Good news! The restrictive Equivalent or Lower Qualification (ELQ) rule that has prevented many refugees from accessing student finance will finally be removed in 2025.
Last year, we wrote to the Government along with Student Action for Refugees (STAR) and Refugee Education UK explaining how the ELQ rule has unfairly barred refugees from continuing their studies in the UK. Since refugees come here out of necessity rather than choice, we argued they should be eligible to access funding for their higher education. We presented a strong case along with case studies from some of our clients who encountered huge barriers to pursuing their education because of this rule.
For example, we told the Department for Education about the case of ‘Student B’: she was trafficked to the UK and this experience influenced her decision to study law in the UK, in the hope that she might one day be able to support other survivors of trafficking. Student B gained a sanctuary scholarship* to study at university in the UK but as soon as she received her refugee status, she was no longer eligible for the scholarship. She was also unable to access student finance as she had a previous degree in literature from her home country. Fortunately, Student B was able to access private charitable funding to pay her course fees to allow her to continue with her studies, but she has faced intense financial pressure and hardship as she struggles to combine full-time study with working to cover her accommodation and living expenses.
We didn’t expect quick action from the Government, but we were pleased when they announced that the ELQ rule would be scrapped in 2025 when the new Lifelong Loan Entitlement is introduced. This is a big step forward, as the rule has had a damaging impact on refugees’ ability to integrate and build new lives here.
While the change isn’t happening immediately, we’re pleased the Government listened to the concerns we jointly raised. Our advocacy was done in partnership with STAR and Refugee Education UK, showing the power of organisations working together.
Removing the ELQ rule will give more refugees the chance to access further and higher education. This will help them gain new skills and qualifications so they can support themselves and contribute fully to society.
There’s still work to be done to ensure the new system is fair and accessible. We’ll be monitoring the situation closely alongside our partners. But this is very welcome news for refugees wanting to study in the UK.
If you need advice on accessing student finance as a refugee, please visit Student Action for Refugees or Refugee Education UK. We know that the rules can be confusing, so do seek advice if you have any questions.
* A sanctuary scholarship is awarded by participating universities to students who are not eligible for student finance because of their immigration status.
- This update is accurate at the date of publication, but it should be noted that rules can change and the information will then be updated to reflect alterations in policies. Full guidance can be found on the Parliament website: https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/cbp-9756/
- Definition: What is EQL (Equivalent or Lower Qualification) rule? In September 2007 the Government announced that it would no longer provide public funding for Home/EU students studying for a qualification that is equivalent to, or of a lower level than, one which the student already holds. This means that if you already have a first degree (e.g. BA, BSc) and wish to study for another undergraduate degree you may be charged a higher, non-subsidised tuition fee.
- STAR (Student Action for Refugees) is the national network of students building a more understanding and just society where refugees are welcomed and can thrive in the UK.
- Refugee Education UK works towards a world where all refugee children and young people (including those still seeking asylum) can access education, thrive in education, and use that education to create a hopeful, brighter future.