Exeter needs to do more to help refugee students

This year, the Equal Access campaign at Exeter will be lobbying for change


As a largely very privileged student population, most of us probably take our university education for granted. However, for asylum seeker and refugee students, it is often out of reach.

For this reason, Student Action for Refugees (STAR) is championing our Equal Access Campaign in the hope of breaking down some of the financial barriers which currently prevent asylum seekers and refugees from studying with us.

Exeter’s record on this is already positive. In 2014, successful STAR campaigning led to the university waiving international student fees for asylum seekers. They are now charged the home student fee of £9000 but with no entitlement to student finance, no right to work, and state support of only £35 per week, it’s still virtually impossible for a refugee student to attend and enjoy the same incredible university experience that we do.

We need to change this.

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The Equal Access Campaign has three key goals:

Full tuition fee waivers for a number of asylum seekers and refugees.

Secondly, provision of accommodation, or grants to cover living expenses.

Finally, pastoral support for this potentially vulnerable group of students to help integrate into the student population.

Our goals are ambitious, but most certainly achievable. Other universities including Cardiff and Bristol have already adopted Equal Access policies – so why not Exeter?

As well as the obvious benefits this policy change would represent for refugee and asylum seeker students, the success of the Equal Access Campaign would be positive for the university too. We would be the first Russell Group University to offer a truly comprehensive Equal Access package – one that waives tuition fees AND offers full living cost support. Equal Access would continue our tradition of innovation and ambition, whilst simultaneously tackling our diversity problem.

Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that education is a fundamental human right. Many asylum seekers and refugees have fled war and persecution of the worst kind. They are trying to rebuild their lives, but cannot without our support. This needs to change, and it needs to change now.

Look out for our stall in the Forum in the new few weeks, and make sure to like our Facebook page to stay up to date with the campaign.