NUI Galway has become the sixth Irish third-level institution to become a designated “university of sanctuary” for refugees and asylum seekers.
NUIG is also extending special initiatives to members of the Travelling community who apply to study at the university.
Asylum seekers don’t have the same entitlements as Irish citizens for access to student grants and cannot avail of the EU Fees rate in the EU, European Economic Area or Switzerland.
Refugees who don’t meet certain residency requirements are charged the non-EU citizen fees rate. Very few can qualify for a pilot student support scheme run by the Department of Education and Skills, according to the Universities of Sanctuary Ireland organisation.
The organisation has approved NUIG as the fifth Irish third-level college to provide what it describes as “meaningful” ways to welcome migrants.
The status is already held by University College Cork, University of Limerick, University College Dublin, Dublin City University and Athlone Institute of Technology.
The Irish School of Ecumenics in Trinity College Dublin (TCD) holds “honorary” status within the network, while TCD is among three other institutions working towards securing recognition.
NUIG’s special University of Sanctuary steering committee also oped to include the Irish Traveller community within its remit, with a “focus on promotion of Irish Travellers culture as an innate and positive element of Irish society”.
It also aims to address low levels of participation in education among Travellers at second and third level .
NUIG president Prof Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh said that the University of Sanctuary ”responds to many issues that affect and animate Irish society today, including the promotion of meaningful integration for Ireland’s newest communities, breaking down barriers to education, and eliminating discrimination in all its forms”.
“It is also an exemplar of our values as they have emerged in our university strategy, in particular our values of respect and inclusiveness,” he said.
The designation is a “distinctive signal of the character of NUIG, seeing ourselves as part of and not apart from our wider society,” Prof Ó hÓgartaigh added.