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Grants for students in further and higher education

Introduction

In autumn 2011 a single Student Grant Scheme replaced the 4 main support schemes for students. They were:

  • Higher Education Grants Scheme
  • Vocational Education Committees' Scholarship Scheme
  • Third Level Maintenance Grants Scheme for Trainees
  • Maintenance Grants Scheme for Students Attending Post-Leaving Certificate Courses

Information on student finance

There is detailed information on the range of grants and funds for students in further and higher education on the website studentfinance.ie. This website has details of the Fund for Students with Disabilities, the Student Assistance Fund and some third-level scholarships. Budget 2012 announced that a single merit-based bursary scheme with awards set at €2,000 per student would replace 5 scholarship schemes.

Student Grant Scheme

The Student Grant Scheme 2013 (pdf) and Student Support Regulations 2013 (pdf) were made under the Student Support Act 2011 (pdf).

Student grants are divided into maintenance grants, fee grants and the postgraduate contribution.

This document only deals with undergraduates. Postgraduates can get information about financial assistance in our document about, Postgraduate student grants.

Maintenance grants

A maintenance grant is a contribution towards the student’s living costs. Students who started or are starting courses from the academic year 2010-2011 onward do not qualify for a maintenance grant if they are on a Back to Education Allowance or VTOS allowance.

Maintenance grants are available for approved courses below graduate level in Ireland and other EU states.

Fee grants

A fee grant can cover any of the following 3 elements:

  • All or part of the student contribution
  • Costs of essential field trips
  • All or part of a student’s tuition fees (unless covered by the Free Fees Scheme)

In general, if you qualify for a maintenance grant you will qualify for all elements of the fee grant. However, you will not get the tuition element of a fee grant if you already qualify for free tuition under the Free Fees Schemes.

You may qualify for a fee grant, but not a maintenance grant, if you are what is called a 'tuition student' under the Student Grant Scheme. A tuition student is someone who fulfils all the conditions for a student grant except for residence in the State, but who has been resident in an EEA state or Switzerland for 3 of the last 5 years.

The members of the EEA (the European Economic Area) are the member sates of the EU, along with Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein.

Students doing Post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses do not get fee grants, but if you qualify for a maintenance grant you will be exempt from the PLC participant contribution.

Fee grants are available for approved courses below graduate level in Ireland. However, there are no fee grants for courses elsewhere in the EU.

See 'Approved courses and institutions' below for further detail.

Qualifying for a student grant

To qualify for a student grant, you must fulfil the conditions of the scheme as regards:

  • Nationality and immigration status
  • Residence
  • Means

You must also be attending an approved course in an approved institution – see ‘Approved courses and institutions’ below.

There are detailed conditions about the level of the course you are attending; whether you have attended a course at the same level already; and whether the course represents progression from your previous studies.

In general, you will not get a grant for repeating a year or attending a course at a level that does not represent progression from what you have done before. However, ‘second chance students’ may be eligible for a grant. A ‘second chance student’ is someone who is aged over 23, did not successfully complete an earlier course and is returning to pursue an approved course after at least 5 years.

If you qualify for a maintenance grant, you will qualify for all relevant elements of a fee grant. You may qualify for a fee grant, but not a maintenance grant, if you are what is called a 'tuition student' under the Student Grant Scheme.

A tuition student is someone who fulfils all the conditions for a student grant except for residence in the State, but who has been resident in an EEA state or Switzerland for 3 of the last 5 years. 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 status

In order to get a student grant you must:

  • Be a national of an EU member state or an EEA member state or Switzerland

    or

  • Be a family member of one of the above, with permission to remain in the State as a family member of such person under the European Communities Free Movement of Persons) Regulations 2006 and 2008 and EU Treaty rights provisions

    or

  • Have refugee status

    or

  • Have been granted humanitarian leave to remain in the State before the Immigration Act 1999 came into effect. Foreign nationals granted leave to remain under the Irish Born Child scheme - IBC/05 are not eligible.

    or

  • Be eligible for subsidiary protection or have been granted permission to remain under the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006 (pdf)

    or

  • Have permission to remain following a determination not to make a deportation order

    or

  • Have permission to remain in the State by virtue of marriage to, or civil partnership with, an Irish national living here or be the dependent child of a person with such permission

Residence

You must have been legally resident in the State for 3 of the previous 5 years to qualify for a maintenance grant. However, if you are studying elsewhere in the EU for a recognised qualification, and you were resident in the State for 3 of the 5 years before starting that course, you satisfy this requirement. Find more details of this requirement on studentfinance.ie.

If you fulfil all the criteria for a maintenance grant except for the residence condition in the State, you may still qualify for a fee grant or a postgraduate fee contribution as a ‘tuition student’.

A tuition student is someone who fulfils all the conditions for a student grant except for residence in the State, but who has been resident in an EEA state or Switzerland for 3 of the last 5 years.The members of the EEA (the European Economic Area) are the member states of the EU, along with Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein.

Means test

If you were ordinarily resident with your parents from October 1 of the year before the year of entry to the course, you are considered dependent on your parents and your income (if any) is assessed together with your parents' income(s). An allowance is made for your earnings outside of term-time – up to €3,809 currently.

Independent mature candidates are candidates aged 23 or over on 1 January in the year of entry to the course. To be assessed as an independent mature candidate you must also live separately from your parents from 1 October of the year before the year of entry to the course. If you are an independent student, you are assessed on your own income (and that of your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant, if applicable).

The only points at which you can reclassify from a dependent student to an independent student are when you:

  • Progress from further education to higher education
  • Have a 3 year break in your studies
  • Are returning as a second chance student after a five year break in your studies.

The means test for a student grant in 2013-2014 is based on your family's gross income for the previous full tax year (2012). However, if you or your family have had a change of circumstances (which is likely to be permanent) since 31 December 2012, your changed circumstances may be taken into account.

Reckonable income for a student grant is gross income from all sources. Some social welfare payments are excluded from 'reckonable income' for the purposes of student grants - see more details on reckonable income on studentfinance.ie and also in the Student Grant Scheme 2013 (pdf).

Income limits for maintenance grant and full fee grant

The family income limits for eligibility for a maintenance grant in 2013-2014 are set out below. These income limits are applied after your means are assessed - see 'means test' above. The income limits also apply to the fee grant (that is, if you don't qualify for the free fees scheme and are eligible for a fee grant).

Number of dependent children Full maintenance Part maintenance (75%) Part maintenance (50%) Part maintenance (25%)
Fewer than 4 €39,875 €40,970 €43,380 €45,790
4 to 7 €43,810 €45,025 €47,670 €50,325
8 or more €47,575 €48,890 €51,760 €54,630

Income limits for partial fee grant

The family income limits for eligibility for a partial fee grant in 2013-2014 are set out below.

Number of dependent children 50% tuition fees and 100% student contribution 50% student contribution only
Fewer than 4 €49,840 €54,240
4 to 7 €54,765 €59,595
8 or more €59,455 €64,700

The 50% tuition fee is not payable if your fees are covered under the Free Fees Scheme.

Other family members in college

The reckonable income limits may be increased as follows for each additional family member who is pursuing a full-time course of at least one year’s duration:

  • In full maintenance and partial fee grant categories by €4,830
  • In part maintenance 75%, 50% and 25% categories by €4,670

If you are an independent applicant, the family member taken into account is your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant. If you are dependent on your parents, the family members taken into account are your parent(s) and their other dependent children.

Special rates of grants for disadvantaged students

Disadvantaged students who meet a number of conditions can qualify for a special rate of maintenance grant.

Applicants must have qualified for the standard maintenance grant for the academic year 2013-2014 and total reckonable income in the tax year January to December 2012 must not be more than €22,703, net of Qualified Child Increases and standard exclusions.

For students, including mature students, who are assessed on parent(s)/guardian's income, their parent(s)/guardian must, on 31 December 2012, have been:

  • Claiming long-term social welfare payments, or
  • Claiming Family Income Supplement or
  • Participating in designated programmes (for example, a Community Employment Scheme).

These payments and programmes are listed in Schedule 2 of the Student Grant Scheme 2013 (pdf).

For students who are assessed on their own income, on 31 December 2012 the student must have been getting one of these social welfare payments or participating in a designated programme.

Rates

Changes in grant rates take effect in January each year.

Maintenance grant rates for 2013/2014

Type Non-adjacent rate Adjacent rate
Special rate €5,915 €2,375
Full Maintenance €3,025 €1,215
Part maintenance (75%) €2,270 €910
Part maintenance (50%) €1,515 €605
Part maintenance (25%) €755 €305

Adjacent and non-adjacent rates

For students who live 45 kilometres or less from the college being attended, the adjacent rate of maintenance grant is payable. This rate applies to all students living within this distance, including all mature students, both dependent and independent.

The non-adjacent rate applies to everyone else.

How to apply

From 2012-2013 on, Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI), which has been nominated as the new single grant-awarding authority, is handling all new applications for student grants. All new grant applications will be made online. You do not need to know the exact course you will be attending in order to apply online.

You can apply online for a student grant for the 2013-2014 academic year. You will need your Personal Public Service Number (PPS Number) and an email address to apply online. The closing date for applications was extended to 5 August 2013. Even though the deadline has passed, students can still apply but applications which were received before the closing date will be prioritised.

SUSI's helpdesk is handling email and telephone queries - see 'Where to apply' below.

Renewals of existing grants will be handled by the authority that issued them initially.

Student grants are reviewed each year. If you had a grant in one academic year and are continuing your studies on the course in the following year, the body that awarded the grant will be in contact with you in order to renew or re-assess your student grant for that next year.

Supporting documentation

If you are considered eligible on initial assessment of your application, you will get a provisional grant approval in the post and a personalised list of the supporting documents that you need to provide. You should send the necessary documents (photocopies, not originals) as soon as possible in the envelope supplied.

SUSI will then process your application to award stage, subject to confirmation of your acceptance on an approved course.

Appealing a decision

If you think that you have been unjustly refused a grant, you may appeal by writing to the organisation you applied to. You must appeal within 30 days of getting your decision. If your appeal is turned down, and you feel that the conditions have not been interpreted correctly, you can make a further appeal.

Further appeals

If you are starting or moving to a new course from 2011 on, you should send this further appeal within 30 days of getting your decision to the Student Grants Appeals Board, established under the Student Support Act 2011. Complete the 'Notice of Appeal to the Student Grants Appeal Board' form, available from your grant-awarding authority. Send it to the Student Grants Appeals Board, c/o Higher Education Equity of Access section of the Department of Education and Skills.

If you are continuing a course that you started before 2011, you should send this further appeal to the Higher Education Equity of Access section of the Department of Education and Skills using the 'Notice of Appeal to the Minister' form, available from the grant-awarding authority.

You should only write to the Appeals Board or the Department of Education and Skills if you wish to appeal the outcome of an initial appeal to the grant-awarding authority.


Where to apply

You apply to Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) the new single grant-awarding authority. You can apply online for a student grant for the 2013-2014 academic year.

If you are applying to renew a grant for 2013-2014, apply to the authority that issued your grant last year. It will be one of the following:

Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI)

Tel: 0761 08 7874
Email: support@susi.cdvec.ie

Approved courses and institutions

In general, the Student Grant Scheme covers all the approved courses and institutions covered by the 4 schemes it replaced. Details of what each scheme covered are below. The approved courses are prescribed in the Student Support Regulations 2013 (pdf). The approved institutions are listed in Schedules 1 and 2 of the Regulations.

Higher Education Grants Scheme

The courses that were approved under the Higher Education Grants Scheme and now come under the Student Grant Scheme are:

(a) Full-time undergraduate courses of not less than 2 years' duration or full-time postgraduate courses of not less than one year's duration taken in one of the approved institutions

(b) Full-time undergraduate courses of not less than 2 years' duration taken in a publicly funded university or third-level institution in another EU member state, with the exception of the following:

  • Courses in Colleges of Further and Higher Education (other than courses which are at Higher National Diploma level or higher)
  • Courses provided in a college that are offered in private commercial third-level colleges in the State and that are validated by that college
  • Courses in colleges akin to private commercial colleges in Ireland

(c) A full-time undergraduate course of a minimum duration of 1 year in one of the approved institutions which represents progression from a Level 7 (Ordinary Bachelor Degree or National Diploma) course to an add-on Level 8 (Honours Bachelor Degree) course.

Vocational Education Committees' Scholarship Scheme

The courses that were approved under the Vocational Education Committees' Scholarship Scheme and now come under the Student Grant Scheme are:

(a) Full-time courses at the colleges of the National University of Ireland; Trinity College Dublin; Dublin City University; the University of Limerick; Queens University, Belfast or the University of Ulster where the student progresses to the university course by completing a course at Level 6 (National Certificate) or Level 7 (National Diploma)

(b) Full-time approved undergraduate and postgraduate courses at approved institutions

(c) BTEC Higher National Diploma (HND) courses in certain colleges of further education and colleges of further and higher education in Northern Ireland

(d) Full-time approved undergraduate courses in third-level institutions in EU member states, on the same basis as the Higher Education Grants Scheme, in the case of students who have been awarded a National Certificate or a National Diploma

Third Level Maintenance Grants Scheme for Trainees

The Third Level Maintenance Grants Scheme for Trainees scheme has also been subsumed into the Student Grant Scheme. The approved courses for this element of the Student Grant Scheme are a series of one, two and three-year courses leading to qualifications at Level 6 (Higher Certificate) and at Level 7 (Ordinary Bachelor Degree) in Institutes of Technology. This element of the scheme is aimed at candidates requiring higher-level initial education and training to improve their employment prospects in line with the Government's sectoral employment priorities and entering approved Middle Level Technician or Higher Technical Business Skills courses for the first time in the academic year in question.

This element of the Student Grant Scheme is also open to mature candidates re-entering in order to complete such a course.

Maintenance Grants Scheme for Students attending Post-Leaving Certificate Courses

The Maintenance Grants Scheme for Students attending Post-Leaving Certificate Courses scheme has also been subsumed into the Student Grant Scheme. This element of the Student Grant Scheme is open to candidates who are entering approved Post-Leaving Certificate courses for the first time in the academic year in question.

Grants are available for full-time approved Post-Leaving Certificate courses of at least one year's duration at approved Post-Leaving Certificate centres. The list of approved centres is available from your local ETB. It is also in the Student Support Regulations 2013 (pdf).

Page updated: 29 January 2014

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