COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES have welcomed the announcement that asylum seekers are to be given access to funded full-time further and higher education on the same basis as their Scottish classmates.
Until now, they were treated as international students liable for thousands of pounds in university tuition fees, ineligible for student support, or, in the case of the FE sector, limited to part-time courses.
Last week, Fiona Hyslop, the Cabinet Education Secretary, announced that asylum seekers who have spent at least three years in Scottish schools will have the same access as their classmates to full-time further and higher education. Young people who have taken Highers or equivalent exams at an FE college rather than in school will be considered as having met the threshold but those who have done Higher National Certificates or Diplomas will not.
Educational maintenance allow-ances will also be available to the children of asylum seekers, allowing them to access the payment of up to pound;30 per week to stay on at school or college beyond the age of 16. The EMA system is under review by the executive a report is expected in the autumn. Linda McTavish, principal of Anniesland College in Glasgow, which was praised by HMIE for its work with asylum seekers, said the extension of access to EMAs was particularly welcome.
An inspection of services for children of ayslum seekers in the Glasgow City Council area earlier this year by HMIE highlighted the lack of access to nursery education. In response, the executive an-nounced plans to work with the council to increase pre-five provision, a move which would also make it easier for asylum seekers to attend college.
While the number of young asylum seekers likely to seek full-time places in FE has not been quantified, it is estimated that 18 students will be eligible for university places this year. Last year, Glasgow Cale-donian, Paisley, Glasgow and Strathclyde universities waived the tuition fees of and offered support to six asylum seekers. However, a spokesman for Universities Scot-land said: "This means their access to higher education is no longer on a grace and favour basis."