When the Covid-19 pandemic broke out across the globe, several students did not have time to return to India before the lock down was announced in March, and landing of all international flights was discontinued. There are several concerns in the minds of parents whose wards are studying overseas during these uncertain times. Ireland is doing its utmost to ensure the safety and well-being of all international students who have decided to remain in Ireland. Also, for students admitted in the September 2020 term, Ireland is presently finalising delivery models for the 2020-2021 academic year, to ensure that its international education offering will continue to the greatest extent possible.
Ireland has responded very comprehensively and effectively to the COVID-19 challenge through significant health measures, very substantial legal restrictions on movement and gatherings, social distancing and economic and social retrenchment to minimise the impact of this virus. More details of specific actions are available at www.gov.ie/covid-19. A Working Group was set up, focused on issues and challenges for International Education, particularly those faced by international students who were here in Ireland when the virus arrived. This Working Group has representatives from across the International Education sector and includes student bodies, higher education institutions and all relevant State departments and agencies. This has resulted in the following actions and supports for international students.
Free Health Care
The Government has put measures in place to ensure availability of public health care services free of charge for international students, for testing and treatment of Covid-19 virus.
Alternate Teaching Arrangements
Working on and implementing alternative teaching and learning delivery methods to ensure the successful completion of the current academic year. These options include online exams, written assignments or rescheduling/deferral. New assessment arrangements have been communicated to all students.
Financial Support for international students
Support has been announced for international students who have worked in Ireland to cover living costs and may have lost their jobs. A special COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment of €350 per week is available to any international student who lost their job as a result of the outbreak. For those international students in Ireland who had not yet engaged in employment while in the country, and are in need of assistance, Government is providing financial supports under an Exceptional Needs Payments scheme.
The Government has enacted legislation to protect those availing of rented accommodation in Ireland, including rent freezes and eviction prohibition while Ireland is fighting the pandemic.
Immigration and International Protection permissions & issues
All permissions that were due to expire during the pandemic have now automatically been renewed. These extended permissions are on the same basis as existing permissions and the same conditions will continue to apply. This gives certainty of status to international students who have remained in Ireland.
Initiatives for the 2020-2021 Academic Year
Ireland has introduced new initiatives to overcome some of the barriers:
* Agreed to accept a number of online English proficiency test results, for those who can’t engage in face to face English language exams due to restrictions and lockdown.
* Agreed to extend the English language certification that students presently hold for an additional year, as a contingency measure.
* Reviewed the immigration arrangements which apply to all non-EEA nationals currently holding a student permission (Stamp 2), who wish to avail of the Third Level Graduate Permission scheme. As a temporary measure, introduced an online applications facility to ensure that those wishing to avail of the scheme can do so in a safe and stress-free manner.
Ireland has always prided itself as a trusted international education partner, who can be relied upon to look after those who travel to Ireland to study. The Irish Government is doing everything it can to make this current situation as easy to navigate as possible and that the safety, health and well-being of its residents, whether temporary or permanent, is our number one priority.