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:
- England – tuition fees and student finance
- Scotland – tuition fees and student finance
- Wales – tuition fees and student finance
- Northern Ireland – tuition fees and student finance
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 is different in England. Read more about this 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.
If you have been granted Indefinite Leave to Remain as a Bereaved Partner
If you have been UK resident since being awarded such status will qualify for student support without three years ordinary UK residency.
The UCAS application
For students applying to start their course in 2023, UCAS has introduced a new section in the application so you can share more information about your circumstances with the university or college – including whether you are a refugee, asylum seeker or have limited leave to remain in the UK. This information means the university or college will be able to connect you to the right support for your needs quickly and easily and ensure you have all the information you need.
In the ‘More about me’ section of the application, you will see a question that asks if you are a refugee, asylum seeker, or have limited leave to remain in the UK. Select the status that most closely represents your circumstances from the drop down box. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t exactly match your circumstances as the university or college will be in touch to find out more and to discuss how they can support you.
This information is treated confidentially and only shared with those responsible for arranging support and helping you with your application. Knowing about your circumstances may also help admissions staff consider your achievements in context - it won’t reflect negatively on your application. This information won’t be used to set your fee status either – it is just there to make sure you get the right support.
You are always in control – if you decide don’t want support, you can choose not to accept it, but if you change your mind later on, or if your circumstances change, it’s ready for you. To find out more about sharing information about your circumstances in the UCAS application, read our FAQs page.
Remember: Not all universities and colleges offer the same type of support so research your options before you make your application to ensure they offer what you need.
Your personal statement
We've worked with Student Action for Refugees (STAR) and their group of Equal Access Activists to help you use the personal statement to identify your key strengths and transferable skills as you apply to university or college.
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 Education UK 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 and asylum seekers 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.