Deirdre Wray & Madison Koehler

I'm Deirdre and my main interest photographically is in dance photography at present, but I welcomed the chance to work again a documentary way when I teamed up with Madison to research the right to education for refugees and asylum seekers in Ireland within higher education, third level, specifically. I had some prior experience through my involvement in an exhibition with the charity SUAS last year which looked at the journeys refugees have come, to find new homes in Europe after fleeing their own countries. Over the coming months, I hope to understand more and document the impact on people affected by the rules of entry for third level education.

I'm Madison (Mattie) from Minnetonka, Minnesota and moved to Chicago in 2015. This year I will graduate of Columbia College Chicago as a Graphic Designer, minoring in photography. I have spent a semester in Dublin as part of a study abroad programme. Being in Dublin I was able to experience another culture and a city unlike Chicago and others in Minnesota. With these experiences the aspiration and inspiration to expose my creativity has grown further than I had imagined.

Handlebar Mustache



We would like to thank the individuals who assisted us within this project. The members of SUAS, who answered all of our multiple emails with great detail. From SUAS we would like to give an extra appreciation to Emma Summers for directing us to the correct departments to speak with and DCU for allowing us to take photographs of their campus.

Knowing this now, we find this to be unreasonable, due to the unrealistic, unfair and therefore unjust time expectations. To spent time in direct provision and a further minimum of three years’ residency, access to third level education absolutely seems unobtainable in Ireland. In addition to the bureaucratic procedures and complications, the undermining of a person's motivation and attachment to hope is added to a highly emotional experience of vulnerability. This not just unnecessary, but a harsh, even punishing, restriction on someone trying to further their education.


The direct provision process and its systems are under no obligation to set times when those in those systems will be released from them; you are simply there until the State decides you can leave. Such uncertainty adds to the complex issues refugees face when seeking third level education. In this position, you are unable to plan for your course, resulting in the inability to register with a college. Very simply, this is discriminatory.

To qualify for third level funding under the rules of the Higher Education Authority (HEA) you must be a first-time undergraduate student, hold EU/EEA/Swiss nationality and have been residing as such for a minimum three of the five years prior to starting the courses. What about access for refugees and asylum seekers? These are the criteria that are used to determine if a person is eligible to apply for grant assistance for fees:

  • Those with official refugee status under the Refugee Act 1996;

  • A family member of a refugee who has been granted permission to live in the state;

  • A family member of an EU national and have permission to live in the State, with a stamp '4EUFAM' on their residence card;

  • Have been granted humanitarian leave to remain in the State;

  • Have been granted permission to remain in the State by the Minister for Justice and Equality, following a determination by the Minister not to make a deportation order under Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999;

  • Have subsidiary protection granted by the Minister for Justice and Equality.

If an individual meets one of these criteria they are entitled to the same amount of educational assistance as an Irish citizen born in the State. Initially, this can seem easily obtainable but with further research it becomes clear that, as refugees are held in direct provision for much longer than necessary, the basic expectation of a wait of three years, while lengthy in itself, does not include the indeterminate time spent in direct provision that can run far longer.

The reality of Rights of access that refugees and asylum seekers have to third level education in Ireland means it is possible, but not always a reality that free fees are granted to attend funded institutions under the Department of Education and Skills.

Rights to higher education




Wray, D. and Koehler, M. (2017) 4EUFAM, Available at: (Accessed:___).

Except where otherwise stated, this site and metadata is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Ireland Licence 


This site was designed with the
website builder. Create your website today.
Start Now