The Scottish Liberal Democrats said they had received a letter from Westminster’s under secretary of state for skills, further and higher education, Andrea Jenkyns, that confirmed Ukrainian students who have resettled in Scotland, but who are able to continue studying remotely with their Ukrainian university, will not be eligible for financial support.
Ms Jenkyns said financing was reserved for students registered on UK courses, where she said there are “systems in place to assure the quality of education received”.
Because the Ukrainians are being treated as students who are studying via distance learning, they are ineligible for student financial support from any of the UK funding bodies and may be unable to access financial support from the Department for Work and Pensions.
Many Ukrainian students – and even some school pupils – want to continue their studies from Ukraine in hopes they will be able to return home as soon as it is safe to do so.
Ms Jenkyns wrote in the letter: “Student finance for British nationals and students with settled status continues to only be available for courses in the UK, where we have systems in place to assure the quality of education received and that students are attending their courses.”
She added that full-time students were not usually eligible to claim Universal Credit and that Ukrainian students should consider what “intensity” of course their university is offering if they want to claim any benefits.
Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesman Willie Rennie said: “A small number of talented and dedicated students are still completing degrees at Ukrainian institutions, but they are ineligible for financial support while doing so. This puts their degrees in jeopardy.
"The response from the UK and Scottish governments has been abject. Both are content to pass the buck. These students don't want work coaches or advice on claiming Universal Credit, they want to complete their degrees and start their professional careers.”
Mr Rennie added: “I’m sure all of these students would prefer not to be in this situation, but [Vladimir] Putin’s war has thrown up an exceptional set of circumstances and that requires an exceptional solution.
“Both of our governments should be working together to ensure that these students do not miss out. Scotland will be well placed to benefit from the talents of those who are making a home on our shores. We shouldn’t begrudge them a helping hand in completing their studies.”
A letter to Mr Rennie from Holyrood education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville, confirmed the position. However, Ms Somerville said the Scottish Government believed Ukrainian students studying at their home university should be treated the same way as Scottish domiciled students who are studying via distance learning.
She said although not eligible for living cost support, the students should, based on the relevant work related requirements, be able to access Universal Credit.