Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) Council tonight voted to mandate the union to lobby College to expand the programme of offering scholarships to asylum seekers.
In April 2019, Trinity’s University Council voted to offer four scholarships per year for asylum seekers to study in Trinity. At the time of the University Council’s decision, TCDSU released a statement saying they were “delighted to see the initiative come to fruition”.
The Asylum Seekers Access Scholarships (ASAP) cover the cost of all tuition fees as well as providing an annual stipend of €1,500 payable in monthly instalments, a laptop, provision of meals, and public transport costs.
The scholarships are open to asylum seekers living in direct provision centres or other accommodation either within Dublin or within a commutable distance. In order to secure the scholarship, a student must have been offered their place at Trinity through the Central Applications Office (CAO).
The motion passed by TCDSU Council mandates the union’s sabbatical officers to lobby College to “expand” this programme. However, the motion does not offer any details as to what form this expansion should take.
The motion states that education is a “human right” and one that is “not being vindicated by the state or higher education institutes” in the case of asylum seekers.
The motion was proposed by Sárán Fogarty, a Junior Fresh Ancient History and Archaeology class rep and was seconded by Cian Kelly-Lyth, a Senior Fresh Sociology and Social Policy class rep.
Proposing the motion to Council, Fogarty said that “the current ASAP scheme is not nearly enough to serve the needs of those living in direct provision”, adding “We need to be open and inclusive on this even when society is not”.
According to the College Registrar, Professor Paula Murphy, only two of the four scholarships available were awarded this year.
Speaking to Trinity News, Professor Murphy stated that the reason for this was that Trinity “did not receive additional applications from eligible applicants”.
“We believe there were a number of reasons contributing to that situation in the inaugural year, including the fact that by the time the scholarships were launched last April, students had already made their CAO choices,” Murphy explained.
Murphy stated: “This year the scholarships are in place from the beginning of the cycle and we are looking forward to being able to support more eligible applicants that apply.”
In light of the fact that not all four of the scholarships were filled this year, Niamh McCay the TCDSU EDucation Officer Suggested an amendment to the motion to state that the union President and sabbatical officers should “assist with the recruitment process”.
A further amendment was added by Laura Beston, TCDSU President, to state that the union President and sabbatical officers should “lobby the Participatory Advisory Group” on the issue.
College currently has a Participatory Advisory Group set up to work towards applying for University of Sanctuary status.
The status is awarded to higher education institutions who demonstrate work in “promoting the integration, inclusion and welfare of refugees, asylum seekers and vulnerable migrants”.
The status is currently held by the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUI Galway), the University of Limerick (UL), University College Cork (UCC), University College Dublin (UCD) and Dublin City University (DCU).
Madalyn Williams also contributed reporting to this piece.