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The Sanctuary Community at Birkbeck

University can be a challenge to navigate, especially if you do not have experience of the UK education system. We are committed to breaking down barriers and providing impartial advice through creating a welcoming culture for refugee students.

Applying to Birkbeck as a forced migrant student

If you have been through the asylum process in the UK, you may not be familiar with higher education in the UK or you could be coming back to education after a long break. If you are not sure where to start, we have several resources to guide you through the process of applying to university. Watch our 'Why go to University?' video.

English language requirements 

Previous qualifications 

  • Some courses will have entry conditions that require you to prove your previous qualifications. If your qualifications were achieved abroad, you can check their UK equivalency before making an application
  • Copies of transcripts and certificates will need to be translated into English if they are not already. 
  • There are different entry routes onto courses at Birkbeck that you can explore if you do not have formal qualifications or cannot prove them. 

Academic Reference 

  • Most courses at Birkbeck require an academic reference upon application. If you are not able to provide a reference from someone who can comment on your academic performance, you may consider asking a support worker, employer or volunteer coordinator to write one instead.

Funding your studies

If you have been granted refugee or a similar status in the UK, you may be eligible to apply for a loan to cover the cost of your studies at university.


  • Government student loans are the main source of funding for new full-time and part-time undergraduate students. 
  • If you are eligible, you can apply for a fee loan to cover the full cost of your fees and a maintenance loan to help cover your maintenance costs - accommodation, travel, study expenses, etc. 


Support at Birkbeck

Birkbeck’s student advice team have experience helping refugee students and can advise on a range of topics including housing, finances, and student finance eligibility.

You may want to get in touch with them if you require a specific letter concerning your course, or if you recently gained your refugee status. If they are unable to answer your questions, they will put you in contact with someone who can.

Opportunities to get involved

Refugee Week is a national festival that celebrates the contributions of the refugee community in the UK. In July 2020, Birkbeck celebrated Refugee Week by hosting an online event with musicians and organisations from the charity sector. 

Current Compass scholars are in the process of establishing a STAR group at Birkbeck. STAR, or Student Action for Refugees, is a national network of student groups working to improve the lives of refugees in the UK. 

If you are a Birkbeck student who would like to host an event for Refugee Week or get involved with the work of the new STAR group, please