The College has established a working group aiming to offer a Trinity undergraduate education to students living in direct provision by next September, The University Times has learned.
The working group will explore options for opening up College’s education to those in direct provision, after a memorandum was presented to University Council on Wednesday by Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) President Shane De Rís.
The memorandum, seen by The University Times, outlines the current situation for students in direct provision and the need to create routes for them into higher education.
Speaking to The University Times, De Rís said that the memorandum was met with “unanimous support for further action to be taken on it”.
In the memorandum, De Rís said: “Trinity has a long tradition of broadening access and entry to marginalised groups of society, through programs such as TAP we have become institutional leaders in creating opportunities for those who need them.”
“The University’s role as a leader both nationally and internationally in addressing issues of social injustice cannot be understated. We have an opportunity to lend those in direct provision a hand-up; to create new opportunities for them. I believe it imperative that we do whatever is in our power to make Trinity accessible to those in the asylum system”, he said.
Before Christmas, Provost Patrick Prendergast invited De Rís to present to council on the issue after it came up in one of their regular meetings.
The working group will operate under University Council and the Senior Lecturer, Kevin Mitchell, will lead it, according to De Rís, who is included in the group. Proposals coming out of the group’s meetings will be fast-tracked, with the group hoping to present ideas at the next meeting of University Council.
Currently, Trinity only accepts students who have already been granted official refugee status or humanitarian leave and have been living here for at least three years. Four Irish universities – Dublin City University (DCU), University College Dublin (UCD), University College Cork (UCC) and the University of Limerick (UL) – have received University of Sanctuary status, a title awarded in recognition of an institution’s commitment to being inclusive of people seeking refuge.
DCU received the status after implementing a number of initiatives, such as scholarships, that aim to increase the number of refugees and asylum seekers attending the college.
Trinity has not been deemed a University of Sanctuary, but TCDSU has been mandated since 2014 to campaign against direct provision. Last year, student activists began to protest against direct provision in a campaign to boycott Aramark, a catering company on campus that also provides the food to many direct provision centres around the country.
The government’s Student Pilot Support Scheme, which aims to help asylum seekers enter higher education, has been the subject of strong criticism, with only one asylum seeker entering college under the scheme in 2017. This is the fourth year that the scheme has remain unchanged. For an asylum seeker to qualify for the scheme, they must meet a range of requirements, the strictest among them being that they must have spent at a minimum of five years in the Irish school system.