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Student Finance [August 2008]

In recent years there has been a huge drop in the number of students choosing to cross the border between the two parts of Ireland to study. In fact, in the Republic of Ireland Higher Education Authority figures show that less than 1% of third level students come from Northern Ireland and it’s a similar story in Northern Ireland. While there may be many explanations for the sharp decline in numbers undoubtedly one reason must be the lack of clear and accurate information available for students to make informed decisions.

Financial assistance is often a key concern for many students considering universities across the border. It is hardly surprisingly that many students are confused over their entitlement to loans and grants.

Generally speaking domestic students enrolled on full-time courses within Northern Ireland can expect to pay up to £3,145 a year in tuition fees. They can apply to their Local Education and Library Board for a loan to cover these costs and this loan does not have to be paid back until they are earning over £15,000. Similarly, students can also apply for maintenance loans to help cover living costs. The maximum amount available is £3,335 a year, and how much a student is entitled to will depend on their income, and that of their household.

As European Nationals, Republic of Ireland students enrolled on third level courses in Northern Ireland are classified as European Union students and must apply for financial support by sending an application form to the EU Customer Services Team. Further information is available by telephoning 00 44 1412 433570 (from the UK 01412 433570). Under these arrangements Irish students can only apply for financial help to cover the cost of their tuition fees, but more importantly not for a maintenance loan to help with living costs. Irish students can, however, apply to their local County Council for a higher education grant contributing towards their maintenance costs although this is subject to a means test.

Alternatively, if an Irish student is employed in Northern Ireland they can ask to be treated as a migrant worker and therefore are eligible to be considered for additional forms of student maintenance. Students must continue to work while studying and are required to provide proof of employment from their employer.  Eligibility for additional finical support on the basis of frontier worker status will be considered by the student finance section of the local Education and Library Board attached to the respective University.

Broadly speaking, undergraduate students resident* in the South attending publicly funded third-level courses in the Republic of Ireland do not have to pay fees. As European Nationals, students from Northern Ireland accepted on third level courses in the Republic of Ireland will have their course fees paid by the Department of Education and Science. However, it is important to note the College will make an additional charge for registration. In 2007/08 this was €825. Students should apply in the same way by contacting their local Education and Library Board.

A number of support schemes are also available providing maintenance grants for eligible students. These schemes are open to EU students as well as home students. In order to be eligible for student support schemes students will have to meet a set of criteria and be enrolled on an approved course. Please note these schemes are generally not available to Northern Irish students as there is a residency requirement stating that students must have been ordinarily resident in the administrative area of the local authority in order to be eligible.

For further insight have a look at the Education FAQs.