The period young people in the direct provision system must spend in the Irish education system to qualifty for a grant to study at third level has been reduced from five years to three years, the Government has announced.
The Pilot Student Support Scheme was first launched in 2015 but was only open to students who had been studying in an Irish school for at least five years.
The revised scheme, which opens on the eve of the Leaving Cert exams, will offer grants for the 2019/20 academic year and is available to students who have spent three years in an Irish school and have applied for asylum, subsidiary protection or leave to remain in Ireland.
The Department of Education said the scheme had been altered following a review which found that the requirement that students spend at least five years in an Irish school in order to qualify was “too restrictive”.
The three year criteria brings the Government support scheme in line with the SUSI (Student Universal Support Ireland) grant residence requirement of three years.
Just six students out of 59 have been granted support under the pilot scheme in the past three years, according to the Irish Refugee Council, which had noted the "restrictive nature" of the eligibility criteria.
The council last year called for the Government to reduce the requirement for time spent in the school system from five years to two so as to reflect the Leaving Cert cycle. There are currently 256 children aged between 13-17 living in the direct provision system and attending local secondary schools.
Asylum seekers are not entitled to free third-level education and are treated as international students who must pay fees. Some Irish universities have introduced scholarships in recent years to support students going through the asylum process in moving on to third level education.
However, a university education remains financially inaccessible to most in the asylum system.
The closing date for applications for the revised pilot grant scheme is November 1st.