Refugees and asylum seekers face a lottery when applying for further education in England, leaving many without the opportunity to gain the skills and qualifications they need to integrate into British society, the Refugee Council states in a new report, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, and published today.
The research report, A Lot to Learn, shows that some refugees and asylum seekers are being denied the post-16 education they are entitled to*, because learning providers are confused about their entitlements and often do not have adequate processes in place to support them. While some good practice exists, the study found that colleges often do not recognise particular difficulties asylum seekers might face, such as being unfamiliar with the English education system, and problems providing proof of previous qualifications or identity documents due to their immigration status.
Interviews with refugees and asylum seekers found that while hardship funds and other sources of support were available in some colleges, lack of access to funds was a significant barrier in others, as was travel, and access to childcare and computers. Many who wanted to study and were eligible therefore missed out on courses that would enable them to speak English or gain qualifications that would help them secure employment.
The Refugee Council is today calling for clear guidance for learning providers and asylum seekers and refugees to explain their entitlements, training for staff on refugee issues and to ensure people can access support to help them continue their study.
Lisa Doyle, Advocacy Manager at the Refugee Council and co-author of A Lot to Learn said: “It is unjust that many asylum seekers and refugees face a lottery when applying for further education. While some learning providers are able to support this group to access the education they are entitled to, others are unaware of their needs and entitlements and are turning them away. This can’t go on.
“Further education is hugely important for refugees and asylum seekers to integrate into society, whether through learning the language, or gaining qualifications. We want to see an increased understanding of the needs of refugees and asylum seekers within learning providers, so they can provide appropriate support to this group. That way people can not only study, but also get on with their lives and start contributing positively to their communities.”
The research was based on a survey of 70 post-16 learning providers from all regions in England, as well as interviews with 20 refugees and asylum seeker learners, and interviews with representatives from 10 learning providers.
*Refugees who have been granted protection in the UK are eligible to study as home students. Asylum seekers who have been waiting for a decision on their claim for longer than six months, or people who have been refused asylum but are receiving government support, are also eligible for post-16 education as home students. For a full list of eligibility see: http://skillsfundingagency.bis.gov.uk/