected to pay overseas fees and cannot access student loans to do so.
STAR is calling on the government to reverse these changes and restore the life chances of these young people.
Get together with friends, SU societies, volunteering partners and professors and write to the Minister of State for Universities and Science, asking him to take immediate action to reverse these changes. Here’s a template letter to help you on your way!
- Sheffield University to offer fee waivers and bursaries from September 2015
- Guardian: letter by Emma Williams, STAR Chief Executive
- Guardian: Asylum Seekers Barred from University
- BBC: The Lord Browne Report, Questions and Answers
- BBC: Student Tuition Fees: Browne review urges no limits
- STAR’s 2009-10 Achievements
- Birminham Guild pass a motion to support Equal Access
- Equal Access at LSE SU STAR occupation
- Oxford STAR pass a motion at OUSU to support Equal Acces
- Guardian: Brighter Futures campaign success – Asylum Seekers Plead for Higher Education
- Guardian: Fees Rules Hurt Refugees
- Guardian: The Refugees Lottery – The Scottish Executive are leading the way on Equal Access
- Refugee Council: short guide on access to further education in England for asylum seekers and refugees
- UK Council for International Student Affairs
- Higher Education Funding Council for England
- Office for Fair Admissions
- Direct-gov – Student Finance
- The Lord Browne Report, Oct 2010
- Article 26 – Supporting Students Seeking Sanctuary
- CARA – Council for Assisting Refugee Academics