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 nidirect higher education section.

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 Finance

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


Responsible for financial support of the sector and the promotion of good financial practice.


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.  It is also administering the All-Ireland Scholarships on behalf of the McManus Trust.

Widening participation

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 policy

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


Supports the higher education sector in relation to International, European and Cross-Border mobility and strategic partnerships.

Improving quality

Responsible for 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 is also responsible for the review of initial teacher education.

Strategy and Programme Management Office

Oversees the implementation of the projects resulting from the Northern Ireland higher education strategy "Graduating to Success" and the Northern Ireland regional strategy for widening participation in higher education "Access to Success".


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