Press release: Irish Refugee Council welcomes education supports for Ukrainian refugees but call for equality of access for all people seeking refuge  

The Irish Refugee Council has welcomed proposed provisions to support people fleeing Ukraine to access third-level education, but has called on government to ensure equal support and access for all refugees and people seeking protection.

The Irish Times reported on 13 May that students from Ukraine would be exempt from paying international fees and be eligible for State grants. RTÉ reported on 13 June that education resources had been made available to Ukrainian children but not children in the protection process.  

The Irish Refugee Council is today publishing a policy paper (also attached) on higher education access for refugees, and is presenting its recommendations to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education, Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science.

Separately, the Irish Refugee Council has recently published their annual Education Information Guide for the academic year 2022-23. Now in its fifth year, the guide has become an invaluable tool in assisting students, guidance counsellors and staff in further education colleges and higher education institutions.

Nick Henderson, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council said:

“While we welcome the proposed additional supports to facilitate students from Ukraine in accessing third-level education, these measures should be extended to all refugees and people seeking protection, regardless of their country of origin. The measures now being considered to assist students from Ukraine have been advocated for by the Irish Refugee Council for several years.”

“We recommend that English language assessments are provided to people recently arrived, with progression plans put in place to reflect differing levels of proficiency. Temporary protection holders should also be able to access the Voluntary Training Opportunity Scheme without the requirement of a prior six months on social welfare. The National Childcare Scheme should also be expanded and made accessible for international protection applicants.” 

“In potentially waiving the requirement for international fees for students from Ukraine, the Government has acknowledged that those fleeing their home country due to fears for their safety cannot appropriately be designated as ‘international students’.” 

“We are calling on the Government to remove the requirement of international fees for those seeking international protection. Further, the requirement of three years continued residency in accessing the Student Support Scheme and SUSI should be removed.”  

“We also raise concerns about reports that education resources have been allocated to Ukrainian children but not others (as reported by RTÉ on 13 June). It is essential that there is equal and fair access to education resources, particularly for children." 

“Instead of creating a two-tiered system for those seeking international protection, the admirable compassion shown towards people fleeing Ukraine should be a catalyst for wider reform in our international protection system.”