UL joins DCU as ‘University of Sanctuary’, scholarships on way

21 Jun 2017

From left: Wadkil Niazi, Gráinne Hassett, Kimberly Justen and Ali Zaman. Image: Sean Curtin/True Media

UL has been named Ireland’s second University of Sanctuary, following commitments to people living under Direct Provision.

University of Limerick (UL) is beginning a three-year action plan to help “integrate those from a refugee and asylum background into third-level education”.

That’s according to Dr Des Fitzgerald, president of the university, who was speaking after UL followed in Dublin City University’s (DCU) footsteps to become a University of Sanctuary.

Future Human

University of Limerick

Fitzgerald spoke of several initiatives run by the university that engage with people seeking sanctuary in Ireland.

He described the award as a “huge honour for UL”, adding, “we will use this award to be a regional leader in promoting a culture of welcome, and to provide a space for the celebration of the richness and diversity a multilingual and multicultural group brings to our community, both culturally and economically”.

As part of the programme, UL will offer scholarships to up to 17 people over the age of 22 and living in Direct Provision.

Most of these 17 will begin the mature student access certificate, which is a one-year, full-time, pre-degree course. After completion, graduates can apply for a degree programme, with the first cohort expected to start this September.

“We also pledge to use our knowledge and commitment to be a key driver in the movement to have the Limerick region designated as a place of sanctuary, promoting the integration, inclusion and welfare of refugees and asylum seekers for the benefit of society as a whole,” Fitzgerald said.

Last December, DCU achieved sanctuary status in recognition of a range of initiatives demonstrating a commitment to welcoming asylum seekers and refugees into the university community.

For its part, 15 scholarships were provided.

“Our designation as a University of Sanctuary, while very welcome, is not a final destination in itself … rather, it is an important marker on a journey,” said Prof Brian MacCraith, president of DCU, at the time of the award.

“We are driven on this journey by being true to our values of inclusion and equity of access to education.

“I am particularly pleased that the initiatives leading to our recognition were not ‘top down’ but came spontaneously from our student body and staff in their efforts to reach out and support those in the refugee and asylum community.”

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic