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Refugee and asylum seeking students: how to campaign for equal access

Monday 13-03-2017 - 16:14

Student Action for Refugees (STAR) and the NUS International Students Campaign are pleased to launch the new Equal Access Campaign Toolkit aimed at ensuring asylum seeking students can join university as equals.

Asylum seekers - and those granted other forms of limited leave such as humanitarian protection and discretionary leave to remain - are classified as overseas students.

That means they aren’t eligible for student loans. STAR and NUS believe this is wrong. Someone who has come to this country fleeing war and persecution is not the same an international student.

Most university lecturers recognise the benefits of a diverse student body to their classes, to research and the wider academic community.

Yet asylum seekers, who could bring so much to academic discussion and benefit enormously from a university community, are blocked from gaining the education that could help rebuild their lives.

Universities have an important role to play in our society. This should not just be about educating the next generation of architects, accountants, geographers and veterinarians.

Universities must be a beacon of academic integrity by ensuring that admittance is based solely on educational merit rather than financial background.

Yet currently asylum seekers must fork out huge amounts to cover the overseas fee rate with no access to a loan despite residing in the UK and with no option to go elsewhere.

Many UK universities have already adopted Equal Access policies, using their discretion to take and make refugee and asylum seekers feel welcome by considering them home students and creating specific bursaries and scholarships.

Over 15 of these of these universities announced these policies in the last year. So now is the perfect time to campaign for Equal Access.

The new toolkit will give you the information and resources you need to successfully run the Equal Access Campaign at your institution.

It outlines the current barriers to higher education and takes you through a step by step approach to lobbying your university to remove them. It also includes links to template motions and petitions that you can use to get your campaign off the ground.

If you plan on running a campaign, get in touch with Alicia Coupland, STAR’s Access to University Advocacy and Campaign Coordinator, on equalaccess@star-network.org for bespoke advice and guidance in creating a campaign for your institution.

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