University of Limerick has been designated a University of Sanctuary in recognition of its initiatives welcoming asylum seekers and refugees into its university community.
President of UL, Dr Des Fitzgerald made the announcement at the first Department of Justice and Equality Citizenship Ceremony hosted by the university.
The ceremony saw 355 people from around the globe receive their Certificates of Naturalisation, officially becoming Irish citizens.
“In being designated as a University of Sanctuary, UL has committed to a three-year action plan to promote access and to integrate those from a refugee and asylum background into third level education,” he said.
Dr Fitzgerald also outlined a number of initiatives run by the university which engage with people seeking sanctuary in Ireland.
He described the award as a “huge honour for UL” adding “we will use this award to be a regional leader in promoting a culture of welcome, and to provide a space for the celebration of the richness and diversity a multilingual and multicultural group brings to our community, both culturally and economically”.
“We also pledge to use our knowledge and commitment to be a key driver in the movement to have the Limerick region designated as a Place of Sanctuary, promoting the integration, inclusion and welfare of refugees and asylum seekers for the benefit of society as a whole."
The University of Sanctuary award will be officially presented to UL on UN World Refugee Day next Tuesday.
UL will now offer scholarships to up to 17 people, aged over 22 years and living in Direct Provision. Most of these 17 will begin the Mature Student Access Certificate (MSAC) in September for the academic year 2017/2018. Scholarships comprise a fee waiver and a contribution towards travel, on-campus subsistence, stationery, printing and IT requirements.
The Mature Student Access Certificate (MSAC) is a one year full-time pre-degree course designed for mature students who wish to develop or refresh key learning skills, and to undertake some foundation level academic studies, before applying directly for a degree programme.
From next year, refugees and asylum seekers currently in second-level education will also be eligible to apply for scholarships.
Dr Mairead Moriarty, Chair of the University of Limerick’s Sanctuary steering committee said the current refugee crisis tests the inner strength of our educational culture.
"At the University of Limerick we firmly believe that a University education should be a possibility for all.
"We have been committed to providing access to our University for people from all backgrounds and we are delighted to extend this to people currently living in Direct Provision through our announcement of 17 sanctuary scholarships”.