Jan 24, 2024

PhD Funding Announced for Student of Sanctuary

University Council has approved the application process and evaluation criteria for the new Trinity Research Doctorate Award for a student of sanctuary, to begin in 2024/25.

Alex PayneAssistant Editor
Cormac Watson for The University Times

In an email to all staff and students on Wednesday, January 17th, the Dean of Graduate Studies, Professor Martine Smith, announced that one student of sanctuary will have their tuition fees covered for four years and receive an annual stipend of €25,000.

Under the name ‘Trinity Research Doctorate Award to a Student of Sanctuary (2024-25)’, Professor Smith said that the award brings to reality the “vision for postgraduate education in Trinity” that “all students, regardless of economic circumstances, have an opportunity to thrive”.

“We are delighted to have been approved to ringfence this award for a student of sanctuary.”


University Council, a body comprising senior leadership and faculty representatives which controls the academic affairs of Trinity College Dublin (TCD), approved the application process and evaluation criteria for the award at a meeting on the morning of Wednesday, January 17th.

To be eligible, the applicant must have already received an unconditional offer by May 1st, 2024 to the full-time PhD register at TCD with support of a Principal Supervisor, be residing in Ireland, be able to commence study between September 2024 and March 2025 and satisfy the requirements to be deemed a student of sanctuary.

University Council have deemed a student of sanctuary as one who is currently in an international protection system, temporary protection, seeking asylum or have refugee status or permission to remain in Ireland on humanitarian grounds.

In order to receive the above statuses, prospective students must apply to the International Protection Office (IPO) at the Department of Justice. In an interview with PA News Agency three weeks ago, Integration Minister Roderic O’Gorman described 13,00-15,000 applications per year to the IPO as “the new normal”, up from pre-2022 levels of, on average, 3,500-4,000 per year.

According to the IPO’s December 2023 International Protection Summary Report there are currently over 18,000 applications awaiting determination and the median wait time for determination is 75 weeks. Of the applications processed in December 2023, 32% were refused, 9% were granted permission to remain and 59% were granted international protection.

In a press release posted on January 17th, TCD Provost Linda Doyle said: “An award like this has the power to change lives and I’m glad that we have reached a point where we can offer funding for a doctorate, having already provided a number of undergraduate scholarships.”

“I want to thank the team in Trinity who have created this opportunity, and I am looking forward to seeing the applications that will now be made by students of sanctuary.” 

“Trinity is committed to providing a welcoming space for refugees and people in the asylum system. At this time of global turmoil, it is vital that we extend a helping hand to those who are seeking sanctuary, and that we support them in fulfilling their academic potential”.

Nick Henderson, chief executive of the Irish Refugee Council, said: “We very much welcome Trinity’s initiative in offering this award, which, we hope, will pave the way for many more Level 10 awards to be made available to students of sanctuary in Ireland.”

Gillian Wylie, Chair of Trinity’s University of Sanctuary Steering Committee said: “Trinity was designated a University of Sanctuary in February 2021, committing us to creating a culture of welcome and inclusion for all those seeking sanctuary. Since then, we have awarded a total of 11 undergraduate scholarships to sanctuary students. This Level 10 award represents a logical progression for the University of Sanctuary programme and we are delighted to be able to offer it to a deserving student.”

The PhD admission window opens on November 1st, 2023. The TRD Sanctuary Award window opens on February 1st, 2024 and closes on May 1st, 2024. The outcome of the evaluation process is expected on June 14th, 2024.

Professor Smith encourages “all staff to be mindful of this award when considering potential PhD candidates and to share the information within any networks whose reach might include eligible candidates”.

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