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Migrant students in Scotland granted equal right to free tuition

Following a groundbreaking court case, migrant students in Scotland are to be granted equal rights to free university tuition.

The case was that of Ola Jasim, a 20 year old medical student born in Iraq.

Despite having lived in Scotland since the age of 11, Jasim fell short of the 7 year residence mark by 58 days.

This made her ineligible not eligible for her fees to be covered by the Students Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS).

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Current rules dictate that students aged under 18 on their first day at university must have lived in Scotland for 7 years to qualify for tuition funding from SAAS. For those aged 18 and above,  they must have lived in Scotland for half their life to access the same funding as Scottish students.

On the 1st August 2020, the registered start date of her course, Jasim was 17 and had lived in Scotland for just under 7 years. As she does not have ‘settled’ status and did not reach the residence period requirements, Jasim was denied SAAS funding.

This case was taken to the Court of Sessions, which is Scotland’s highest civil court.

Lord Sandison, judge of the case, found that the ‘financial and other pressures’ on the family due to self-funding her tuition fees had become ‘intolerable’.

Jasim’s lawyers successfully argued that this situation was in violation of the Human Rights Act of 1998, as she was ‘unlawfully discriminate[d] against…on the basis of age, immigration status and length of residence’.

Jasim said she felt ‘discriminated against even though this is what I call home’.

If Jasim were to re-enrol in her course, she would then be over the age of 18, making the required period of residence even longer.

Thus, to be eligible for SAAS funding, she would have to put her education on hold until 2024.

The alternative options available to Jasim would have caused ‘extensive disruption’ and were deemed by Sandison to not be ‘remotely palatable’.

The Scottish Government is now reviewing the result of the case. A response and decision on how the law will change is expected soon. 

On the results of the case, Jasim said ‘Now I know the law is changing. Hopefully a lot of people’s lives will be changed too because it is not just me who has been so badly treated.’

The Tower, University of Dundee” by Bill Harrison is licenced under CC BY-SA 2.0