Higher education division

The role of the Department's higher education division is to formulate policy and administer funding to support education, research and related activities in the Northern Ireland higher education sector.

Unlike other parts of the UK, Northern Ireland has no higher education funding council; the Department fulfills the roles of both a government department and a funding council. 

This website contains departmental information in respect of higher education. For student related information (including student finance) please visit the dedicated Student Finance NI website.

Information on higher education training opportunities for employers can be found on the nibusinessinfo.co.uk website.

Who delivers higher education

Higher education in Northern Ireland is delivered through three universities and two university colleges: 

Higher education courses are also delivered in the six further education colleges:

The structure of the Higher Education division

The Department’s higher education division consists of eight branches.

Student Support Branch

Responsible for student support including student loans and grants, postgraduate awards, and education maintenance allowance.

Finance and Strategic Coordination Branch

Responsible for financial support of the sector and the promotion of good financial practice. It is also responsible for coordinating HE divisional correspondence including Machinery of Government returns .

Capital Branch

Responsible for the funding, monitoring and governance of Departmentally funded capital projects within Northern Ireland's Higher Education Sector.

Policy Branch

Responsible for formulating and implementing policies relating to learning and teaching, and develops future higher education policy for Northern Ireland, in consultation with the sector, and other stakeholders.  

HE in FE & Widening Participation Branch

Responsible for facilitating and increasing the participation of those groups which are currently under represented in higher education, in particular students from disadvantaged backgrounds and students with learning difficulties and disabilities.

Research Knowledge Exchange Branch

Administers funding and formulates policy for research and knowledge exchange activities.

International Inward & Outward Mobility Branch

Supports the higher education sector in relation to International, European and Cross-Border mobility and strategic partnerships. It is also administering the All-Ireland Scholarships on behalf of the McManus Trust.

Quality and Governance Branch

Responsible for promotion of good financial practice, and supporting the HE sector in maintaining and improving the quality of the teaching and learning environment, with particular focus on contributing to a positive student experience. It also has responsibility for the administration and funding of initial teacher education in Northern Ireland.


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