28 November 2018 - Today is the first ever World Access to Higher Education Day  to raise global awareness around inequalities in access to higher education.  To mark the day, the Irish Refugee Council (IRC) are drawing attention to the many barriers that people in the asylum process face in accessing further education or training, including young people who have completed their leaving certificate.

world access to higher education logo

Charlotte Byrne, the IRC’s Education Officer, who will today receive an award from UCD recognising her contribution to education access, said,

“Today is an opportunity to draw attention to the ongoing issue of education access for people in the asylum system. Since 2015 our Education Fund has offered financial assistance to more than 100 people in the asylum process. This number has grown annually thanks to generous support from members of the public and corporate donors. Our Fund demonstrates that early investment and access to further education means that people are in a strong position, once they receive their status, to work or to continue higher education. It also improves mental health and wellbeing while people wait during the asylum process which can take at least two to three years to complete.”

Pride, a beneficiary of the Education Fund said,

“In the direct provision system, the clock stops until a decision on your case is made. The longer you wait the greater the chance that you end up becoming a liability to the State because your skill set for the job market depreciates. Education helps to keep the clock running. Rather than starting from scratch, education puts one in a position to get a good job, afford a decent life, and become a person with civic responsibilities through paying taxes, and giving back to Irish society.”

Charlotte went on to say,

“In 2015 the government announced a Pilot Support Scheme for school leavers in the asylum process. The scheme was intended to facilitate young people in Direct Provision to move on to third level education after finishing school. Over three years, only five people have been granted support from a total of 59 applications due to the restrictive nature of the eligibility criteria. It is unknown how many people applied this year as the announcement to continue the scheme came late and after all CAO offers were made. There are currently 226 young people between the ages of 13 and 17 in direct provision with little prospect of accessing third level education after completing their Leaving Certificate unless the prohibitive criteria to the Pilot Scheme are changed.”

Another beneficiary Juliana said,

  “Education is one of the most important things. It is so hard when you love studying but you cannot access university because you are an asylum seeker. I have spent 3 years in secondary school, achieved the course that I wanted to do but could not go to university because I was not eligible for the pilot student grant because it requires 5 years residence.  I really hope that this is going to change and  that everyone can have the right to study.”

- Ends -

Education plays a vital role in people’s development, self esteem and integration, if you want to find out more or would like to organise a fundraiser for this fund, please contact our Education Officer, Charlotte. 

Email Charlotte 

Download our Education Information Booklet
The Irish Refugee Council Education Fund:
  • The Education Fund is based on donations from members of the public and other donors including: The Community Foundation for Ireland; Mason, Hayes and Curran; Gibney Communications and the Quakers.
  • In 2015, 9 people were given financial support; in 2016 20 supported; in 2017 36 people supported and in 2018 51 people supported.
 Testimony from people who have benefited from the Education Fund:
World Access to Higher Education Day
  • UNESCO have recognised the importance of access to Higher Education by making equal access to education, including university, one of its Global Goals for 2030. World Access to Higher Education Day acts as a platform to help make sure this goal is met by  adding value and providing support for local and national work;  strengthening efforts to achieve national objectives by encouraging the setting of common global targets and building global widening access networks. 
UCD University for All week
  • UCD’s ‘University for All’ week takes place from 26-29 November to mark its progress towards becoming an accessible and inclusive institution for all students. The week comprises a series of events, including student debates, exhibitions, and cross-university workshops.
  • On Wednesday 28 November – World Access Day there will be the inaugural launch of the UCD See One, Be One Awards.