Asylum seekers should get financial aid in UK - report
Financial aid is needed to help asylum seekers into higher education, says report. Source: Shutterstock

The Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) and Brightside charity say asylum-seekers should be granted fee waivers to allow them to study at university, in a report on increasing access to higher education released yesterday.

The report, ‘Reaching the parts of society universities have missed: A manifesto for the new Director of Fair Access and Participation’ calls for universities and the government to offer financial support to young asylum seekers who wish to continue their education in the UK.

“The Government should ensure no asylum-seeking young person wishing to study at university is excluded by insurmountable financial barriers,” wrote Dan McEvoy, Specialist Higher Education Support Worker for Refugee Support Network in the report.

“These include tuition fees charged at a higher ‘overseas’ rate and an inability to access student finance.”

There are almost 40 million young people among the 65 million refugees worldwide, only 1 percent of whom are in higher education according to a report by Universities UK.

Higher education has long been viewed as an important social mobility tool. It allows people to break out of the poverty cycle, according to the Learning and Development Agency, as people can gain skills, improve their employability and build a new life.

This is especially important for asylum seekers as they face a number of obstacles, including language difficulties or skillsets that don’t meet the demands of their new home’s employment market. Higher education can help correct this as they can better their qualifications and expertise.

As of last June, 40 universities in the UK were offering scholarships and fee waivers, and the HEPI and Brightside report calls for financial aid be written into legislation,

The report also calls for universities to give all staff unconscious bias training, which will likely help overcome stigmas towards asylum seekers in higher education.

LGBTQ+ students and those from disadvantaged areas were also discussed in the report.

“Real progress has been made in extending access to higher education. But we are only at the first furlong on a long journey,” said Nick Hillman, Director of the Higher Education Policy Institute and a contributor to the study.

“Groups like disabled students, LGBT+ students and refugees all face barriers in meeting their potential.

Anand Shukla, Chief Executive of Brightside added: “Broadening the focus of the Office for Students to focus on participation as much as access is welcome and necessary. I hope the innovative ideas presented in this new report will help ensure everyone feels welcome in higher education, regardless of background.”

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