Back to advice

How do I apply for higher education funding in Northern Ireland?

By David Malcolm

Tuesday 19 March 2013 Higher education

If you’re eligible to get funding for higher education from the government in Northern Ireland, you apply for it online through Student Finance NI. You apply in a different way depending on whether you’re taking a full- or part-time course.

The following details tell you how to apply for funding from Student Finance NI. If you want to apply for bursary to study medicine, dentistry, healthcare or social work, the application process is different. See:

When should I apply for funding for a full-time course?

If you’re a full-time student you apply for funding each year throughout the length of your course, and for one extra year if you need it to complete the course.

If you’re a new full-time student you should apply for funding as soon as you’ve applied for a place on a course. Don’t wait until you’ve got a confirmed place before applying – when you apply for funding just quote the course that you think you’re most likely to attend. If your course changes after you apply, tell Student Finance NI straight away.

If you’re a continuing student, Student Finance NI will contact you with details about how to apply for the coming year.

There are different deadlines for applications for new and continuing students – new students starting in autumn 2013 must apply by 12 April, and continuing students by 14 June. Student Finance NI publishes the deadlines on their website. If you miss the deadlines, you might not get your funding by the start of term.

The final deadline for applications is nine months after the first day of the academic year of your course. If you don’t apply by this time you won’t get funding for that year – but you can apply during subsequent years. Student Finance NI may extend this deadline if you’re delayed by circumstances beyond your control.

When should I apply for funding for a part-time course?

If you’re a part-time student you apply for funding each year throughout the length of your course, and for one extra year if you need it to complete the course.

Whether you’re a new or continuing student you must make sure that your local Student Finance NI office receives your application within nine months of the first day of the academic year of your course. For most students starting in autumn 2013, this will be by 31 May 2014.

What’s the application process for full-time students?

For full-time students, the first time you apply, you set up a student finance account. Then, and each year afterwards, you complete an online application form. You may be asked to send evidence (eg proof of your identity or household income). Make sure you send all the requested information by the specified deadlines, so that you receive the first instalment of the support you’re entitled to at the start of the course. Student Finance NI assesses what funding (grants and loans) you’re entitled to, and sends you an entitlement letter to confirm what will be paid to you and when.

For more details, see Student Finance NI’s information for new students and continuing students. There are also some useful frequently asked questions about applications. You can also set up your student finance account.

What’s the application process for part-time students?

For part-time students, each year you complete an application form, then take it to your university or college. They confirm that you’re a student of that college, calculate the ‘intensity’ of your course (the percentage of time you spend studying compared to a full-time student) and tell you the fees they charge for your course. Then you send the form to your local Student Finance NI office for assessment of the support you’re entitled to. Your local Student Finance NI office then writes to you to let you know what funding you’re getting.

However, if you’re studying part-time with the Open University you need to apply using the Open University’s own application form. For information, email general-enquiries@open.ac.uk or phone 0044 (0)28 90 245025. The Open University deal with their own students’ applications for the fee grant, course grant and Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs).

For more details, see Student Finance NI’s information for part-time students.

Related topics

Can I get higher education funding in the UK?

What higher education funding is available in Northern Ireland?

This information was updated in March 2013. NUS provides this information in good faith and has taken care to make sure it’s accurate. However, student finance issues can be complicated, and rules change frequently. You should contact the advice centre in your students' union, college or university for support if you’re uncertain or need more help.