Most undergraduate students attending publicly funded third-level courses do not have to pay tuition fees. Under the terms of the Free Fees Initiative, the Department of Education and Skills pays the fees to the colleges instead.
A separate annual charge is payable to colleges for the costs of student services and examinations – see ‘Student contribution’ below.
Charges for Post-Leaving Certificate courses (PLCs) operate under different rules - see our document on PLCs.
To qualify for free fees, you must meet criteria with regard to:
You must have been living in an EEA member state or Switzerland for at least 3 of the 5 years before starting your course. The members of the EEA (the European Economic Area) are the member states of the EU, along with Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein.
Nationality and immigration
You must also fulfil one of the following 6 criteria as regards nationality and immigration status in Ireland:
You must also fulfil all of the following 3 course requirements:
The undergraduate courses for which the free fees arrangements apply are courses in:
Free fees do not apply to courses in private colleges, whether they have Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) approval or not. The fact that a course is listed by the Central Applications Office (CAO) is not, in itself, enough to make it a free fees course.
Detailed information about assistance with tuition fees is available on studentfinance.ie.
If you do not qualify for free fees you may still be eligible for EU fee rates. EU fee rates are set by each individual third-level educational institution. You should contact the one you are interested in to find out about the EU fee rate and whether you qualify.
Some examples of when people might qualify for an EU fee rate are as follows:
From September 2014, an Irish, EU, EEA or Swiss student who has spent at least five years in primary school or second level school in Ireland can avail of EU fee rates.
If you do not qualify for EU fees you can be charged non-EU fees. Each third-level educational institution sets its own fee rates. You should contact the ones you are interested in to find out more about their fees - see 'Where to apply' below.
In general, you will have to pay fees for a postgraduate course. However, you may get financial assistance under the Student Grant Scheme.
Postgraduates under the Graduate
Skills Conversion Programme, courses are free, full-time and intensive.
Most colleges charge an annual student contribution, formerly called the student services charge. It is also known as a registration fee and it covers student services and examinations. The amount of the contribution varies from one institution to another. The maximum rate of the student contribution for the academic year 2016-2017 is €3,000.
If you are getting Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) you may qualify for exemption from the student contribution. More information about the BTEA and the student contribution can be found in our document about social welfare payments and the student grant.
Student grants provide financial support to eligible students. There are 2 elements to the student grant - a maintenance grant and a fee grant. A maintenance grant is a contribution towards your living costs. A fee grant can cover:
If you have qualified for a maintenance grant, you will generally qualify for a fee grant.
If you do not qualify for a maintenance grant, but your family’s reckonable income is below certain limits, you may qualify for a partial fee grant. This means that you will either be exempt from 50% of the student contribution, or exempt from 50% of any tuition fees and all of the student contribution.
The Student Grant Scheme is described in our document on Grants for students in further and higher education.
You may be able to claim tax relief on tuition fees that you have paid.
Families who pay student contributions for more than one student in a year can
also claim tax relief on the second and subsequent contributions. Read more in
our document on tax relief
for third-level fees.
There is no separate application for the Free Fees Initiative. Your eligibility will be assessed on the basis of the information you give when applying for a college place.
For information about fees contact the third-level educational institution of your choice.
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000. The Phone Service will operate Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm during January 2017. You can also visit your local Citizens Information Centre.