Asylum seekers looking to apply for third-level educational funding will no longer be required to hold a Leaving Certificate and have spent three years in the Irish school system, Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris announced yesterday.
Those looking to avail of the student grant scheme will still need to have been resident in Ireland for at least three years, and have applied for refugee status, leave to remain or subsidiary protection with the International Protection Office.
Applications for the grant can also only be made when the candidate has already been accepted on a third-level course.
“Relaxing the criteria for the student support scheme will hopefully result in more people accessing third level education,” said Harris, making the announcement.
The scheme was introduced on a pilot basis in 2015, but initially was restricted to those who had been enrolled in Irish schools for at least five years. This was reduced to three years in 2019.
The Irish Refugee Council has said that, by 2018, only five applicants out of 59, or 8.5%, had been granted financial support. The IRC runs its own independent education fund, which it says has assisted over 150 people to date.
Asylum seekers, unless they are EU citizens, are not eligible for the free fees initiative, and are charged the same fees as international students. However, several universities around the country, including Trinity, have independently introduced scholarships for asylum seekers in recent years.
Beginning in the 2019/20 academic year, Trinity offers four scholarships annually under its Asylum Seeker Access Provision (ASAP) to students living in direct provision, who have completed their leaving certificate in Ireland. Applications for this year closed in July, and successful applicants will be notified as the first round of CAO offers go out this month. The scholarship covers all fees, includes a €1500 annual stipend, a laptop, provision of meals and transport costs.
Places of Sanctuary Ireland awards University of Sanctuary status to institutions who’ve contributed to the welfare and inclusion of refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants. All universities in Ireland have been awarded this status, apart from Trinity and RCSI, though Trinity is currently working towards acquiring it.
Applications for the grant under the new terms opened yesterday and will remain open until November 6.