Equal Access is a national campaign to ensure that people seeking refugee protection in the UK can access higher education.

In 2008, STAR launched the Equal Access campaign and in 2011, we partnered with the NUS. STAR groups have been instrumental in securing scholarships and opportunities for refugees to access higher education in the UK. 

STAR works closely with campaigners with lived experience of accessing higher education while seeking asylum or with an insecure immigration status. Meet the Equal Access Activists.

Refugees and students at a university open day
We ask universities to:
  • Classify all those seeking asylum as home students for fee purposes 
  • Offer scholarships to cover study and maintenance costs
  • Publicise their Equal Access policies so that potential students can easily apply
What has been achieved so far?

The Equal Access campaign has dramatically increased the number of scholarships available to people from refugee and asylum-seeking backgrounds. The number of universities offering scholarships has grown from just seven in 2012 to over 70 in 2021. This adds up to over 200 opportunities each year for people who would otherwise be unable to continue their education. And we’re not stopping there – STAR groups continue to campaign for scholarships for refugee and asylum-seeking students at universities across the country. The STAR network is  passionate about building a more welcoming environment at university, and helps to break down barriers by organising open days and volunteering at workshops to support applicants.

Our Access to University Coordinator works with a growing number of partner organisations to change policy and coordinate action across the charity sector. We collaborate with the Universities of Sanctuary network, organise conferences and workshops about access to university, and bring together universities to share best practice. We also provide support to legal challenges. Recent successes include reducing barriers to higher education for individuals who are ‘appeals rights exhausted’ and those with Humanitarian Protection.

Why is equal access important?

Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that ‘higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit’. Access to higher education is not only a right – for many, it is a life-changing opportunity. It is a means of improving job prospects, and an essential part of wellbeing. But at the moment, people seeking refugee protection in the UK are often locked out of higher education.

Globally, just 3% of refugees worldwide have access to higher education, compared to 37% of the general population. STAR supports the 15by30 target – to achieve 15% enrolment of refugee learners in higher education 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. For a more detailed overview of eligibility for student finance and home fee status, see the Coram Children’s Legal Centre website

If you are interested in getting involved in the Equal Access campaign, please contact Siobhán Coskeran, Access to University Coordinator.

Education has always been my dream. Whatever my immigration status, financial circumstances, or age, my right to learn, read and write should be considered as my human right. No one should, regardless of who the person is, be denied the right to know.’ 

– Lamine, former STAR President

University is important to feel welcome, accepted and become myself without being discriminated against. It gives me the platform to be creative, innovative and hopefully see my work being acknowledged.’ 

– Equal Access Activist

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