Economy Minister Gordon Lyons has announced a 40% increase in maximum student maintenance loans from academic year 2023/24.
The increase will provide students with an estimated additional £55million to assist with living costs.
The Minister has also confirmed that his Department will seek to undertake a full review of the higher education funding system, including the support provided to students such as maintenance loans, grants and other student support products, and the support provided to the sector, such as the level and mix of teaching grant and fees.
In addition, the Minister has confirmed an uplift of 1.8% to tuition fees and tuition fee loan products.
The Minister said:
“I am acutely aware of the difficulties that continue to be faced in the current cost-of-living crisis by people right across society, and not least by students.
“In this context, I am pleased to confirm a 40% increase in the maximum student maintenance loan available to full-time undergraduate students from academic year 2023/24, providing additional support estimated at around £55million to approximately 40,500 NI-domiciled students studying in the UK and Republic of Ireland.
“This includes increases to the limits for those who live at home, away from home, and those in London, where costs are generally even higher. Eligible students can also continue to avail of income-assessed maintenance grant support of up to £3,475, and other targeted support provided by the Department, such as Disabled Students Allowance.”
The Minister continued:
“I am of course conscious that this uplift will not take effect for another year. This is why I have already increased the budget for student hardship funds across the higher education institutions by £2.8million, bringing the total allocation to £5.6million for this year.
“And I have been consistent in pressing the institutions to apply as much flexibility as possible when dealing with applications from students for hardship funds, to help ensure that any student who is experiencing genuine financial difficulty has access to support.
“I note that some of the local higher education institutions are also introducing their own cost-of-living support schemes for their respective students, and I very much welcome this.”
Turning to the review of the higher education funding system, the Minister said:
“In the current climate, it is also appropriate that we take a long-term look at how higher education is funded in Northern Ireland. The main objectives of this review will be to ensure that students have the support they need in order to commence and complete higher education study, and that our higher education sector is put on a more sustainable financial footing.”
In conclusion, the Minister said:
“Higher education is a cornerstone of our economy and my Department’s 10X Economic Vision, and associated Skills Strategy. I believe these measures will assist greatly in ensuring that our higher education sector – both the institutions and the students who attend them – can flourish for the benefit of everyone.”
The changes will be enacted following the laying of supporting regulations.
Notes to editors:
1. The maximum maintenance loan support to full time undergraduate NI-domiciled students will increase:
- for students living at home from £3,750 to £5,250
- for students living away from home from £4,840 to £6,776
- for students living in London from £6,780 to £9,492
2. Tuition fee levels for eligible full-time undergraduate students will increase by 1.8% from £4,630 to £4,710 in academic year 2023/24. Since 2010/11, tuition fee levels for eligible full-time undergraduate students undertaking a higher education course at a local higher education institution (HEI) have increased in line with inflation on an annual basis.
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