Access to Higher Education for migrant students: Welcomed update to Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) long residency rule

students studying in a room

 

by Maisie Wilson 

The Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) have just announced a payment scheme for students who were ineligible for funding due to an unlawful long residence rule.

 

Background

This is a result of our client’s successful case earlier this year which saw us challenge the 2007 SAAS Regulations in the Court of Session. We challenged the ‘long residency’ test which required those up until the age of 18 to have had to lived in Scotland for seven years, and those who had turned 18 to have lived in Scotland for half of their life. This created a ‘cliff-edge’ as overnight the long residency requirement test jumped from seven years to nine. 

Our client came to us as they, rightly so, did not believe the rules were fair. She fell short of the long residency requirement by 58 days, and the SAAS regulations didn’t allow for any discretion in her situation.  

The Court of Session Outer House found that the regulations were unlawful in light of Article 14 (the right not to be discriminated against) and Article 2 of Protocol 1 (the right to education) of the European Convention on Human Rights. They prevented many migrant young people, living lawfully in Scotland since their childhood, from accessing college or university alongside their peers. 

 

The SAAS payment scheme

SAAS have had to rethink their eligibility criteria to encompass the ruling. Those who have missed out on funding are now being encouraged to apply for the SAAS Payment Scheme. This scheme has lowered the residency requirement from 7 years or half a lifetime, to just three years. We welcome this change.

The Payment Scheme is available for those who were ineligible for funding in 2021-22 and/or 2022-23 due to the unlawful ‘long residency’ conditions.  

It is also available for those who did not apply for SAAS funding because they believed that they would not be eligible due to the length and rigidity of the ‘long residency’ requirement. We strongly encourage everyone who thinks they may have missed out on SAAS funding due to the requirement to apply for the Payment Scheme. The SAAS weblink sets out the different courses that the payment scheme applies to. The email address is SAASEGScheme@gov.scot. 

The deadline to apply is 31 July 2023. 

 

Conclusion 

This payment scheme, although temporary, is a positive step in the right direction. We eagerly await the Scottish Government’s impact assessment and consultation on new regulations in early 2023. The right to education is fundamental and a key pillar in any inclusive society, which we are fighting to ensure Scotland is. We are thankful for this positive change, and for our clients who come to us wanting to challenge discriminatory and unjust law.  

JustRight Scotland is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SC047818) which provides legal services through its limited liability partnership, JustRight Scotland LLP which trades as JustRight Scotland (SO305962). This firm has been authorised to act as solicitors by the Law Society of Scotland (Registered No 53703).

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