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The Union of Students in Ireland welcomes the statement by Government yesterday of changes to fee arrangements for students living in Direct Provision but has a number of questions and concerns about the announcement.

Having examined the statement, USI would welcome further commitment from Ministers Simon Harris and Roderic O’Gorman to addressing the barriers faced by students living in Direct Provision.

USI Vice President for Equality and Citizenship, Marie Lyons said: “USI welcomes these measures as a positive step towards making further and higher education more accessible to students living in Direct Provision, but it’s important to note that this announcement only supports protection applicants with permission to work, not all protection applicants. USI would welcome further clarification on the examination which will be carried out with a view to extending the Student Support Scheme to those who wish to undertake postgraduate courses and extending English language supports.

“We do welcome the commitment that a review of the Student Support Scheme will be undertaken in 2021 to examine the impact of the improvements made in 2020 and to look at the possibility of extending it to postgraduates.

“There is still a need to address and waive the cost for students undertaking undergraduate and postgraduate study who are charged international fees. International Protection applicants must be resident in Ireland for three years before being eligible for support under the Student Support Scheme and that needs to change.”

USI notes and welcomes Minister Harris’ openness to addressing barriers for students living in Direct Provision, as he has said he will ask his officials to consider if there are any further financial barriers impacting access to third-level education for those in the international protection system provision that can be removed.

USI is also concerned that the change in access to PLC courses is only available to students who have permission to work and calls for this to be extended to all protection applicants.

The union will continue to work towards getting equality for the students, and future students, involved and for an end to Direct Provision.

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