Changes to residency criteria for access to financial support in Further and Higher Education

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Closes 31 Mar 2023


1. Do you agree with the overarching policy aim that students need to be able to demonstrate a connection to Scotland in order to obtain financial support from the Scottish Government for their studies?

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The overarching policy rationale for requiring students to have settled status to access student support was because it was considered to be a clear way for individuals to demonstrate a connection to Scotland, which in turn would suggest that they were more likely to remain here and make a longer-term contribution to the Scottish economy after graduation. Without the requirement for such a connection, there would be a risk of finite public resources for student support being provided to students who would be unable to complete their course because their time in the UK was limited or being unable to remain and contribute to society after completing their studies.

The long residence rules, however, provided a route for those who did not have settled status to access home fee status / student financial support providing they were ordinarily resident in Scotland on the relevant date and had resided within the United Kingdom for a specified period of time. These rules allowed people to establish a connection with Scotland even in the absence of settled immigration status.

2. Please provide any relevant comments you may have in regards to your answer at question one.
3. Do you agree that the length of a person’s residence in the UK (together with a requirement to be ordinarily resident in Scotland on the relevant date) is an appropriate way of assessing whether a person has a sufficient connection with Scotland to qualify for the financial support package in Further / Higher Education?
4. Do you agree that 3 years’ residence in the UK is a suitable minimum residence requirement for setting eligibility for student support in Scotland?

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This proposal would see students without a form of settled status no longer being dependent on meeting a minimum number of years in the UK (beyond the standard requirement for 3 years’ ordinary residence). We have selected 3 years as this is consistent with the minimum residence requirement that individuals with settled status in the UK must meet in order to qualify for student support. The reason for this requirement is to continue to ensure that individuals will only qualify for student support where they can establish a sufficient connection to Scotland at the time of their application i.e. that they may have set up a home here; they may have been in employment; or they have an intention to stay in Scotland post-graduation and contribute to the Scottish economy.

5. Do you agree that residence based on any form of leave to enter or remain from the Home Office in the UK should entitle a person to student support in Scotland, provided they otherwise meet the residence requirements?

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It is proposed that with effect from the 2023/24 academic year (i.e. from 1 August 2023), the long residence rules will be removed and the residency criteria under schedule 1 of the 2022 Regulations and the definition of relevant connection with Scotland under regulation 3 of the Fees Regulations will be expanded to include a wider group of students who would be eligible for home fee status and financial support.  The intention is that eligibility will be expanded to include all those who have been living in the United Kingdom for 3 years and who are now ordinarily resident in Scotland, provided they have any form of leave to enter or remain in the UK. The type of leave to enter or remain will not be specified (subject to some exceptions below), but the leave must not have expired. It is proposed that eligibility would also be extended to the spouse, civil partner or child of a person with any form of leave to enter or remain in the UK. These family members would also have to meet the other eligibility requirements (3 years’ residence in the UK and ordinarily resident in Scotland on the relevant date).

6. Do you agree that individuals who are here specifically for education purposes and are on a student visa, should remain ineligible for the financial support package from Scottish Government?

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Individuals who are in the UK on a student visa would remain ineligible for financial support as they have applied to enter the UK on the grounds of education. Current eligibility rules do not consider an individual to be eligible for support if they are resident in Scotland solely for the purposes of education.

7. Do you think eligibility should be extended to the dependents (child, spouse or civil partner) of those with student visas?

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Dependents of the student visa holder (spouse, civil partner or child) who are here on a dependent visa would be eligible for support providing they met the other set eligibility criteria such as ordinary residence, course eligibility etc. 

8. Should financial support beyond support already given through discretionary funds be extended to students who are currently ordinarily resident in Scotland and have sought asylum from the UK Home Office, but whose application is still pending?

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 This expansion of the eligibility criteria would not include those who currently have outstanding asylum claims. This is due to conditions under UK immigration laws imposed on the applicant whilst awaiting their application being processed, which restricts their recourse to public funds. However according to the UK Government, applicants will usually get a decision on their application within 6 months. A 2021 report by the Refugee Council stated that almost half of applicants waited more than a year with almost 5% of applicants waiting for more than 3 years. As the individual would be required to be ordinarily resident in the UK for a minimum of 3 years in order to be eligible for student financial support, it is believed that restricting access for asylum seekers should not pose a significant barrier for potential students as their time in the UK awaiting the outcome of their asylum application would still count towards the three year residency requirement. Asylum seekers who do choose to study in Further or Higher Education whilst awaiting the outcome of their application are already able to access hardship funds (Discretionary Funds) through their college/ university which are provided by Scottish Government.



9. Do you think eligibility for student financial support should be fixed according to an assessment at the start of their course (i.e. with reference to the relevant date)?

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Unlike assessment of household income (which is used to determine the level and type of living cost support which students receive), eligibility on the grounds of residence as the trigger for accessing home fee status / living cost support is not reassessed every year of the course. If a student is deemed eligible / ineligible on the grounds of residence on the relevant date, then that status applies for the duration of that course. This approach enables consistency with tuition fee status awarded by colleges or universities. Each institution will determine a fee status for students and that will be the student’s fee status for the duration of the course. Having a set of rules that could result in a change in status part-way through a course could impact on institutions’ finances (for instance, if a student stopped paying international fees and became eligible to pay the home fee rate part-way through a course).

A reassessment process during the course could also impact ”controlled subjects”, which are (mainly medical) subjects that the Scottish Government has a policy interest in ensuring that student numbers correspond with projected staffing needs in the NHS (for example) in future years.

If, however, the assessment of eligibility for applicants could be streamlined in a manner such as that proposed in this consultation, it may be possible for SAAS to consider re-assessing some students part-way through their course if their circumstances change so as to render them eligible for home fee status or student support. If this only applied to a small number of students, then this should not have a significant impact on institutions’ financial planning or the Scottish Government’s policy on controlled subjects.

10. Do you have any comments on the sort of ‘events’ or changes in circumstances that should trigger reassessment of a student’s eligibility after the first academic year of their course?

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The Scottish Government is considering the possibility of setting out a number of ‘events’ that could trigger a re-assessment of eligibility in subsequent years of study. For example, if a student was ineligible for home fee status / student support in year one but during the course of that academic year they triggered an ‘event’ provision’, this could lead to their funding entitlement being reassessed in year two.

11. Do you have any other comments on the current policy of carrying out an assessment of eligibility on the relevant date, or the proposals to change it?