Higher education student finance

The Department's student finance team ensures that the Departments 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.

Student tuition fees

A key commitment in the Northern Ireland Executives Programme for Government 2011-15 is to “ensure there are no increases in student fees beyond the rate of inflation for Northern Ireland students studying here”.

New full-time students studying in Northern Ireland will be charged up to£3,805 in tuition fees in academic year 2015/16.

Universities and colleges of higher education in England, Scotland or Wales are able to charge full-time undergraduates fees of up to £9,000 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:

Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA)

The EMA scheme was introduced jointly by the Department 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 finance branch is responsible for EMA policy and advice. The EMA is administered by the student loans company (SLC) on behalf of the Department and DE

Postgraduate Studentship Awards

The Department sponsor 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 taught Masters courses and MRes study

For further information on DEL studentships please visit the nidirect website


As well as producing student finance guidance on nidirect, the student finance branch produce guidance booklets which can be accessed through the following links below:


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 www.legislation.gov.uk 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.  

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


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.