Higher Education on Hold: Access to higher education for young people with insecure or unresolved immigration status
In partnership with King's College London
22nd June 2021
Our new research report ‘Higher Education on Hold’, in collaboration with King’s College London, explores the barriers to higher education access faced by young people who have insecure immigration status.
The report is the first to examine the barriers to accessing HE that that stand in the way of young people who:
- Have refugee status
- Are seeking asylum
- Have limited leave to remain or indefinite leave to remain
- Are undocumented
Our new research finds that many young people who have completed most of their schooling in the UK are ineligible for student finance, and have to pay international fees of up to £30,000 per year. This forces many to give up, or delay their journey to higher education.Young people who have completed most of their schooling in the UK are forced to give up, or delay their journey to higher education because they can't access student loans Click To Tweet
In order to access student loans young people with certain statuses must have held their immigration status for three years and have lived in the UK for at least half their lives (see figure 1).
One young person described how despite having been granted limited leave to remain, they were blocked from accessing HE due to ‘Long Residence Category rules’:
“We go through all this, being limited and being blocked and having all these obstacles. When we finally get our limited leave to remain, oh, great. It’s great. [You think] this whole thing has been lifted, but no. You have to go through student finance and it’s very, very hard on people because of status.”
The scale of the issue
The scale of this issue remains unknown. The Home Office’s does not publish figures that specify the stage people are at in their immigration journey. This means that it is impossible to measure the scale of the wasted talent, but experts estimate that the number is at least in the thousands.
The impact of ‘being blocked’
Young people involved in the research described how being unable to pursue their education impacted on their mental health:
'I came out with the second highest grade in my whole sixth form cohort. So, imagine not being able to go to university when all my friends have graduated and are doing big things' Click To Tweet
“I suffer from anxiety…I’m on medication… it was really hard to struggle because I did do very well at sixth form. I came out with the second highest grade in my whole sixth form cohort. So, imagine not being able to go to university when all my friends have graduated and are doing big things. Mentally it has a big impact on me.”
Time to act
The barriers standing in the way of young people’s hopes and dreams are not only detrimental to the individual, but also damaging to our economy and society. High achieving young people are denied the chance to contribute intellectually and economically to the UK. The young people we met want to be doctors, midwives, business people and scientists but their aspirations are put on hold simply because they cannot access a loan as other students can.The barriers standing in the way of young people’s hopes and dreams are not only detrimental to the individual, but also damaging to our economy and society. Click To Tweet
We are therefore today recommending that schools, universities and Student Finance England provide better information and training for staff so that teachers, careers advisors, admissions teams and student finance advisors understand these issues. This will ensure they can provide young people with the support they need. Universities should also call on the Department for Education to remove the restrictions that currently scupper young people’s progression so that young people who live in the UK legally no longer struggle to access HE.Universities must call for the government to scrap rules that stop young people with insecure immigration status from accessing university Click To Tweet
As Michael Bennett, Associate Director of Widening Participation at King’s points out:
“These are students with a lot of vital skills, knowledge, and experience. It is up to us to tap into this talent and to support them to achieve their cherished goals. We call on other universities to support our campaign in asking the government to remove the restrictions which deny young people access to student finance and therefore the opportunity to fulfil their potential.”