MINISTER for Education Jan O’Sullivan plans to introduce changes to ensure asylum seekers are not frozen out of third-level education through high fees.
She was speaking at the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) conference in Athlone, where she said asylum seekers were “particularly harshly treated in terms of access” to college.
“I have said previously that we need to give particular attention to those young people who have completed secondary education in Ireland, and then find themselves unable to progress to college. Through their years in school, they have shared with their classmates their hopes and their ambitions. But those ambitions to continue in education are cruelly curtailed,” said the Limerick TD.
On finishing their Leaving Cert, asylum seekers are subject to the same fees regime applied to, for example, wealthy medical students from overseas when they seek to enter third level.
And Minister O’Sullivan said the government was determined to end this.
“Due to their immigration status these students are required to pay international student fees in higher education institutes. You will know better than me how this effectively excludes them for a future they have worked hard to achieve,” she said.
“For students who have attended school in Ireland for years, we need to change this situation, and ensure that they will be treated the same way their classmates are.”
A government working group on supports to asylum seekers would report soon after Easter, the minister said.
“I look forward to implementing the recommendations of the working group in the very near future,” she added.
She also told delegates, meanwhile, that she anticipated no further increase in the student contribution charge of €3,000, which USI says serves to exclude students from low-income backgrounds from college.