University of Galway Announces Innovative International Scholarship for Refugee Students

A pioneering local group ‘Pobal na Gaillimhe’, will welcome two refugee students, who are Congolese and Cameroonian, to University of Galway in September 2023 with support from the University of Galway, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and Nasc, the Migrant and Refugee Rights Centre. The students will receive a full scholarship to undertake a Masters at the College of Science and Engineering. The welcome group will provide financial and social support to the students, help them to access services and settle into university life.
On Friday 5th May, higher education stakeholders from nine of Ireland’s universities met at University of Galway to discuss the expansion of this programme and creating even more international study opportunities for refugees across Irish universities. They were joined by refugee community leaders, European civil society members and an online audience from across the globe.
This important international event follows the establishment of Ireland’s EU-Passworld project partnership in 2022 between the University of Galway, UNHCR, and Nasc.
The EU-Passworld project offers an innovative approach to creating safe and legal pathways to Ireland for refugees. By providing education opportunities based on ability and merit, the initiative ensures that selected refugees are recognised as international students, rather than being primarily defined by their refugee status. This is important for the identity and individuality of the refugee student and empowers them to experience a more natural social integration.
Mary Dempsey, Vice Dean for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at University of Galway’s College of Science and Engineering, noted that educational opportunities for refugees worldwide are extremely limited:

“Only 5 percent of refugees globally have access to higher education. As Ireland ranks in the top percentile in terms of global third-level education, we are well-placed to lead on projects such as EU-Passworld. Further to this, University of Galway is a dedicated ‘University of Sanctuary’, which means that ensuring access to education for people from all backgrounds is a key priority for us. We are really looking forward to welcoming our new students to Ireland through the project in September.”
Fiona Hurley, CEO of Nasc, highlighted the importance of recognising the benefits of such initiatives, for Ireland and other host countries:
“A key aspect of EU-Passworld is in creating the skills-based assessment of applicants. These students are hugely talented and motivated and will bring a diversity of experiences and skills into our country.”
Enda O’ Neill, Head of UNHCR Ireland, remarks that this work is part of a global effort:
“We wish the new students the best of luck at University of Galway. At the UN Refugee Agency, we are working towards 15 percent of young refugee women and men in higher and further education by 2030. University of Galway is thinking globally and acting locally and we would love to see all the universities in Ireland offering similar scholarships. Working together we can achieve our goal.”



Note to editor:
The EU-Passworld project runs from 2022-2024 and is funded by the EU’s Asylum, Migration & Integration Fund (AMIF). National coordination of the project is being led by UNHCR Ireland and Nasc, the Migrant and Refugee Rights Centre. More information about EU-Passworld is available at
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency supports higher education institutions to establish dedicated application procedures for the project aimed at refugees residing in host countries aross Africa. When refugees arrive in Ireland through Education Pathways, they will receive wrap-around integration support from members of the University community through a programme called community sponsorship. This form of integration has been noted for improving outcomes for refugees, enriching and strengthening host communities, in addition to improving narratives towards refugees and migration.
University of Galway’s involvement in the EU-Passworld project is led by Associate Professor Mary Dempsey, Vice Dean for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in the College of Science and Engineering and Dr Andrew Flaus, Vice Dean for International in the College of Science and Engineering. It is supported by Aidan Harte, co-ordinator of the University of Sanctuary initiative at University of Galway.
It follows the signing of the Manifesto on Expanding Refugee Tertiary Education Pathways in Europe by Professor Ó hÓgartaigh in May 2022. This manifesto underpins University of Galway’s commitment to work towards common advocacy, strategies, and the design of operational frameworks to further expand and create tertiary education pathways for refugees in Europe.