Dáil Éireann - Volume 536 - 10 May, 2001

Written Answers - Refugee and Asylum Seeker Education.

164. Mr. Creed asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the predicament of refugee and asylum seekers who are students at second level, many of whom are unaccompanied minors, regarding their entitlements to apply to the CAO for college places; and if he will arrange to have these students considered as eligible to benefit under the terms of the higher education grants scheme as many who are studying for their leaving certificate cannot in any circumstances afford to attend third level college regardless of leaving certificate results. [13355/01]

Minister for Education and Science (Dr. Woods): The purpose of the Central Applications Office, CAO, is to process, centrally, applications for admission to undergraduate courses in higher education institutions. It is open to any individual to forward an application to the CAO. However, the CAO-participant institutions retain the function of making decisions on admissions.

Under the free fees initiative, undergraduate tuition fees are payable in respect of eligible students who have EU nationality or refugee status and have been ordinarily resident in an EU member state for at least three of the five years preceding their entry to an approved course.

The maintenance grants schemes provide for means-tested higher education grants in order to assist students to attend full-time third level education.

Students entering approved courses for the first time are, generally speaking, eligible for grants where they satisfy the relevant conditions as to age, residence, means, and nationality. Under the nationality clause of the schemes, candidates who have EU nationality, refugee status or have been granted humanitarian leave to remain in the State, are eligible to apply for grant assistance subject to the other conditions in the schemes.

Traditionally, tuition fees have been charged in respect of non-EU nationals who wish to pursue further and higher education options in colleges in this country. Asylum seekers, who are programme or convention refugees or have been granted humanitarian leave to remain in the State, would benefit under the schemes of financial support for third-level students.

[184] If the Deputy has any individual case in mind I would be glad to have the matter investigated.