Grants and funds for mature students
Who is a mature student?
If you wish to enter or return to third-level education and you are over 23 years of age you can be considered a mature student. Irish third-level colleges have set aside a number of places for mature students.
You will have to consider the costs of fees and maintaining yourself while studying. The cost will depend on whether you are going to do a full-time or a part-time course.
Depending on your circumstances, you may be eligible for free fees and a student grant - see ‘Help with fees and maintenance’ below. The website studentfinance.ie has detailed information on the range of grants and funds for students in further and higher education.
Help with fees and maintenance
Student grant and free fees initiative
If you meet certain criteria and attend a course approved by the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science (DFHERIS) you may get help with fees and maintenance under the Free Fees Initiative and the Student Grant.
You can make a student grant application to Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI).
There is no separate application for the Free Fees Initiative. Your eligibility will be assessed based on the information you give when applying for a college place.
If you are applying for an undergraduate course and you have already completed an undergraduate course, you are not eligible for either a student grant or free fees. However, you may be eligible for a grant if you are starting a PLC course as part of the Tertiary Education Programme leading to a higher-level qualification than your previous undergraduate qualification.
If you are applying for a postgraduate course you will have to pay fees, unless you get a partial student grant.
The student grant and free fees scheme does not cover part-time or distance learning courses.
Back to Education Allowance (BTEA)
If you are getting an unemployment, One-Parent Family or disability payment, the Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) allows you to study at second and third level without losing your benefits. You must meet certain criteria to be eligible for the BTEA. If you are studying part-time you may be able to keep your benefits under the Back to Education Programme.
If you are getting the Back to Education Allowance or you are on a Post-Leaving Certificate course and getting a VTOS allowance, you are not eligible for the maintenance component of the student grant. However, you may get an exemption from college fees or the student contribution so you should complete a student grant application.
Tax relief on fees
If you have to pay fees you may be able to get tax relief at the standard rate.
Other support funds for mature students
There are several other funds available to support you in third-level education. These include:
Fund for students with disabilities
If you have a disability, you may be entitled to some financial support. The Department administers a special fund that helps students with disabilities during the period of their studies.
Student Assistance Fund
The Student Assistance Fund is for students who, having started a third-level course, experience financial hardship and, therefore, may be unable to continue their studies. You can apply for funding through the access/disability officer in your college.The Fund is administered on a confidential, discretionary basis.
The 1916 Bursary Fund
The 1916 Bursary Fund provides funding for students from disadvantaged backgrounds who are significantly under-represented in higher education. First time mature student are eligible to apply. You must be able to demonstrate that you would qualify for the special rate (the highest level) of SUSI grant and/or you are getting a long-term means-tested social welfare payment.
Studying abroad as a mature student
If you plan to study abroad, you may be eligible for a student grant from the Irish Government. A range of approved undergraduate courses in the UK and in other European Union states are covered. Find out more about European education programmes.
Under the Student Grant Scheme there are no age limits for the student grants for studying in another EU state but it must be your first undergraduate course.
The EU has published a series of guides about living, working, studying and moving within the EU which will explain your rights. You can also find information on studying abroad on the Euroguidance Ireland website.
If you are interested in studying outside of the EU, you should get in touch with the Irish embassy/consulate in that state for further information.
How to apply for funding as a mature student
Generally each college has a mature students officer who can provide information about supports for mature students.
Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) handles all applications for student grants. All grant applications must be made to SUSI online.
Back to Education Programme
For the Back to Education Allowance or other strands of the Back to Education Programme, apply by filling in the Back to Education Allowance application form (pdf), which is also available from your Intreo Centre.
The Special Fund for People with Disabilities
You need to contact the Student Counsellor or Disability Support Officer at the college of your choice when you are registering. Read more about the Fund for Students with Disabilities on the Higher Education Authority website.
Where to apply
Contact the mature students officer or the admissions officer at the college of your choice.
Make your online application for a grant through SUSI.
For the Back to Education Programme, send the form to the office that deals with applications from people on your particular payment. These offices are listed on the back of the form.
For the Special Fund for People with Disabilities, apply to the Student Counsellor or Disability Support Officer at the college of your choice.