The Equal Access Campaign

Equal Access logo

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.

The Equal Access campaign is being run by STAR in partnership with the National Union of Students (NUS) and is supported by a broad coalition of agencies.

If you want to campaign for Equal Access at your university you’ll find all the information you need here.

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.”

What’s the problem?

Individuals who are waiting for a decision on their asylum application or who have been granted Limited 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 continuing on to higher 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 £39.63 a week to pay £9,000 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 universities to:

  • Classify all those seeking asylum as home students for fee purposes
  • Offer scholarships that cover study and maintenance costs for people who have come to the UK seeking refugee protection
  • Publicise their Equal Access policies so that potential students can easily apply

We’ve seen brilliant progress in the campaign. There are now 75 universities offering scholarships across the UK.

Take Action

Campaign for Equal Access at your university

Download the Equal Access campaign toolkit now to find out how to campaign for Equal Access at your university.


Equal Access Campaign Toolkit

Please note that since the publication of this toolkit, the UK government announced that from this summer Syrians brought to the UK will be granted refugee status following a campaign initiated by STAR. As a result of this change, the following sentence (page 7) no longer applies: “Humanitarian Protection is granted to people who arrive through resettlement programmes, which is the case for Syrian refugees arriving in the UK through the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme (SVPRS)”. Syrian refugees resettled through the SVPRS are granted refugee status, with effect from 01 July 2017.

Further resources:


Equal Access partners and supporters

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

STAR Links

Our list of the Equal Access Scholarships currently available is here.
For information on applying to university and other support organisations, look at our FAQS.