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Continuation and Expansion of Student Support Scheme for Asylum Seekers

By Steven Galvin - Last update


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Further improvements to the Student Support Scheme for eligible students in the international protection system to access third-level education for 2021/2022  has been announced by Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris.

The Student Support Scheme provides grants, in line with the current Student Grant Scheme (SUSI), to eligible school leavers who are in the international protection system (except those at the deportation order stage) and who are either:

  • asylum applicants
  • subsidiary protection applicants
  • leave to remain applicants

Applicants in the broad protection system who want supports to pursue PLC courses, undergraduate courses or postgraduate courses will be required to:

  • meet the definition of a protection applicant or a person at leave to remain stage (other than those at the deportation order stage)
  • have been accepted on an approved post-leaving certificate undergraduate or postgraduate course
  • have been part of an application for protection or leave to remain for a combined period of three years on 31 August 2021

The 2021 scheme will fund postgraduate studies for the first time, following changes made last year. Funding is aligned to the statutory Student Grant Scheme, with a maximum amount of €6,270 for fees and up to a maximum of €5,915 for maintenance support.

The 2021 application window is open from now until 30 November 2021.

This announcement follows on from the joint announcement in March 2021 by the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research Innovation and Science, and the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth. The ministers announced that, from the start of the 2021 to 2022 academic year, international protection applicants who have permission to work and are seeking to access PLC courses will no longer have to pay international fees of €3,600. This is another step on the journey to help more people access further and higher education in Ireland.

Continuation and Expansion of Student Support Scheme for Asylum Seekers

Minister Harris said:

“I’m delighted to announce the further expansion of this scheme to fund postgraduate courses for 2021. This financial support provides a valuable opportunity for eligible students in difficult situations to access further and higher education, resulting in more inclusive campuses and ultimately a more diverse workforce for our economy.

“The scheme has supported 51 people so far, and is an important support to young people who are in in our international protection system and are seeking to progress their education here in Ireland.

“I have always put a strong focus on supporting vulnerable groups. I would encourage all prospective students who may be eligible for support, to submit their applications so that supports can be put in place early in the academic year.”

Charlotte Byrne, Education Officer with the Irish Refugee Council said:

“We are delighted to welcome the news that the Student Support Scheme now includes the option to apply for postgraduate study for Protection Applicant students as well as undergraduate and PLC courses.

“This is something we had raised in our response to the Public Consultation on Statement of Strategy 2021-2023 in December 2020, and again at our meeting with Minister Harris in January 2021 and we are grateful to him for taking our opinion into consideration.

“It is very important that all people be allowed to improve and develop their skills and experience through education. This Scheme provides a concrete pathway for Protection Applicants to improve their level of education, which will allow them to find meaningful work, and thus support their family and contribute to society.”


Whichcollege.ie is a national database of universities, colleges, institutes and providers of third level, CAO and PLC courses in Ireland. We operate a national search database of courses and colleges.


The Student Support Scheme is for students who are in the protection system or at the leave to remain (but not deportation order) stage, and who are pursuing an approved Post Leaving Certificate course or an approved undergraduate course. It has been reviewed annually since its inception. The decision to continue the scheme for a seventh year was taken following a review of the 2020 Student Support Scheme.

There are three categories of potential applicants. Two categories of students come under the protection process, with a third category in the leave to remain process. The three categories are:

  • asylum applicants (protection process) – a person who has made an application for refugee status but where a determination has not been made
  • subsidiary protection applicants (protection process) – a person who has made an application for subsidiary protection but where a determination has not been made
  • leave to remain applicants – a person who has completed the protection process (in other words, asylum or subsidiary protection), and whose eligibility for leave to remain has yet to be considered

Following the review of the 2020 scheme, the support will now be expanded to allow postgraduate applications for the 2021 to 2022 academic year. These postgraduate supports will be similar to the supports available under the statutory-based Student Grant Scheme (SUSI) for 2021 to 2022. This includes the enhanced postgraduate supports approved in Budget 2021 for postgraduate students, such as the fee grant increase from €2,000 to €3,500, and the income threshold increase from €31,500 to €54,240.

To ensure the schemes remain aligned, the requirement to have three years’ residency and three years in the protection process prior to 31 August of the academic year will remain in place.

Since 2015, there have been a total of 187 applications to the administrative Student Support Scheme with 51 applicants qualifying for support.

A total of 108 applications were received under the Student Support Scheme in 2020, with 40 applicants qualifying for support. This was a fivefold increase in the number of applications, when compared to 2019. The successful applicants in 2020 were engaged in a wide range of studies, including:

  • nursing and healthcare (29%)
  • science (13%)
  • IT (13%)
  • engineering (10%)
  • business (8%)

The scheme will operate for the 2021 to 2022 academic year. It will be reviewed in 2022.


Steven Galvin

TU Dublin Springboard & Part-time Courses Open Evening
Bridging the Gap Programme


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