Back to news

The Campaign for Equal Access: asylum seekers deserve an education too

Wednesday 5 December 2012 Citizenship

Does your university offer equal access to education for refugees and asylum seekers? The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has the right to education, yet refugees and asylum seekers in UK face a number of barriers that make this effectively impossible. Complexities around their legal status, crippling international student fees and a lack of financial support mean that education is just not an option for the vast majority of these potential students

NUS and our friends at STAR (Student Action for Refugees) want to change this and invite you to campaign with us for Equal Access.

Our campaign has two aims;

  • All those seeking refugee protection will be able to study as home students.
  • Students seeking refugee protection will be recognised as having additional needs just like other vulnerable groups and be given the same access to additional support, such as bursaries.

Your Vice Chancellor has the ultimate decision on these two things. We want you to work with your local STAR group to persuade your VC to back the campaign.

What’s the problem?

In 2011 the government ruled that asylum seekers would no longer be classified as home students when they entered higher education, consequently asylum seekers are now seen as international students often paying up to £27,000 a year. What’s more, asylum seekers have no access to student loans or bursaries, many also have no right to work, and live from a small government allowance of no more than £5 a day.

What does this mean?

Asylums seekers aren’t international students. They’ve come here seeking protection (often from civil wars or natural disasters) and just want the same right to education as any other home student. This means institutions are excluding talented individuals from education and stopping them from realising their potential and making an already uncertain future even more so.

What’s been done so far?

STAR has been campaigning for Equal Access since 2008 with successful STAR campaigns at universities such as Manchester, Bristol and Royal Holloway. All of these campaigns were characterised by one thing; Students’ Unions and STAR groups working together to lobby their institutions. We can build on these successes to take action locally and nationally. With this in mind NUS and STAR have produced How to Campaign for Equal Access: A Guide which you can use to take action on your campus.

What’s in the guide?

This Equal Access Guide will take you step by step through how to campaign for change. It gives you the facts about seeking refugee protection in the UK, shows where the barriers to accessing university are and gives you the tools you need to put pressure on your institution and national policy makers so they give students seeking refugee protection the education they dream of.

The campaign guide will give STAR groups and students’ unions background information, campaign ideas and resources to get local campaigns off and running including how to build partnerships, how to lobby your institution and what you can do if your institution already has an equal access policy.

What can you do?

  • Read the guide, it’s available here.
  • Get in touch with your local STAR group, you can find out who they are by contacting STAR National.
  • Find out your institutions’ policy on Equal Access and get your Vice-Chancellor to sign the Equal Access Pledge.
  • Find out more about STAR and the Equal Access Campaign here.
  • Tweet about the campaign on #EqualAccess with @STARnational and @NUS_SocandCit
  • Contact Lucy Hawthorne for more information on the Equal Access campaign and how you can get involved.