An Asylum Seeker’s Guide to Getting Into Uni

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An Asylum Seeker's Guide to Getting Into Uni

Read about one of our talented and determined volunteers, Zainab who shares how she successfully navigated her path to university as an asylum seeker and who is passionate about sharing her advice to help other people in her situation. You can hear more about Zainab’s personal experience of accessing university here


My name is Zainab, I am 21 years old and a university student currently studying law ?.  In this blog, I will tell you how to get into university when you are an asylum seeker. Unfortunately, there are lots of misconceptions about education for asylum seekers in the UK, so I wanted to clarify the situation for you with this ‘step by step to university ‘guide!

First of all, please believe in yourself, do not listen to anybody who tells you to stop trying. Nothing is impossible.

1: Start researching universities.

Set your goals high, but also wisely. Look at the rankings of each university and decide which to choose from here:

 You have options when applying to a university. I used UCAS for my application, which is a website that sends your application and other documents to universities. Also, there are some universities that have their own application portals on their websites. You need to look at them and apply one by one if you are interested in studying there. The deadline for UCAS applications is the 15th of January. (You can apply after the 15th of January too, the portal is not closed, but you can only apply to remaining universities which have vacancies for the course you have chosen) If you apply through UCAS you will have 5 university options. Do not forget, you cannot apply for different courses! You should choose only one course. (Law, IT, Sociology etc.)

2: Never forget to look at scholarships!!!

This is very important as the government is not giving Student Finance to asylum seeker students. This means that you need to pay the school fee and have to take care of yourself (which is impossible with the amount given to asylum seekers). Some universities have scholarships for these situations and in very generous amounts. If you are receiving benefit from the government, please only choose these universities.

There is a list of scholarships available in this link:

3: Please look at the scholarship application dates and make your applications before deadlines.

Each university will have different deadlines to apply for Sanctuary Scholarships so be careful. 

4: Once you choose what to study, such as Law, IT, History etc., you can move on to your documents.

You need to write a letter about yourself called ‘personal statement’.  In this letter, you will talk about yourself in a detailed way and also about your qualifications or talents. Please tell everything including your primary school, high school, college education. What you did in that period of time, which exams you took, which courses you attended, which certificates you have etc. Also, you can talk about your story, aims in life and importantly why you have chosen that specific course to study.

There is a tool in UCAS about this letter: 

5: I recommend you take the IELTS exam or any other equal language exam before applying if you are confident with your English.

If you get a high mark and put it in your personal statement, that will let you be accepted to higher-ranked universities. If you do not take the exam before application, there is still no problem. Universities will give you conditional offers probably and ask you to take the exam and get a certain mark. Some courses want 7.0 or 6.5, some can want 5.0 so it depends on the course.

HOWEVER, there are exceptional circumstances for asylum seekers when they want to take the IELTS exam. British Council only lets you book a date for the exam when you book it for a minimum of 6 weeks later. For example, if today is the 1st of January, the earlier date I can take the exam is 12 February. So please do not leave this to the last minute and plan your route. 

IELTS exam is an expensive exam. It is £180 and I know, that is a lot. Of course, I have some advice for you about this too! Please email when you decide to take the exam and they will hopefully help you with the fee. Also, even though they cannot help you immediately, they are refunding the cost you paid to you when you received the result you need to meet the conditions of your conditional offer. 

I heard lots of people being afraid of the IELTS exam. I agree with them it is not very easy but if you find good resources you can get very good marks. Here are two websites I chose to study from Besides the speaking section of the exam, please watch YouTube videos of previous IELTS speaking exams. You can see what an unsuccessful and successful speech look like. 

6. Once you complete your applications and get your unconditional offers you will need to choose one firm choice and one insurance choice.

Your firm choice will be the university you want the most and insurance choice will be the one you want if your firm choice would not be accepted for some reason. Deadline to accept your offers is in June on UCAS. 

That is all from me! I hope you will be successful in this journey. It can be a bit difficult and there will be times you feel low or demotivated but just keep going. I hope this is useful information for you. 

If you have further questions you can email me from I will try to answer if I have knowledge about the issue. 

Good luck!