Asylum seeker says being in university is ‘a dream come true’

Anna Kern was at the centre of controversy over access to third-level earlier this year

Students at the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland in Dublin.  An asylum seeker has described how being in university is a ‘dream come true’. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Students at the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland in Dublin. An asylum seeker has described how being in university is a ‘dream come true’. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

An asylum seeker who was at the centre of controversy surrounding access to third-level education has described how being in university is a “dream come true”.

Anna Kern (19), who is originally from the Ukraine, went to school at Coláiste Nano Nagle in Sexton Street, Limerick, and received 575 points in her Leaving Cert.

However, the 19-year-old could not afford to accept her place in physiotherapy at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin (RCSI) as the rules concerning college admission for asylum seekers meant she faced the full €17,000 a year tuition fee.

After her case attracted considerable media attention, the RCSI decided to make Anna an offer outside of the CAO system and agreed to waive her tuition fees.

Anna was one of 125 students who received 2015 All-Ireland Scholarships at a ceremony held in the University of Limerick on Saturday.

Sponsored by JP McManus, the scholarships are worth €6,750 per year and continue for the duration of the undergraduate programmes chosen by the scholarship winners.

Speaking at the awards ceremony, Anna said: “I am very grateful to the Minister for Education and to everyone who was involved in my case.”

The 19-year-old was living in direct provision accommodation in Knockalisheen, Limerick, with her mother Lyudmyla, who is not permitted to work and therefore unable to help her daughter with fees.

“I am really enjoying college and studying physiotherapy was a dream come true for me and I hope to work in Ireland after I graduate,” Anna said.

She was accompanied to the ceremony by her former school principal Marion Cummins, who was central to highlighting her case and had called on the Government to introduce financial supports for teenagers living in the direct provision system who wish to enter third-level education.

Guest of honour

Former champion jockey AP McCoy was guest of honour at the awards ceremony, which took place in the University Concert Hall.

He said the scholarships would give the recipients a great start in life.

McCoy, who left school at 16, said he never stopped learning during his career, but admitted he would like his children Eve (8) and Archie (2) to remain in education.

“I think its important in life that you can pick a career that you are very passionate about and it’s something that you are going to enjoy.

“I would like my children to stay on and have good education and become scientists or whatever they may be . . . and as long as they are prepared to work hard and do that I will be happy,” he said.