ELIGIBILITY for free student tuition support in Scotland is set to be extended to cover a wider range of immigration statuses.

It comes after Iraq-born student Ola Jasim successfully challenged the Scottish Government in court on human rights grounds.

The 20-year-old, who has lived in Scotland for nine years, could not access free tuition due to a time limit on eligibility.

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Following her win at the Court of Session last year, the Scottish Government is now proposing to remove the time limit which previously applied.

This will mean unaccompanied children who are asylum seekers, as well as the children of asylum seekers, will be able to apply for free tuition.

Another change will also grant student support to those who have been residing in Scotland for three years, if they have leave to remain in the UK.

The National: Dey said he hoped the changes would assist asylum seekers accessing higher educationDey said he hoped the changes would assist asylum seekers accessing higher education

The changes to regulations have been laid at Holyrood and are designed to come into effect ahead of the next academic year.

A Scottish Government report on higher education residency criteria, published on Friday following a consulation, said: "The policy will now be widened to remove the time limit and age cap that previously applied meaning current unaccompanied asylum seeking children and children of asylum seekers will be able to apply for support."

It added that the policy will extend access to tuition fee support and home fee status only, and the change was made after the government recognised "the impact that a delay to an asylum claim can have on a child or young person's learner journey".

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"It is noted that these individuals can access secondary education but are then precluded from entering Further or Higher Education alongside their peers whilst a decision is made on their outstanding asylum claim," the analysis added.

"Officials heard anecdotal evidence that age verification for some children as part of the evidencing of their claim can delay the turnaround time of their application."

The Scottish Government added that due to "time constraints for laying amending legislation" it was not possible to address all of the issues raised, including better support for asylum seekers in general, particularly those who have been in the UK for three years with an asylum claim pending with the Home Office. 

"Further analysis is required to try and identify the number of asylum seekers who are currently residing in Scotland who have been waiting more than three years on a decision by the Home Office to ascertain the extent of the issue," the report added. 

Higher education minister Graeme Dey said: “Scotland has a strong track record in supporting our young people.

“I recognise the impact that any delay to an asylum claim can have on a young person’s education journey and I hope the changes set out here will go some way to address that.

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“In addition, the changes we are proposing to capture a range of immigration statuses will mean that all students, other than excepted groups, must now meet the same length of residence in the UK – three years – to access support.

“The public consultation and stakeholder engagement we carried out was generally positive about the proposed changes.

“We will now seek to engage on other important issues highlighted in the consultation.”