UK University Scholarships for Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Monday 28 June 2021, Support


UK University Scholarships for Refugees and Asylum Seekers


Over 70 UK universities offer scholarships for refugee and asylum-seeking students to allow them to study. Student Action for Refugees (STAR) encourages and supports universities to create and maintain scholarship programmes, and helps to advertise these opportunities to applicants. In this blog you can find out why they are needed and how to apply, as well as how UCAS and STAR are supporting refugee and asylum-seeking applicants on their journey to university.

People who are seeking asylum in the UK are often locked out of university. Most are classed as international students, meaning that they are charged higher fees. On top of this, most are ineligible for student loans and do not have the right to work to earn money to pay their fees or cover their living costs. Equal access to higher education is a right, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - but it is not a reality for people in the UK who have been forced to flee their homes because of war and persecution.


Access to university is not only restricted for asylum seekers; people with leave to remain from an asylum claim and some people who lived in this country for their whole lives but do not have a secure immigration status can also be held back in this way. Find out who is affected and how.


STAR has campaigned for equal access to university for refugees and asylum seekers for over ten years. STAR believes that people seeking sanctuary shouldn’t be classed as international students and should have access to education to help rebuild their lives and integrate into UK society. Together with a coalition of organisations, they’ve campaigned to create scholarships at UK universities to allow asylum seekers and refugees access higher education like any other UK student. They provide expert support to scholarship programmes, share good practice between university practitioners from across the UK who are working to improve access at their institutions, and encourage students to campaign for change on campus. They also campaign internationally, including showcasing the work of UK universities helping refugees and asylum seekers at the Global Refugee Forum in Geneva.

As a result of STAR’s work and the work of universities and organisations across the UK, there are now over 70 UK universities offering scholarship programmes to help refugees and asylum seekers access higher education - and the movement is growing.

Over the last year, STAR and UCAS have teamed up to create a package of support measures to help these groups apply to university and find the funding they need to be able to learn, including specific information and advice for asylum-seeking and refugee applicants. UCAS also trained STAR volunteers to give 1:1 mentoring and support to applicants from refugee backgrounds.

If you’re a refugee or asylum seeker interested in higher education, you can join a new online support network for students and applicants from refugee and asylum-seeking backgrounds set up by STAR activists. The Equal Access Network is an open, interactive and friendly forum where refugee and asylum-seeking students across the UK can connect and learn from each other’s experiences of higher education. You can join the Member’s Group or follow the Equal Access Network on Facebook and Instagram. If you’re not on social media, sign up to STAR's Equal Access Mailing List to stay up to date on events and opportunities.

A full list of scholarship programmes for refugees and people seeking asylum can be found on the STAR website, together with a how-to guide for applications. STAR’s Access to University pages also have links to pre-university courses and to further support from other organisations in the sector.