If you're a refugee or asylum seeker applying to higher education, there may be support available to help you with finance and your studies.

It's a good idea to contact course providers before you apply, to discuss if they can offer your support, and what this might be. This will depend on your circumstances, and you will need to let them know your refugee status.

Refugee and asylum seeker status

In the UK, a refugee is a person who has fled their country, and is seeking protection because of a fear of being persecuted due to their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion. An asylum seeker is someone who has applied for refugee status and is waiting to find out if it has been granted.

There are a number of different official status options. The following list offers a simple overview – you can find full details on the UK Visas and Immigration website.

  • Refugee – you have been given permission to stay in the UK, and granted official ‘refugee’ status. You have a letter from UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) to confirm this. 
  • Humanitarian protection – you have permission to stay in the UK for humanitarian reasons. You have a letter from UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) to confirm this.
  • Asylum seeker – you are applying for asylum, or you are waiting for a decision. 
  • Limited leave to remain (LLR) or discretionary leave to remain (DLR) – you have been given permission to stay temporarily in the UK. You have a letter from UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) to confirm this.

Tuition fees and financial help

The financial help available, and tuition fees you need to pay, will depend on your immigration status, and where you live (your residential status). 

Course providers charge different tuition fees for different categories of students, so make sure you enter the correct status on your application. There are two main rates of fee: ‘home status’ and ‘overseas status’. Scotland and Northern Ireland each have a ‘middle rate’ fee for those moving from elsewhere in the UK to study.

Where you live and plan to study in the UK can affect your eligibility for student finance. Full details can be found on the UKCISA website by following the links below:

If you need further help with your fee status, Coram Children’s Legal Centre can provide free legal advice.

If you are an asylum seeker

Asylum seekers are not usually eligible for either the ‘home’ rate of tuition fees or student finance. However, there are some organisations who may be able to help. Please see the information below about scholarships for asylum seekers.

If you have Humanitarian Protection

The Government’s regulations about who pays ‘home’ fees and who pays ‘overseas’ fees are changing. If you plan to start an undergraduate course in England on, or after, 1 August 2019, you will need to have been resident in the UK for the three years leading up to the start of your course. For the rest of the UK, there is no change.

Read more about the changes on the UKCISA website.

If you are aged 17 or under, or your status changes

When you turn 18, your status may change. If your status changes (for example, you are granted refugee status after you have applied to university), it is important that you let your course provider know as soon as possible. Admissions staff will be able to give you advice about your individual situation. 

Need more support?

If you need further information or advice about higher education study as a refugee or asylum seeker, the following organisations can help:

  • Refugee Support Network offers support services to help you overcome any challenges you may face, along with useful resources. Its 'Thinking Ahead to Higher Education Toolkit' and frequently asked questions are great starting points for refugees and asylum seekers considering applying to university.
  • Read a blog article by Refugee Support Network, outlining the challenges faced by one student who is an asylum seeker, and the support he has received going to university in the UK.

  • Student Action for Refugees (STAR) works to create scholarships for refugees in higher education. There is a list of all scholarships available in the UK on its website. 
  • UKCISA can help you understand more about tuition fee status in different parts of the UK, as well as other issues related to immigration and education.
  • Coram Children’s Legal Centre provides free legal information, advice, and representation to children, and their families or carers. It can help if you are unclear about your immigration status or need legal advice.
  • We Belong works with young migrants to achieve better outcomes and remove barriers to success – including in education.