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Support for asylum seekers

We offer a variety of support for students who are asylum seekers.

As an asylum seeker, you will be classified as an international student and your starting fee will be that of an international student.

You may be eligible for a reduction in fees known as the Tuition Fee Waiver and every year, two successful applicants will receive the Opportunity Award. There is also funding support available from outside the university.

Not yet ready for university? We offer courses and support if you are not yet ready for university-level study

Find out about funding for postgraduate study

Tuition fee waiver

If you are eligible for a tuition fee waiver, your starting fee will be reduced from international to the home student rate.

To be eligible for the tuition fee waiver, you must:

  • be an asylum seeker or a child of an asylum seeker
  • meet the academic programme requirements
  • study on a full-time undergraduate course, excluding Medicine, Dentistry and NHS-funded courses
  • provide proof that an application for asylum in the UK has been made before you applied to UCAS.

The Tuition Fee Waiver Scheme is administered at the sole discretion of Cardiff University.

Assessments for eligibility are undertaken by the university’s Admissions team. You will need to complete a fee assessment questionnaire, which must be returned with evidence of the application for asylum and confirmation that the asylum claim is still undecided.

If your Tuition Fee Waiver application is successful:

  • you will still be classified as an international student but required to pay the home student rate for your tuition fee.
  • you will not be eligible for tuition fee or maintenance loans because you will be classified as an international student under the fees regulations.

If your asylum application is granted

If your asylum application is granted during your course of study at the university, your fee status will change to home student with effect from the following academic year. Your Tuition Fee Waiver would no longer be needed.

This would be the case for those:

  • granted refugee status, or
  • granted humanitarian protection, or
  • granted discretionary leave, or
  • whose parents, spouse or civil partner are recognised as a refugee by the UK Government, or
    • granted humanitarian protection, or
    • granted discretionary leave and who meet the ‘family condition’ on the date of the family member’s asylum application.

Funding is available from Student Finance if you receive a positive asylum application outcome- see below for more information.

If your asylum application is refused

If your asylum application is refused during your course of study at the university:

  • Your fee status will remain as international student.
  • The Tuition Fee Waiver will stop with effect from the following academic year and payment of the full international student fee rates will be required.
  • The time limit on any Visa or Leave to Remain will be monitored and applied in line with Home Office regulations.

Other institutions and funding bodies will make their own assessment and may not operate a Tuition Fee Waiver. We would advise that you contact the relevant funding bodies directly with your details to establish your own entitlements.

Opportunity Award

We know that asylum seekers and the children of asylum seekers are often unable to access mainstream UK student funding.

Our Opportunity Award covers the cost of tuition fees and provides a non-repayable grant of £4,000 per year to support living costs. Each year the award is given to two undergraduate students holding an unconditional or conditional offer to study at Cardiff University. We accept applications from those who are either asylum seekers or children of asylum seekers.

Please note that students studying Healthcare Sciences, Dentistry or Medicine are not eligible for this award. NHS courses are also not covered by the Opportunity Award but you can apply to the Schwab Westheimer Trust for support.

Aspire Refugee Scholarship

We are no longer accepting applications for the Aspire Refugee Scholarship. Please continue to check the website for 2024-25 applications

The Aspire Refugee Scholarship is for Pre-sessional English courses. Scholarships will be awarded to students who hold conditional or unconditional offers to study at Cardiff University at undergraduate or postgraduate level.

The Aspire Refugee Scholarship offers:

  • the full tuition cost for an 8-week or 10-week summer pre-sessional course
  • free accommodation for the student in one of our halls of residence if they wish to access this service (single occupancy only, family accommodation is not available)
  • £150 per week towards living expenses for the duration of the course


The Aspire Refugee Scholarship is for students preparing for undergraduate or postgraduate study at Cardiff University.

Applicants must:

  • have a conditional offer for an undergraduate or postgraduate degree starting in September 2023 or January 2024 at Cardiff University
  • hold refugee status in the UK
  • not speak English as their first language
  • meet the entry requirements for either the 8-week or 10-week pre-sessional course
  • need a pre-sessional course to meet the English Language entry requirements of their undergraduate or postgraduate degree


The course will include on-campus classes and class tasks, seminars and assessment tutorials between 09:00 and 14:30 with additional hours of guided practice and self-study.

The 8-week course will run from 17 July to 8 September 2023 on the Cardiff University campus.

The 10-week course will run from 3 July to 8 September 2023 on the Cardiff University campus.

Course completion

Successful completion of the pre-sessional course is defined as:

  • at least 90% attendance/engagement
  • completion of all assessments and tests
  • an overall pre-sessional assessment score of at least 40% for the 8-week programme or 50% for the 10-week programme

We are no longer accepting applications for the Aspire Refugee Scholarship. Please continue to check the website for 2024-25 applications

Please note that the university reserves the right to close applications before this date, and so we suggest you apply at the earliest possible opportunity.

Applications will be considered based on eligibility and suitability for the pre-sessional course. All applications will be considered by a panel. The panel’s decision is final, and there is no right of appeal.

Please contact if you have any questions about the Aspire Refugee Scholarship.

Financial support from outside the university

Asylum seekers are not eligible for support through Student Finance. However, students with the following status may be eligible:

  • discretionary or indefinite leave to remain (if applying in Wales)
  • humanitarian protection (if applying in Wales)
  • refugee status

If you are granted refugee status during the course, then you can get funding support from Student Finance from the next quarter of the year.

Those students with refugee status are eligible for financial support, regardless of length of residence in the UK.

Those with humanitarian protection, discretionary and indefinite leave to remain must be ordinarily resident for three years before the start of the course to be eligible for financial support.

Please see the UKCISA website for more information on eligibility for funding from Student Finance.

Cardiff Education Trust Fund can provide financial assistance to asylum seeking students or children of asylum seekers who have attended Cardiff secondary schools for at least two years.

Awards are up to a maximum of £1,000 per student in a given academic year.

Refugee Education UK administers university scholarships for asylum seekers:

  • The Westheimer scholarship is an initiative of the Schwab and Westheimer Trust which was established by former refugees who benefited from welcome and support in the UK when fleeing Nazi Germany. This scholarship helps young asylum seekers (aged up to 28 years old) pursue higher education in health and social care, medicine, nursing or other health related professions. Up to three people a year are supported to study for a first degree or professional qualification. The scholarship pays home tuition fees and living costs up to a maximum of £11,500 per year. If you have any questions about this scholarship you can read the Frequently Asked Questions.
  • The scholarship supported by the Marks Family Charitable Trust is open to asylum seeking students embarking on a postgraduate degree programme.

Refugee Education UK also offers advice services to help you overcome any challenges you may face as well as useful resources.

Student Action for Refugees has compiled a list of higher education institutions that provide support for people still waiting for a decision on their asylum claim and for those who have been granted refugee status, discretionary leave to remain and other forms of temporary leave resulting from an asylum claim.

Prisoners of Conscience aims to transform the lives of people who have been persecuted for their acts of conscience, to protect and advance human rights around the world. It funds postgraduate and re-qualification studies to allow prisoners of conscience to recommence their work and thereby become self-sufficient and be able to add back to society.

Postgraduate funding support

The Tuition Fee waiver and the Opportunity Award, are both only available to undergraduate students. There is a scholarship supported by the Marks Family Charitable Trust which is open to asylum seekers embarking on a postgraduate degree programme. You must be able to demonstrate how your chosen degree will make a valuable contribution to society. Only exceptional candidates with proven academic excellence will be considered. The scholarship covers ‘home’ tuition fees (up to £9,500 per year). Applicants will need to demonstrate that they can cover their living costs whilst at university.

Other institutions might be able to provide more support for postgraduate study. STAR (Student Action for Refugees) provides a list of higher education institutions that offer support for asylum seekers including for postgraduate students.

Find out more about our funding options for postgraduate study.

Not ready for university-level study

If you are not yet ready for university-level study, have a look at the support available from Cardiff University’s Widening Participation team. They offer free, Level 3 accredited community courses across Cardiff, in partnership with First Campus and the Continuing and Professional Education department. Contact them to find out more:


The Continuing and Professional Development team also offer standalone Level 4 and Level 5 courses, as well as Pathways to a Degree.

Specialist advice

Lena Smith is our dedicated member of staff for students with an asylum-seeking status and will be your first point of contact. Lena can help you with:

  • support with academic related issues including liaising with your academic department and course tutor
  • signposting to other Cardiff University services including help to apply for Student Finance if you become eligible during your studies
  • referral to trauma specialised counsellor
  • referrals to charities and other potential sources of funding
  • simply just someone to talk to if you need to

You can contact Lena through Student Connect.

Student Connect