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What funding is available in Northern Ireland for part-time undergraduates (or equivalent) studying in the UK?

By David Malcolm

Tuesday 19 March 2013 Higher education

If you want study part-time for a first undergraduate or equivalent course in the UK, the funding that’s available from the government in Northern Ireland is different to what’s available for full-time students. Undergraduate or equivalent courses include honours degrees, Higher National Diploma (HND), initial teacher training and also Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE). The funding that’s available depends on how much of your time you spend studying, the course you’re taking and your personal circumstances.

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Can I get higher education funding in Northern Ireland for a part-time course?

If you normally live in Northern Ireland, regardless of where you’re studying in the UK, you may be eligible for funding from Student Finance NI – a partnership between the Department for Employment and Learning in Northern Ireland, the Student Loans Company and all five Education and Library Boards in Northern Ireland.

To get the funding, you and your course must be eligible for it. For more details, see Can I get higher education funding in the UK? However, there’s an exception to the rules for students resident in Northern Ireland – you can also get funding to study at a publicly funded university or college in the Republic of Ireland.

The eligibility rules for part-time study are the same as for full-time, except that for part-time students ‘course intensity’ determines what you’re entitled to. This means the percentage of time that you’re studying compared to a student taking an equivalent full-time course. You need to study at a rate of at least 50 per cent of an equivalent full-time course in each academic year in order to get funding from Student Finance NI. You can check course intensity with your university or college.

The funding is available for your first undergraduate or equivalent course only – if you already have a UK qualification at the same or a higher level, you’re not eligible.

If you’re attending a full-time distance learning course (eg at the Open University) you can’t get the support that’s available for other full-time courses. However, you’re entitled to apply for the part-time student finance package outlined below, and course intensity isn’t taken into account.

If you’re taking a part-time initial teacher training course you can apply for a student loan, and possibly other support that’s available to full-time students. For more information about the funding available, see What funding is available in Northern Ireland for full-time undergraduates (or equivalent) studying in the UK?

Where can I study?

Funding from Student Finance NI is available if you’re undertaking a course at a UK or Republic of Ireland university or college. If you study in England, Wales or Scotland, you can get the same funding as if you were studying in Northern Ireland.

However, if you want to take your entire course at a university or college outside the UK or Republic of Ireland, you can’t get the funding outlined here. See I want to study outside the UK – what higher education funding can I get?

What government support can I get?

You can get the following support from Student Finance NI (the following figures are for 2012/2013):

  • Fee grant: each year you can get a grant to help pay your tuition fees. The amount you get depends on your income (and your partner’s income if you have one) and your course intensity – up to £1,230 for a course intensity of 75 per cent or more. The grant is paid directly to your university or college, and you don’t need to pay it back.
  • Course grant: each year you can get a grant of up to £265 to help pay your course costs. The amount you get depends on your income (and your partner’s income if you have one). The money is paid directly into your bank account and you don’t need to pay it back.

Here’s Student Finance NI’s information on student finance for part-time students. There’s also a calculator to help you get an idea of what you’re entitled to.

You can still get funding from Student Finance NI if you’ve taken time out from your studies or changed your course. For more information, see:

How does my household income affect the grants I can get?

To assess how much you get for these grants, Student Finance NI takes into account your income and your partner’s income (if you have one). Your parents’ income doesn’t matter, regardless of your age or if you still live with them. If your annual income is:

  • £16,842 or less, you get the maximum tuition fee grant available for your course intensity, and the maximum grant for course costs.
  • Between £16,843 and £25,420 you get a percentage of both grants, based on your income and course intensity.
  • Between £25,421 and £28,067 you don’t get a tuition fee grant, but you do get a percentage of the grant for course costs, based on your income.

However, if you’re married, in a civil partnership, over 25 years old and living with your partner, and/or you have children, Student Finance NI raises the annual income thresholds by the following amounts so that your entitlement to more grants increases:

  • £2,000 for your partner
  • £2,000 for your eldest child
  • £1,000 for every other child.

These figures are for 2012/2013.

What other government support is available?

As well as the standard package of support from Student Finance NI outlined above, lots of other funding options are available, depending on your circumstances and the kind of course you’re taking. Find out more here:

How do I apply for government funding?

You apply for most funding through Student Finance NI. For more information, see How do I apply for higher education funding in Northern Ireland?

Where else can I get funding?

As well as government funding, you may be able to get funding from your academic institution, charities or other sources. To find out more, see Can I get higher education funding from my university or college? and other sources of funding.

If you work, your employer might sponsor you to take a part-time course, especially if the qualification will help advance you in your role. Ask your employer whether this is an option, or whether they’ll help by giving you study leave or flexible working arrangements. They might pay all or part of the fees.

If you’re not eligible for any funding, find out whether your university or college will let you pay the tuition fees in instalments to help you spread the cost over the duration of your course. If they do, make sure the repayment scheme is interest-free, so you don’t end up paying more than you need to.

Related topics

What higher education funding is available in Northern Ireland?

I’ve already got a UK honours degree – can I get funding for more higher education?

I’ve undertaken a higher education course before – can I get funding again?

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.