“University of Sanctuary Ireland is an initiative to encourage and celebrate the good practice of universities and colleges welcoming refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants into their university communities and fostering a culture of welcome and inclusion for all those seeking sanctuary . We want to spread this culture of welcome across the institutions of higher education all over the Island”
– University of Sanctuary Resource Pack
Currently, the NUI Galway University of Sanctuary Steering Committee membership comprises sixty representatives from various organisations and offices, including the Vice President for Equality and Diversity; the College of Science; the College of Medicine, Nursing, & Health Sciences; the College of Arts, Social Sciences & Celtic Studies; the College of Business, Public Policy, & Law; the Irish Centre for Human Rights; the Centre for Adult Learning & Professional Development; the College of Engineering & Informatics; the Community Knowledge Initiative; the Access Programmes Office; the Students’ Union; the Fáilte Refugees Society; Minceirs Whiden (Travellers Talking) Society; various NUI Galway student services offices; the Great Western and the Eglinton Direct Provision centres residents’ committees, the Galway City Partnership; the Galway One World Centre; the Galway Integration Consortium; the Galway Traveller Movement; the Galway Anti-Racism Network; and AMACH LGBT+ Galway.
The initiative aims to bring Inclusion and Awareness training to staff and students at NUIG with a particular focus on the barriers faced by refugees and individuals in the Direct Provision system as well as members of the Traveller community. The end goal is to provide scholarships, bursaries, fee waivers and/or grants to students, allowing access to Third Level Education. We want to create, nurture, and sustain a campus environment of equity and inclusion where any student, regardless of individual circumstance or barrier, can feel safe and welcome to pursue their right to education.
The campaign will run throughout the various campus departments and faculties as well as engage the wider Galway community. This engagement will be done through a series of events focusing on awareness raising. These events will include workshops and speaker events. The use of social media and the internet will be critical for disseminating event information to students, staff and Galway City.
Although the initiative endeavours to be an ongoing process, with training and funding to be sustainable into the future, short-term goals include;
- To roll out Inclusion and Awareness training for faculty, staff and students on an ongoing basis throughout the second semester of 2019/2020 term. We also aim to host workshops and guest speaker events to raise awareness of the disadvantages faced by individuals in Direct Provision and members of the Traveller community with a particular focus on the barriers to accessing third-level education.
- To build upon and develop pre-existing scholarships and bursaries within NUIG allowing access to third-level education. We have introduced 6 undergraduate and 3 postgraduate scholarships for courses at NUI Galway for the academic year 2019/2020 and beyond….
- To achieve the designation as a “University of Sanctuary” in the academic year 2019/2020.
Access to education is a fundamental human right. Although Direct Provision residents are eligible to apply for third-level courses, their circumstances often do not allow for actually attending, as the individual has to pay international fees. The basic living allowance provided to residents in Direct Provision centres does not allow applicants to afford Third Level education. Effectively, there is no access to third-level education. This is why the University of Sanctuary campaign is so important. Through offering scholarships and bursaries, NUI Galway will allow access to third-level education to persons living in Direct Provision.
The stigma surrounding the Direct Provision system has caused community segregation and negative views. Much of this is perpetuated by misinformation presented through a variety of media platforms. This project is important for addressing the stereotypes and misconceptions about the Direct Provision system, the International Protection process and the racial and cultural diversity of the individuals within this system.
Members of the Traveller community also face barriers to accessing third-level education. The University of Sanctuary campaign at NUI Galway seeks to address the disproportionate number of Non-Traveller to Traveller population within the student body. According to the 2016 Census only 1% of the Traveller population had completed Third Level Education. This campaign seeks to create a space where members of the Traveller community feel welcome and able to achieve their educational aspirations, whereby increasing the total number of Travellers attending and completing third-level education.