NUI Galway working with UNHCR to support refugee students

Front row (L-R): Enda O’Neill, UNHCR Head of Office; Aoibhinn Helly, Policy and Advocacy Officer, UNHCR; Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, President of NUI Galway; and Helen Maher, Vice President for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, NUI Galway. Back row (L-R): Dr Andrew Flaus, Vice Dean for Internationalisation, NUI Galway; Associate Professor Mary Dempsey, Vice Dean for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, NUI Galway; Aidan Harte, University of Sanctuary Co-ordinator, NUI Galway; Charlotte Bertrandy, UNHCR Associate; Professor Walter Gear, Executive Dean, NUI Galway’s College of Science and Engineering; and Stacey Dunne, NASC Ireland. Credit – Sean Lydon.
Jul 04 2022 Posted: 10:20 IST

University to develop roadmap to create safe, legal routes for displaced people to study in Ireland

NUI Galway has joined forces with the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, on a pioneering initiative to create opportunities for refugee students to come to Ireland to study.

The University is taking part in the EU-PASSWORLD project, with a specific focus on developing a roadmap to create new, safe and legal routes for displaced people to secure education scholarships in Ireland. 

The aim is for NUI Galway to offer the first higher education scholarship to a refugee by the end of the year.

UNHCR and NUI Galway aim to create a roadmap for other higher education institutions in the country to follow as the project expands.

Only 5 percent of refugees have access to higher education worldwide, according to UNHCR, which has an enrolment target of 15 percent of young refugee women and men in higher and further education by 2030. 

President of NUI Galway, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh said: “We have a responsibility to provide access and formal education pathways to support a refugee’s educational ambitions and skills development. The EU-PASSWORLD project provides a platform for educators, employers and the community to work together towards a sustainable solution.”

The EU-PASSWORLD project runs from 2022-2024 and is funded by the EU’s Asylum, Migration & Integration Fund (AMIF). National coordination of the project is being led by UNHCR Ireland and Nasc, the Migrant and Refugee Rights Centre. It builds on other successful programmes from Italy, Germany and Canada, which have seen thousands of refugees arrive to work and study. 

UNHCR will support third level institutions to establish dedicated application procedures in certain refugee hosting countries. When refugees arrive in Ireland through the project, they will receive wrap-around integration support from members of their community, through a national programme called community sponsorship. This form of integration has been noted for improving outcomes for refugees, enriching and strengthening host communities, in addition to improving narratives towards refugees and migration.

Professor Ó hÓgartaigh added: “Our partnership with the EU-PASSWORLD project seeks to provide such educational opportunities through our University of Sanctuary commitments, which in turn will enrich our student experience through diversity and internationalisation. The EU-PASSWORLD project reflects our values of respect, openness, inclusivity and sustainability through increased social responsibility and a commitment to humanitarianism while creating a more welcoming society.

“In collaboration with our industry partners, this initiative also aligns with our commitments to broaden access through the provision of Medtronic funded University of Sanctuary scholarships and Merit Medical’s support of the Youth Academy programme which offers 25% of places on a scholarship basis to participants from DEIS schools.”

Enda O’Neill, Head of UNHCR Ireland said: “NUI Galway is leading the way by pioneering this innovative refugee scholarship programme. Access to education is a fundamental human right and by establishing this first scholarship, NUI Galway truly demonstrates its commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion. 

“We hope this will inspire other universities to do the same. We can all help to broaden the response to refugee situations, while also benefitting from the richness that refugee students bring to university life.”

NUI Galway’s involvement in the EU PASSWORLD project is led by Associate Professor Mary Dempsey, Vice Dean for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in the College of Science and Engineering and Dr Andrew Flaus, Vice Dean for International in the College of Science and Engineering. It is supported by Aidan Harte, co-ordinator of the University of Sanctuary initiative at NUI Galway. 

It follows the signing of the Manifesto on Expanding Refugee Tertiary Education Pathways in Europe by Professor Ó hÓgartaigh in May of this year. This manifesto underpins NUI Galway’s commitment to work towards common advocacy, strategies, and the design of operational frameworks to further expand and create tertiary education pathways for refugees in Europe.


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