University of Sanctuary scholarships are intended to reduce barriers to access to higher education for those seeking sanctuary in Ireland
Eighteen asylum seekers and refugees living in the Midlands and Midwest were awarded University of Sanctuary scholarships by the Technological University of the Shannon (TUS) at a ceremony held today in Athlone.
Of the scholarships, 12 were awarded to first-year students enrolled in undergraduate courses, with a further six awarded to students undertaking TUS’s preparatory NFQ Level 6 access programme.
This brings the total number of asylum seekers and refugees currently in receipt of University of Sanctuary scholarships at TUS to 29.
The scholarship forms part of a three-year plan recently unveiled by TUS to make it easier for people living in direct provision to access and progress through higher education and will include the establishment of a new peer-to-peer mentorship programme.
“We are delighted to receive the designation of University of Sanctuary and are hugely proud to lead the way in dismantling barriers to access to higher education by funding these life-changing scholarships and hope to build on this momentum in the years ahead with philanthropic support,” said TUS President Professor Vincent Cunnane.
TUS, which was designated a University of Sanctuary in June 2022 in recognition of its efforts to make higher education more welcoming to and inclusive of asylum seekers, refugees and migrants, formally received its award today.
Speaking at the ceremony, TUS VP for Student Education and Experience Frances O’Connell commented that what separates refugees from the rest of humanity is not race, religion, intellect, or charm, but rather geography, circumstance, coincidence, and time and said the University of Sanctuary initiative “challenges us not to turn away or to be indifferent to the tragedy, injustice, and oppression that they have endured”.
She said that the ideals set forth by the University of Sanctuary initiative - of welcoming and supporting asylum seekers and refugees - are “embedded into the fabric of TUS” and would continue to inform the university’s work to broaden access.
“Our accreditation as a University of Sanctuary is not a destination in itself; it is part of our journey and, with respect to the ideals underpinning it, our technological university, TUS, will continue to convert our good words into good deeds, by expanding our work in this area over the coming years. This is explicitly defined in our TUS UoS Action Plan.”
Speaking directly to the scholarship recipients, she said, “You have brought with you to Ireland far more than your courage and your resilience and you possess inherent talents and gifts that will make a lasting contribution, not just to TUS whilst you are with us but to the political, economic, and scientific fabric of your adopted home.”
Chair of the Universities of Sanctuary movement in Ireland Prof. Lorraine McIlrath said she was impressed by TUS’s “efforts and ambitions” to “include the most marginalised in our society” in its range of programmes and activities.
“It is a particular highlight for me that TUS is the first technological university in Ireland to attain this prestigious designation, and I think this strategically informed work will become a beacon and guide for others to follow their best practice,” she said.
Charlotte Byrne of the Irish Refugee Council who was also present at the ceremony commented, “We really appreciate the work of Dr Chris McDermott and Theresa Ryan during the last five years in Athlone, support from Dr Terry Twomey in Limerick, and more recently the work of Frances O’Connell, Jenny Burke, and Mona Khan.
“Without the vision, determination and genuine kindness of individual human beings such as these, the benefits of Sanctuary would not be felt, either by the individual students, the HEI, or the community within which we all live. The Sanctuary designation and the scholarships offered within provide a truly symbiotic relationship for all involved. Our heartfelt gratitude to all at TUS from the IRC.”