17 November 2020

To mark World Access to Higher Education Day, STAR takes a look at why access to higher education for people seeking refugee protection is more important than ever. If you’re looking for a way to help, get involved in our #LetterToMySchool action today!

Today is World Access to Higher Education Day – a global day of action to raise awareness and call for change around inequalities in access and success in higher education. STAR is firmly committed to the principle of equal access to higher education on the basis of merit, as enshrined in Article 26 of the International Declaration on Human Rights and Sustainable Development Goal 4. We want people who have fled persecution and conflict to be able to exercise their right to build a future in the UK and continue on an academic path that suits their abilities.

Why is Equal Access for refugees and asylum seekers so important?

Just 3% of refugees worldwide have access to higher education, compared to 37% of the general population. In the face of growing levels of forced displacement across the world, it is more important than ever to level the playing field and work towards the global goal of securing access to higher education for 15% of refugees by 2030.

In the UK, people seeking asylum are treated as international students and asked to pay international fees, yet do not have access to student finance and are not allowed to work. These barriers often coincide with other stresses and strains, including a lengthy and complex asylum process and the challenge of navigating a new education system. On top of this, many young people who arrived in the UK as children do not become aware of these barriers until the time comes to apply to university, forcing them to put their futures on hold.

Access to higher education is not only a right – for many, it is a life-changing opportunity, a means of improving job prospects, and a key part of their well-being. This is why the Equal Access Campaign is committed to increasing access to higher education opportunities for people seeking refugee protection in the UK.

What has the Equal Access Campaign achieved?

Since starting the Equal Access Campaign in 2008, STAR has worked in partnership with NUS and a growing number of partner organisations to improve access to higher education for people seeking refugee protection in the UK. Around 75 UK universities now offer scholarships for people from asylum-seeking or refugee backgrounds, and in the past year alone 9 universities have set up scholarships with the support of STAR. A growing number of universities also offer a range of access pathways and STAR groups work tirelessly across the country to make universities a welcoming environment for people who are seeking protection.

STAR is also proud to work in partnership with the growing Universities of Sanctuary network and to offer our support legal challenges, including recent successes that reduced barriers to higher education for individuals who are ‘appeals rights exhausted’ and those with Humanitarian Protection.

How can I get involved?

If you’re at university, you can join a STAR group – or if your university doesn’t currently have one, you can set one up! STAR groups are instrumental in campaigning for Equal Access opportunities and scholarships at universities. Check out this summary of the Equal Access Campaign led by STAR Roehampton for just one example.

This World Access to Higher Education Day, anyone can get involved in the STAR and We Belong #LetterToMySchool action. A lack of information is often the biggest stumbling block that schools and colleges face when helping students from migrant, refugee and asylum-seeking backgrounds to apply to university. STAR and We Belong have teamed up to create an information pack so that schools and colleges have the information they need to help students with different immigration statuses apply to university. Share it with your old school or with a school in your local area using our template – click here for full details.

Equal Access Resources

If you’d like to learn more about the Equal Access Campaign, check out the Equal Access section of the STAR website, including:

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