Asylum seekers will no longer have to have spent three years in the Irish education system or have completed the leaving certificate to qualify for a college grant, the Government announced today.
Under the new policy, applicants will still need to have been resident in Ireland for a combined period of three years in order to apply for the grant and have been accepted to a recognised post-leaving certificate or undergraduate course.
Students who have applied for refugee status, subsidiary protection or leave to remain, and have been in the system for at least three years, can apply for the grant under these new regulations.
In a video on Twitter, Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris said that the pilot scheme had been “far too restrictive”.
He added that the strict rules in the scheme resulted in a situation where “on paper we had a support scheme in place, but that actually in truth very few people could access”.
He also said that the new rules would be of “great assistance to many people”, and that he supported the “system of direct provision ended”.
“While the government is preparing for that, it is important that we take real and practical actions today”, he added.
Under existing regulations asylum seekers are considered international students and therefore are excluded from the free fees initiative. A pilot student support scheme was launched in 2015 for applicants living in direct provision, with grants available to students who had completed the leaving certificate and spent five years in the Irish education system.
The five-year stipulation was reduced to three in June of last year as the five-year requirement was found to be too restrictive, with studies from the Irish Refugee Council finding that only six of 59 applicants in the previous three years were given support.
Trinity has lodged an official application for University of Sanctuary status, in the hope of gaining recognition from a programme that pushes colleges to be more inclusive for asylum seekers and refugees.
College expects to hear in the coming weeks if its application for the programme – which has already accredited six Irish universities – is successful, amid an ongoing effort to improve its response to refugee and asylum issues in Ireland.
But Trinity is unlikely to expand the number of scholarships – which currently stands at four – that it offers to asylum seekers, according to Gillian Wylie, an assistant professor in the School of Religion, who helped oversee the application.