It can be very difficult to understand how to support refugee and asylum-seeking students, especially if their immigration status is insecure or due to change. We have worked with expert organisations, including STAR Network, Refugee Education UK and We Belong to help clarify what you can do to help and support young students' aspirations for higher education.

Pre-application and research phase

  • Identify students who are refugees or seeking asylum in the UK (the pastoral team in your school or college may be able to help with this). Flag that they may be able to get help if they want to go to university or college.  
  • Signpost resources that will help students find specialist information and advice. Refugees and those seeking asylum can find more support from Refugee Education UK and Student Action for Refugees (STAR). Students with insecure immigration status (e.g. Limited Leave to Remain - LLR) will find the We Belong website helpful. There is also information on ucas.com
  • Students with a pending asylum claim are usually not eligible for student finance and will be charged international fees, so make sure they are aware of this before they apply – full details can be found on the UKCISA website. Scholarships and fee waivers are available at some universities and colleges – direct students to the STAR page on scholarships for details
  • Students with refugee status or humanitarian protection are normally eligible for student finance and home fees in the UK – this guide from Central England Law Centre will help clarify any uncertainties. Students with limited leave to remain or other statuses should check their eligibility as there are variations around the UK – check the rules for each country on the UKCISA website
  • Check whether students are also care experienced as they may be eligible for additional support (see information for care experienced students elsewhere in this toolkit). 
  • Students from forced migrant background can be more likely to experience difficulties with their mental health and wellbeing, so ensure they are aware of what support is available and how to access it – and to tick the box on the UCAS application to get support if they have an existing condition (see above). Be mindful that there is considerable stigma in some countries and cultures so students may be hesitant to share this information. 

When they’re applying

  • Make sure students select the correct residential category on their UCAS application, to help the institution set the correct fee status – UKCISA can offer help and guidance.  
  • Use the reference to flag if a student is unable to provide proof of achieved qualifications or training. Contact the university or college directly to discuss this, as there is diversity in how each addresses this issue. 
  • Encourage eligible students to tick the care experience box in the UCAS application so they can get the right support. 
  • Advise students to use their UCAS personal statement to outline their previous study, particularly if they are unable to provide proof of qualifications, or did not complete the course. We offer a personal statement guide, developed by students, to help refugees and asylum seekers write their personal statements. 

Post-application

  • If a student’s status changes after they’ve submitted their application, they need to update their details and contact the university or college immediately, as this can affect their fee status and eligibility for student finance. 
  • If the student is unhappy with, or unclear about, the fee status set by the university or college, they should contact them to discuss this. UKCISA can also help, and Coram Children’s Legal Centre gives free legal advice to young people. 
  • Remind students to apply for scholarships and grants as early as possible – places are limited. STAR have a guide to applying on their scholarships page

During Confirmation and Clearing

  • Finding a course through Clearing may be a challenge for anyone relying on a scholarship (rather than student finance) to go to university or college. If they’re looking at alternatives, get them to contact the university or college directly to discuss their situation. 
  • If a student is unsuccessful in getting a place this time, make them aware of alternative options – this guide to alternatives from REUK can help them progress in their education until any barriers are removed. 
     

Preparing for the transition to university or college

 

For more support