Higher education student support

The Department's Student Support Branch ensures that the Department's various policies around student finance are implemented. This involves drafting the annual legislation, which underpins the award of student finance to Northern Ireland students and working with delivery partners such as the Student Loans Company and Education Authority.

Applying for student support

To check if you are eligible for a tuition fee loan and for maintenance loan and grant support, you should contact Student Finance NI in your regional Education Authority office. They can advise about making an application or checking the status of an application.

Student tuition fees

New eligible full-time undergraduate students studying in Northern Ireland will be charged up to £4,630 in tuition fees in academic year 2022/23. The tuition fees for academic year 2023/24 will increase to £4,710.

Universities and colleges of higher education in England, Scotland or Wales are able to charge full-time undergraduates fees of up to £9,250 a year. The actual amount charged will vary between courses as well as between universities.

Available student finance

For advice and guidance on types of student finance available to cover tuition fees and maintenance costs, use the nidirect website links below:

Higher education support funds 

The Department provides support funds to eligible students through the higher education institutions in Northern Ireland. These funds are to be used to provide financial help to students whose access to higher education might be inhibited by financial considerations, or who, for whatever reason, including physical or other disabilities, face financial difficulties in meeting their living costs. 

Postgraduate Studentship Awards

The department sponsors postgraduate studentships at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) and Ulster University (UU) for research and certain approved full-time postgraduate courses leading to higher degrees (Masters and PhDs).

There are three types of studentships available:

  1. Research studentship for PhD study
  2. Co-operative Awards is Science and Technology (CAST) for PhD study
  3. Taught studentships for MRes study

For further information on the department`s studentships please visit the nidirect website

Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA)

The EMA scheme was introduced jointly by the Department for the Economy and the Department of Education (DE) in September 2004. The main purpose of the scheme is to enable young people from less well-off families to remain in post-compulsory education at school or college with the key objectives of raising participation, retention and achievement rates in the eligible group.

The Department’s Student Support branch oversees the operational delivery of the scheme. The EMA is administered by the Student Loans Company (SLC) on behalf of the department and DE.


Guides have been published by Student Finance NI which cover most aspects of student finance, these can be accessed through the following links below:

Student support and payment

Additional support

The department has published guidance in relation to postgraduate study:


The eligibility of higher education students for financial support in terms of tuition fees, maintenance grants and loans is determined under the Education (Student Support) (No.2) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2009 (as amended). 

Each provision of each Act, Order in Council, or Statutory Rule must be read individually and in its up-to-date version. Legislation which appears on Legislation.gov.uk website is subject to changes which do not appear in the text but are noted in drop down boxes which appear alongside the text. All of these changes must be read, understood and applied to the text to arrive at the up-to-date version of the legislation.   


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