Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) scheme for the Academic Year 2023/24

If you decide to stay on at school or go to a further education college in Northern Ireland, you may be able to get the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA). It is available for both academic and vocational courses.

EMA is a weekly award of £30 which is paid fortnightly to students who meet the eligibility criteria below.

It is intended to help cover the day-to-day costs that you have to meet when you stay on at school or college like travel costs, books and equipment for your course.

Who is entitled to EMA

You can get an EMA during academic year 2023/24 if you're aged 16, 17, 18 or 19 years on or between 2 July 2022 and 1 July 2023 and all of the following statements apply to you:

  • your household income is £20,500 or less for households with one dependent child
  • your household income is £22,500 or less for households with more than one dependent child
  • you are full time at school or doing a minimum of 15 guided hours per week at college
  • you are studying an eligible course and attending all classes
  • you meet the nationality and residency rules set out in the EMA scheme
  • you have not already received the maximum allowance for EMA which is 117 positive or negative weekly attendance confirmations over the total length of your course.

Further information on the EMA Scheme is available on the NI Direct website at Education Maintenance Allowance explained | nidirect

Application Forms

Printed EMA application forms and guidance notes for new EMA applicants in academic year 2023/24 will be available from Northern Ireland schools and colleges from spring 2023. Downloadable application forms and guidance notes will also be available from the NI Direct website at Education Maintenance Allowance application forms and guidance notes | nidirect , and in the meantime, some guidance for 2023/24 is available to view and download.

If you received EMA in academic year 2022/23 and are a returning student in academic year 2023/24, signing your 23/24 EMA Learning Agreement acts as a formal application for EMA support under the terms and conditions of that academic year. This replaces the need for you to complete and return a new application form. The Student Loans Company may look to confirm household income, however.

Backdated EMA Payments

For academic year 2023/24, eligible students who submit their EMA Application Form to the Student Loans Company before 30 September 2023 will have their weekly allowance payments backdated to the beginning of term, whilst those who submit their application after 30 September will have their payments backdated to the date that it was received by the Student Loans Company.

Similarly, eligible returning students in academic year 2023/24 may also receive backdated EMA payments to the beginning of term if their EMA Learning Agreement is signed/agreed by 30 September 2023. If an eligible returning student signs their EMA Learning Agreement after 30 September they will be eligible for backdated EMA payments to the signed date confirmed to the Student Loans Company by their Learning Centre.

EMA payments remain subject to the Student Loans Company receiving confirmation that students are engaged in learning and have agreed their EMA Learning Agreement. We would still encourage students and learning centres to agree their EMA Agreement as early as possible.

EMA Learning Agreement via email/ electronically

Students generally have the option to complete and agree their EMA Learning Agreement via email / electronically or in hard copy, subject to the agreement of their Learning Centre.


If you have any queries about EMA, please contact the EMA Customer Services Team.

  • Student Helpline 0300 200 7089 (Monday to Friday, from 8.00 am to 6.00 pm)
  • Student Email
  • Learning Centre Helpline 0300 200 7089 (Select ‘Option 5’) (Monday to Friday, from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm)
  • Learning Centre Email
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