Access to education

Republic of Ireland

Country Report: Access to education Last updated: 25/05/23


Irish Refugee Council Visit Website

People who have been granted refugee or subsidiary protection status have the right to access education and training in a similar manner to Irish citizens.[1] However, reports show that people transition from Direct Provision having been granted an international protection status often face practical barriers to further education such as their English competency not being at the required level, previous qualifications not being recognised, not being eligible for grants, not understanding admission procedures and having missed deadlines for college applications.[2]

Some organisations have stepped in to support student access to third-level education. For example, in the Irish Refugee Council a volunteer administers donations made by the public to help with education access. The funds are then spent on course fees, books, transport and other related expenses.[3] Some Universities have also assisted protection applicants such as the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG) which announced in June 2016 that it will provide four scholarships for protection applicants or refugees, subsidiary protection beneficiaries or those persons with permission to remain in Ireland.[4] In 2019, NUIG became a University of Sanctuary due to its further commitment.[5] In December 2016, Dublin City University (DCU) was also designated as a University of Sanctuary due to its commitment to welcome protection applicants and refugees into the university community. DCU has offered fifteen academic scholarships available at either undergraduate or postgraduate level. It also has established a number of other welcoming initiatives such as a Langua-Culture Space initiative where DCU students teach beginners level English to protection applicants and refugees. In 2017, the University of Limerick and in 2018, University College Cork, became designated Universities of Sanctuary, respectively – granting scholarship access to a limited number of protection applicants and refugees. At the time of publishing this report, DCU, University Limerick, UCC, UCD, NUI Galway and Maynooth University have received the University of Sanctuary Award, and Athlone IT is the first College of Sanctuary in Ireland.[6]

As regards preparatory courses to access school, the Refugee Access Programme is part of the City of Dublin ETB’s Separated Children Service, which prepares newly arrived separated children seeking asylum and other young people from refugee backgrounds for mainstream school and life in Ireland. The programme lasts from 12 to 20 weeks.




[1] Department of Justice and Equality, Your Guide to Living Independently, An information booklet for people who have been granted refugee or subsidiary protection status or permission to remain, 2016.

[2] Irish Research Council in partnership with the Irish Refugee Council, Transition from Direct Provision to life in the Community, the experiences of those who have been granted refugee status, subsidiary protection or leave to remain in Ireland, June 2016.

[3] Irish Times, ‘No asylum in Ireland’s education system’, 25 October 2016. Doras Lumni and NASC along with the Irish Refugee Council support third-level education access for asylum seekers.

[4] NUIG, Inclusive Centenaries Scholarship Scheme, Announcement, 17 June 2016.

[5] University Times, ‘NUI Galway becomes a University of Sanctuary’, 19 September 2019, available at:

[6] Places of Sanctuary Ireland, Universities and Colleges of Sanctuary, available at:

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation