JustRight Scotland has submitted a response to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the proposed changes to residency criteria for access to financial support in Further and Higher Education.
The Government are changing the residency criteria as a result of a legal case that we brought to the Court last year. Along with our client, we successfully challenged the Scottish Government’s legislation on access to financial support for college and university funding regarding the ‘long-residency’ requirement.
We are in support of the positive moves that the Scottish Government are taking towards making financial support for further and higher education more accessible to individuals from migrant backgrounds.
The key change within the consultation is the proposal to scrap the 7-year and half-life residency requirement and replace it with a 3-year residency requirement. We are in support of this change, as this reduced requirement is a fairer way to try and determined someone’s connection with Scotland – considering an individual’s past residency, but with relevant scope to consider their ongoing and future connection to Scotland.
Although we welcome the positive steps towards furthering access to education, we believe that the Scottish Government could go further, and we have outlined this in our consultation response. We disagree with the continuation of the “year 1 rule”, in which eligibility for support will always depend on the first day of the first academic year of the course and will not be reassessed again.
We also believe the Scottish Government should extend the criteria to include those seeking asylum in Scotland. We support the campaign Our Grades not Visas, which fights for the rights of migrant students and asylum seekers denied access to higher education in Scotland. Their survey highlighted that there are people here who have been waiting more than three years for an outcome to their asylum claim but are still ineligible for funding for higher or further education.
Funding for education is not a public fund, and as such we think that asylum seekers should not be barred from accessing support if they meet the new residency requirements whilst awaiting the outcome of their asylum decision from the Home Office.
Overall, we see the consultation as a stride in the right direction and look forward to the positive changes that will come as a result of it, with more young people from migrant backgrounds now able to access further and higher education. Everyone has a right to education, and we must do what we can to further this in Scotland.
You can read our response here.