Funding for Ukrainian students in the UK
Ukrainians in the UK: University, the right to work and visas
On Thursday, 24th of February 2022, the news of the Russian invasion of Ukraine hit my phone, and my heart sank. At the time, I worked at an international boarding school in the UK with both Ukrainian and Russian students, most of whom were in their home countries, for half term.
Thankfully, they did eventually all make it back to us, but the stark reality was that we were trying to work with and support students stuck in underground bunkers or in our school while their parents were on the front line. It gave my colleagues and me a different perspective on the daily news reports.
While navigating visa and funding options for our Ukrainian year 13’s to facilitate them to take up their places at UK universities, I had to learn a lot in a short period. I was also connected with some of the sixth-form-age Ukrainian students in my local area through the “Homes for Ukrainians” scheme to give them what help and advice I could.
What I learned and where to look for help
Whilst I am not an expert, I want to share key information that I have learned and helpful web resources that may help you further support Ukrainian students in the UK.
The most helpful page is on the government site, which summarises all the different visa schemes that Ukrainians can be in the UK on and which ones they might be eligible to move to.
The key piece of information for university funding is under the “When you’re eligible for full support” section:
You may also be eligible if your residency status is one of the following:
you or your family member have been granted leave to enter or remain in the UK under the Ukraine Family Scheme, the Homes for Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme or the Ukraine Extension Scheme
In simple terms, this means that if you are working with a Ukrainian student in the UK under the Ukrainian Family Scheme or the Homes for Ukraine Scheme, they can access tuition fee loans and maintenance loans in precisely the same way as any eligible British citizen. Unlike British students, they do not need to have been here for three years.
If you have a Ukrainian student who is in the UK on a student visa (or any other kind of visa that doesn’t give them access to student finance support) and is not eligible for the Ukrainian Family Scheme, then they would need to apply for the Ukraine Extension Scheme. This allows students to stay for three years and gives them access to public funds, which include Student Finance awards. It does not count towards the time they need to spend in the UK to apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR).
Ukrainian students currently in the UK on a student visa that is due to expire can also apply to have their student visa extended from inside the UK under the Ukrainian extension scheme. Again, the time spent in the UK on a student visa also does not count towards the continuous residency in the UK needed to apply for ILR. However, if they need student funding for university, it may be better to only apply for the Ukrainian Extension Scheme in their final year before going to university due to the three-year limit on that scheme.
Ukrainian students living in Scotland or Wales have a slightly different entitlement which you can view via the embedded links. However, the eligibility criteria match that of the UK government and Student Finance England.
Emotional support that went hand in hand with careers guidance
Moving away from the financial information, which is, of course, always subject to government changes, I feel it’s important to say a few words about the complex emotional needs that Ukrainian students might have.
While everyone is different, I found the Ukrainian students I worked with all had a steely determination which went hand in hand with a desire to not show fear or worry. For some of them, they couldn’t even acknowledge it to themselves. When working with these students, I urge you to remember that they are dealing with deep emotions, worries and anxiety that we would never wish on young people. So many have had their homes, future plans, and family routines stripped away. They need our patience, empathy, and potentially a little more handholding and a more structured framework of support than other students who may also be navigating visas and finance options for international applications.
Equally, it’s fair to say that every student is processing the Ukraine invasion to some extent, particularly those with ties to Ukraine or the countries that border it. It may mean that they are also in need of some additional emotional support and may also find their financial situation in flux.
It’s worth highlighting that there are options for guidance, and numerous universities have created specific initiatives to support Ukrainian students. Some have set aside specific financial aid funds for them to access too. Those whom my students and I have communicated with so far have largely been incredibly helpful but if you’re not sure, do reach out to institution staff, colleagues in your network, or me, finding solutions together is always easier.
Melanie Moorhouse, Senior Consultant
The University Guys