Further and Higher Education

The facts:
Refugees and asylum seekers have full access to further and higher education, providing they meet the entrance requirements for the course, can pay the course fees and support themselves financially.  Asylum seekers are not eligible for Student Support, Access Funds or Hardship Loans, and they usually have to pay overseas students fees (although exceptions can be made on some courses). 
People with refugee status, HP or ELR pay home student fees for further and higher education. Those with refugee status are automatically eligible for student support (loans and grants), but those with ELR or HP have to have been living in the UK for three years before they qualify.
People who have permission to work and have been registered unemployed for six months are eligible for government training schemes. Training schemes, according to age, include modern apprenticeships, national traineeships, Work Based Learning for Adults and the New Deal. Details are available from local Job Centres, or the Employment Service. (for more information on New Deal and Work based learning for adults see the Benefits and Entitlements Factsheet).
Some colleges and organisations offer courses specifically for asylum seekers and refugees.  

Potential issues and how ways to work through them:
Understanding the system
Further and higher education systems vary from country to country and refugees may be unfamiliar with how the UK works.  The mentor’s own knowledge can be crucial here, especially on the basics such as levels of qualifications, methods of assessment, and the application process. If additional or more specific information is needed, the Refugee Education and Training Advisory Service (RETAS) offers advice and information.  Time Together also has copies of very useful handbooks from RETAS and CARA which pairs are welcome to borrow.  A full range of information for international students is available in UKCOSA’s online guidance notes.
Finding the right course
There is a vast array of courses available, both vocational and academic. Mentees may need assistance in finding the right course for them.  It may be useful for the pair to clarify together exactly what the mentee hopes to gain from participating in further education so as to focus the search for a suitable course.  Depending on the mentee’s learning priorities, the best place to begin looking is at their local Further Education College to find out the range of courses available. The list of useful contacts at the end of this Factsheet will gives lots of places to contact to gain advice and guidance.
See the Employment Factsheet for more information on work-related training. 

Recognition of previous qualifications/experience
Many refugees are highly skilled and experienced people.  One of the problems that refugees face in re-establishing themselves in the UK is that the professional/academic qualifications and experience achieved in their own countries are not recognised here.  In addition, they may be unaware of what they need to do in order to get their qualifications/experience recognised.  The National Academic Recognition Information Centre (UK NARIC) advises on how overseas academic qualifications relate to UK qualifications.  APEL (Accreditation of Prior Learning Experiential Learning) and APL (Accreditation of Prior Learning) is a system used by many UK universities which recognises an individual’s prior learning and experiences gained overseas so that they can use it to access, advanced standing or credit in Further Education and learning.  For example, the London Metropolitan University run an APEL/APEX course which leads to a certificate in professional development. 

English language
 A high standard of English is necessary to secure a place on most courses and a qualification or exam may well be required.  The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is used as a common guideline and there are a number of preparation courses available.  The IELTS website provides information on the exam and allows you to search for your nearest IELTS provider.
Individual institutions may have their own means of assessing language levels and should always be contacted to find out precise requirements.  Having been accepted, many universities offer intensive language preparation courses before term starts and ongoing assistance during the course.  Again, contact the individual institution for information.

Many refugees and asylum seekers find the high costs of further education to be a major obstacle.  It is usually more difficult to find funding than to secure a place on a course.  RETAS is a key source of information on the limited funding available and also offers grant schemes on occasions.  Individual institutions may also offer their grants and funding so it is worth contacting them to find out.

Useful Contacts
Council for Assisting Refugee Academics (CARA) 
London South Bank University, Technopark, 90 London Road, London, SE1 6LN 
Tel: 020 7021 0880

Learn Direct – especially for computer competency                   

Refugee Education and Training Advisory Service (RETAS)             
- provides information, advice and guidance on education, training and employment for refugees.

Asylum Seekers’ Skills, Empowerment and Training (ASSET UK)
Information for asylum seekers about education, training and employment

UK NARIC (National Recognition Information Centre)                   
- provides information and advice on the comparability of international qualifications with those in the UK.

International English Language Testing System               

Directory of Social Change                     

The Council for International Education                                           
Information on how the system works and the different types of courses available.

Direct gov                
http://www.direct.gov.uk/EducationAndLearning/AdultLearning/fs/en -             
contains a lot of information on adult education and learning including a course search facility and access to an advisor.


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