Gary Gray, who has set up a support group for Ukrainians and their Scottish hosts, said in a letter to MSPs that Ukrainian students studying remotely from Scotland are unable to apply for Universal Credit as they will be classified as international students.
Some universities in Ukraine are managing to offer courses online to students who have scattered across the globe since the war broke out.
However, those living in Scotland, but studying with a Ukrainian institution are also ineligible to apply under the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) for the International Students Emergency Fund. The new support only applies if the Ukrainian student transfers their course to a Scottish university.
Mr Gray said: “We feel that forcing Ukrainians to abandon their university at this time is highly inappropriate and not the warm Scottish welcome we are all working to achieve. Having spoken to SAAS, the only way that support can be put in place is if the terms of the International Students Emergency Fund is changed to provide support. And that the change to this policy must come via Scottish Government.
“It may also be much more significantly cheaper to support these students to continue their studies with a Ukrainian university as [this] would only require their living costs to be met, not tuition fees.”
In April, higher education minister Jamie Hepburn unveiled a scheme that allowed displaced Ukrainian students settling in Scotland to be given access to free tuition and financial living support. He said those enrolling for a further or higher education course from the next academic year would be eligible, providing they had submitted an application to the Homes for Ukraine, Ukraine Family or the Ukraine Extension schemes.
He said the Scottish Government had also created a new £1 million International Students’ Emergency Fund, which would help Ukrainian students already in Scotland who find themselves in hardship due to their situation to continue their studies.
The Scottish Government has a “super sponsor” system within the UK-wide Homes for Ukraine scheme, which allows refugees to apply to come to Scotland with the Government as their sponsor – and do not need to find a named host who will sponsor them. Instead, they are taken into temporary accommodation such as a hotel by a local authority in Scotland and later placed with a host family or into council accommodation.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are working to ensure that all displaced Ukrainians have the support they need.
“We have introduced a range of measures to support students, including access to financial support for Ukrainian students and a new £1 million International Students Emergency Fund to support students facing financial hardship as a result of a significant change in circumstances.”
Universal Credit, and eligibility for payments, is reserved to the UK Government and handled by the Department for Work and Pensions. International students are not eligible to apply for Universal Credit.