UCD Developing Fee Supports For Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act 2014 has confirmed that UCD is planning to introduce applications for fee supports for refugees and asylum seekers. UCD Access and Lifelong Learning (ALL) will serve as the initial point of contact for refugees, asylum seekers, and those with leave to remain and subsidiary protection status. Applications for fee waivers and financial assistance will be received by UCD ALL. UCD ALL staff members contacted by the the University Observer stated that they were not in a position to comment on the plans. The UCD ALL website contains no information on supports for refugees, asylum seekers, or people in similar situations. Although UCD does not hold any central information on the number of refugees or asylum seekers in the university, a spokesperson confirmed that there are “people here under the status of refugee.” An asylum seeker is a person who is seeking to be recognised as a refugee. A refugee is anybody who leaves their country because they fear that they are in danger of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership of a particular social group. A spokesperson for UCD has also claimed that the university has received University of Sanctuary status. No public announcements have been made by UCD or Places of Sanctuary Ireland in relation to this claim. Dublin City University, University College Cork, University of Limerick, and Athlone Institute of Technology have all previously received Sanctuary status. The status of these institutions has appeared in many national news articles. Guidelines on Access to the UCD Community for Refugees, Asylum Seekers, those with Leave to Remain and those with Subsidiary Protection state that for universities to receive this status, they generally must make progress in providing financial support to prospective students who are refugees or asylum seekers. UCD’s David Kelly, Director of Financial Planning for the O’Brien Science Centre, is a member of the University of Sanctuary Steering Committee. The committee’s aims are to validate applications for higher education institutes applying for Sanctuary status, develop a University of Sanctuary network, and to advocate for asylum seekers and refugees on issues concerning higher education. The committee first met on 7 December 2017. The guidelines adopted by the University Management Team on 20th June 2017 state that  “UCD wishes to respond to these and other kinds of barriers by offering support and opportunities to widen the participation of displaced persons seeking sanctuary in Ireland and providing access to University College Dublin for them as students, for work experience, or as employees.” “UCD works to seek funding for Scholarships, and to offer fee concessions and financial supports to applicants who meet normal academic requirements and who would not otherwise be able to avail of higher education.” Under the guidelines, international students who cannot produce evidence of previous education may be required to sit an entrance test. Children who are asylum seekers are entitled to free primary and secondary education in Ireland, but are liable for non-EU fees if they wish to pursue higher education. A limited pilot scheme is available which provides some financial support for asylum seekers who have spent five years in the Irish school system, and who have been accepted into higher education. In 2017/18, UCD non-EU fees ranged from €18,300 to €52,000 for undergraduate bachelors degrees. Those who obtain refugee status are entitled to EU fees and are eligible for SUSI maintenance grants. EU fees range from €3200 to €20,300 for undergraduate bachelors degrees. Asylum Seekers waiting for a decision on their status reside in direct provision centres and are provided with €21.60 per week to live off. There are currently over 4000 people in the direct provision system in Ireland.