• Asylum seekers who have been in secondary school for three years now eligible for financial supports to access university courses after Leaving Cert
  • Previous criteria required students to have been in secondary school for 5 years

5 June 2019 - As the Leaving Certificate examinations begin, the Irish Refugee Council warmly welcomes news announced on Tuesday by the Department of Education, of new measures which will extend access to education benefiting more students seeking asylum in Ireland. The Council also welcomes the prompt announcement of the Scheme this year, giving students sitting the Leaving Cert time to apply. Last year the announcement was made in September, too late for many as most college offers needed to be accepted in August.

Changes to the Student Support Scheme will open up access to financial supports for students who have spent three years in an Irish school. This follows consistent calls from the Irish Refugee Council for the Government to lower the eligibility criteria for the student support scheme since its introduction in 2015.

Under the old rules, students had to spend five years  in the Irish school system to qualify for financial supports for third level. This meant that students who, for example, completed their Junior and Leaving Certificates in Ireland but had not arrived in Ireland in first year, could not move on to third level after receiving their Leaving Certificates.

Commenting on the changes, Nick Henderson, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council, said

 “We warmly welcome this decision of the Department of Education and Skills. Education is a great equaliser, breaking down the cycle of poverty and opening doors to brighter futures. Yet it has been out of reach for people in the asylum system for too long. No matter how high your points, the financial burden meant that young people were left behind while their friends went on to university. We welcome the news that more students will be able to access third level education in future.”

Charlotte Byrne, Education Officer added

“I work with young people every day who are starting out in life with enormous potential and hope for the future. The barriers placed in the way of further education have been so disheartening for them. It is wonderful to think that more students will now be able to fulfil their dreams, develop their talents, and pursue future careers of their choice.  We would also encourage the Department of Education to accept a Further Education qualification as a valid entry path to Higher Education under this Student Support Scheme.”

To support students and young people in the protection system, each year, the Irish Refugee Council administers an Education Fund to assist people in the asylum process to pay college fees, transport costs, and other necessities so they can pursue their dream of higher education.

- ENDS -

Notes to Editor

Department of Education Press Release 4 June 2019