Accessing University

If you are not a UK national and you do not have indefinite immigration status but have lived in England & Wales for a substantial period of your life, you may be eligible for student finance and home fees in England & Wales under the ‘long residence’ category.

  • You may also face barriers to accessing student finance and home fees. It is important to check your eligibility first before you start studying.

Prior to 2015, many non-UK nationals needed ‘settled’ status – such as Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) – to be eligible for student finance and home fee status for universities in England. Many young people who had grown up in England faced a ten year wait before they would obtain ‘settled’ status and before they would be able to access student finance for university.

One young woman – who was born in Zambia and brought to the UK when she was 6 years old – legally challenged the student finance rules. Many other young people supported this legal challenge as part of our Let Us Learn campaign. They provided their testimonies, demonstrated outside the Supreme Court and shared their stories publicly in the national media.

The Tigere judgment was handed down by the Supreme Court on 29th July 2015. In response to this, on September 16th 2015, the Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) announced an interim policy for handling relevant applications for student finance and the Department of Health announced an interim policy for handling relevant NHS and social work bursary schemes applications in 2015-16 only.

The Tigere Judgment and Policy From 2015 Onwards

  • Many young people from the Let Us Learn campaign met the criteria in the policy following the Supreme Court ruling for student finance academic year 2015-16. This included students who had started their degrees prior to 2015-16 but who had met the criteria in the policy before they started their studies; however there were students who were unable to meet the criteria despite this change in rules.

  • On 2nd December 2015 Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) released a public consultation, Student support for non-UK nationals who have lived in the UK for a long time – consultation document. In this consultation BIS suggested several rules/criteria for a new policy with additional restrictions that could mean fewer young people would be eligible for student finance. This consultation closed on 8th January.

  • As Let us Learn, we responded to this consultation and asked for more favourable criteria that would enable more young people to take up their places at university. We also met with BIS to discuss how the suggested rules would exclude many young people;

  • On 26th April 2016, BIS responded to the consultation with New eligibility category for higher education student support – government response. The eligibility criteria in this response are very similar to those suggested in the original consultation document, with improvements for students aged 24 and over.

  • As soon as the consultation response was released, students with live SFE applications for courses commencing in 2016 were told that the interim policy applies only to students starting before the 2016/17 academic year and that their application was on hold;

  • The process for applying for student finance for courses starting in academic year 2016-17 and beyond was different to the process for courses starting prior to 2016-17 under the interim policy. 

  • In the last few years, the process for applying for student finance for courses has continued from 2016/17's interim policy. To find out more information, view our video 'Migrant Access to University: What You Need to Know'

18 Oct 2021