Student Grants

Article _studentgrant 01

Information

A new single Student Grant Scheme has been announced for courses starting in autumn 2011. The 4 main support schemes for students have been merged into this new scheme. They were:

  • Higher Education Grants Scheme
  • Vocational Education Committees' Scholarship Scheme
  • Third Level Maintenance Grants Scheme for Trainees
  • Maintenance Grants Scheme for Students Attending Post-Leaving Certificate Courses

Information on student finance

There is detailed information on the range of grants and funds for students in further and higher education on the website studentfinance.ie. This website has details of the Fund for Students with Disabilities, the Student Assistance Fund and some third-level scholarships.


Student Grant Scheme

The Student Grant Scheme 2011 (pdf) and Student Support Regulations 2011 (pdf) have been made under the Student Support Act 2011 (pdf).

Student grants are divided into 2 classes - maintenance grants and fee grants.


Maintenance grants

A maintenance grant is a contribution towards the student's living costs. Students who started or are starting courses from the academic year 2010/2011 onward do not qualify for a maintenance grant if they are on a Back to Education Allowance or VTOS allowance.

Maintenance grants are available for approved courses below graduate level in Ireland and other EU states and for approved postgraduate courses in Ireland and Northern Ireland.


Fee grants

A fee grant can cover any of the following 3 elements:

  • All or part of a student's tuition fees
  • All or part of the student contribution
  • Costs of essential field trips

In general, if you qualify for a maintenance grant you will qualify for all elements of the fee grant. However, you will not get the tuition element of a fee grant if you already qualify for free tuition under the Free Fees Schemes.

Students who fulfil all the conditions for a maintenance grant except for residence in the State for 3 of the last 5 years (called 'tuition students' under the Student Grant Scheme) can qualify for a fee grant.

Fee grants are available for approved courses below graduate level in Ireland and for approved postgraduate courses in Ireland and Northern Ireland. However, there are no fee grants for Post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses or for courses in other EU states.

See 'Approved courses and institutions' below for further detail.


How student grants are administered

Under the new Student Grant Scheme, local authorities will continue to deal with student grants in respect of:

  • Universities
  • Prescribed educational institutions in Ireland (such as colleges of education)
  • Approved undergraduate courses in approved educational institutions in the EU
  • Approved postgraduate courses in approved educational institutions in Northern Ireland

These grants were previously handled under the Higher Education Grants Scheme.

Vocational Education Committees (VECs) will continue to deal with grants for approved course in the following institutions:

  • Approved Post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) centres
  • Institutes of Technology

Student grants are reviewed each year. If you had a grant in 2010/2011 and are continuing your studies on the course in 2011/2012, your local authority or VEC will be in contact with you in order to renew or re-assess your student grant for 2011/2012.


Qualifying for a student grant

Maintenance grant

To qualify for a maintenance grant, you must fulfil the conditions of the scheme as regards:

  • Nationality and immigration status
  • Residence
  • Means

You must also be attending an approved course in an approved institution - see 'Approved courses and institutions' below.

There are detailed conditions about the level of the course you are attending; whether you have attended a course at the same level already; and whether the course represents progression from your previous studies.

Article _studentgrant 02In general, you will not get a grant for repeating a year or attending a course at a level that does not represent progression from what you have done before. These conditions are specified in paragraphs 14 to 17 of the Student Grant Scheme 2011 (pdf). However, 'second chance students' may be eligible for a grant. A 'second chance student' is someone who is aged over 23, did not successfully complete an earlier course and is returning to pursue an approved course after at least 5 years.


Fee grant

If you qualify for a maintenance grant, you will qualify for all relevant elements of a fee grant. If you have not been legally resident in the State for 3 of the last 5 years, but fulfil all the other criteria for a maintenance grant, you may still qualify for a fee grant as a 'tuition student' under the Scheme.


Nationality and immigration status

In order to get a student grant you must:

  • Be a national of an EU member state or an EEA member state or Switzerland

or

  • Be a family member of one of the above, with permission to remain in the State as a family member of such person under the European Communities (Free Movement of Persons) Regulations 2006 and 2008 and EU Treaty rights provisions

or

  • Have refugee status

or

  • Have been granted humanitarian leave to remain in the State (foreign nationals granted leave to remain under the Irish Born Child scheme - IBC/05 are not eligible)

or

  • Be eligible for subsidiary protection or have been granted leave to remain under the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006 (pdf)

or

  • Have permission to remain following a determination not to make a deportation order

or

  • Have permission to remain in the State by virtue of marriage to, or civil partnership with, an Irish national living here or be the dependent child of a person with such permission.

Residence

Since the academic year 2010/2011, you must have been legally resident in the State for 3 of the previous 5 years to qualify for a maintenance grant. However, if you are studying elsewhere in the EU for a recognised qualification, and you were resident in the State for 3 of the 5 years before starting that course, you satisfy this requirement. Find more details of this requirement on studentfinance.ie.

If you fulfil all the criteria for a maintenance grant except for this residence condition, you may still qualify for a fee grant as a 'tuition student'.

Your parents or guardians, or you yourself if you are an independent mature candidate (see below) must have been ordinarily resident in the administrative area of the local authority from 1 October prior to applying for the grant.


Means test

If you were ordinarily resident with your parents from October 1 of the year before the year of entry to the course, you are considered dependent on your parents and your income (if any) is assessed together with your parents' income(s). An allowance is made for your earnings outside of term-time - up to €3,809 currently.

Independent mature candidates are candidates aged over 23 who live separately from their parents from 1 October of the year before the year of entry to the course. If you are an independent student, you are assessed on your own income (and that of your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant, if applicable).

The means test for a student grant in 2011/2012 is based on your family's income for the previous full tax year (2010). However, if you or your family have had a change of circumstances (which is likely to be permanent) since 31 December 2010, your changed circumstances may be taken into account.

Some social welfare payments are excluded from 'reckonable income' for the purposes of maintenance grants - see more details on reckonable income on studentfinance.ie.


Income limits for maintenance grant and full fee grant

The family income limits for eligibility for a maintenance grant in 2011/2012 are set out below. These limits also qualify you in respect of the fee grant (if you are otherwise eligible).

Number of dependent children

Full maintenance

Part maintenance (75%)

Part maintenance (50%)

Part maintenance (25%)

Fewer than 4

€41,110

€42,235

€44,720

€47,205

4 to 7

€45,165

€46,415

€49,145

€51,880

8 or more

€49,045

€50,400

€53,360

€56,320


Income limits for partial fee grant

The family income limits for eligibility for a partial fee grant in 2011/2012 are set out below.

Number of dependent children

50% tuition fees and 100% student contribution

50% student contribution only

Fewer than 4

€51,380

€55,920

4 to 7

€56,460

€61,440

8 or more

€61,295

€66,700


Other family members in college

The reckonable income limits may be increased as follows for each additional family member who is pursuing a full-time course (as specified in the Student Grant Scheme 2011 (pdf) and Student Support Regulations 2011 (pdf)) of at least one year's duration:

  • In full maintenance and partial fee grant categories by €4,980 where there are 2 such family members, €9,960 where there are 3 such family members and so on, by increments of €4,980
  • In part maintenance 75%, 50% and 25% categories by €4,815 where there are 2 such family members, €9,630 where there are 3 such family members and so on, by increments of €4,815

If you are an independent applicant, the family member taken into account is your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant. If you are dependent on your parents, the family members taken into account are your parent(s) and their other dependent children.


Special rates of grants for disadvantaged students

Disadvantaged students who meet a number of conditions can qualify for a special rate of maintenance grant.

Applicants must have qualified for the standard maintenance grant for the academic year 2011/2012 and total reckonable income in the tax year January to December 2010 must not be more than €22,703, net of Qualified Child Increases and standard exclusions.

For students, including mature students, who are assessed on parent(s)/guardian's income, their parent(s)/guardian must, on 31 December 2010, have been:

  • Claiming long-term social welfare payments, or
  • Claiming Family Income Supplement or
  • Participating in designated programmes (for example, a FÁS training programme).

These payments and programmes are listed in Schedule 2 of the Student Grant Scheme 2011 (pdf).

For students who are assessed on their own income, on 31 December 2010 the student must have been getting one of these social welfare payments or participating in a designated programme.


Rates

Changes in grant rates are considered during the annual Budget process and become effective in January at the beginning of the financial year.


Maintenance grant rates for 2011

Type

Non-adjacent rate

Adjacent rate

Special rate

€6,100

€2,445

Full Maintenance

€3,120

€1,250

Part maintenance (75%)

€2,340

€940

Part maintenance (50%)

€1,560

€625

Part maintenance (25%)

€780

€315


Adjacent and non-adjacent rates

For students who live 45 kilometres (formerly 24) or less from the college being attended, the adjacent rate of maintenance grant is payable. This rate applies to all students living within this distance, including all mature students, both dependent and independent.

The non-adjacent rate applies to everyone else.


How to apply

You apply for a student grant to the local authority or VEC in the area where you live. If you plan to attend a PLC or Institute of Technology, apply to your VEC. Otherwise apply to your local authority. The closing date is 31 August 2011, but you should apply as soon as possible.

A total of 35 grant-awarding bodies are connected to a new online application system. If your local authority or VEC is not yet using the online system, you can download the student grant application form for 2011/2012 (pdf) and accompanying notes (pdf) from the studentfinance.ie website. There are several other forms that you may need in support of your application. The forms are also available from your VEC or local authority.

When you have accepted your place on a course, you will need to fill in the course acceptance form that applies to you and return it to the local authority or VEC where you applied for a maintenance grant.

From 2012/2013 on, the City of Dublin Vocational Education Committee, which has been nominated as the new single grant-awarding authority, will start handling new applications. Renewals of existing grants will be handled by the authority that issued them initially.

Further information about grants is available on studentfinance.ie.


Appealing a decision

If you think that you have been unjustly refused a grant, you may appeal by writing to your local authority or VEC. If your appeal is turned down, and you feel that the conditions have not been interpreted correctly, you can send an appeal to the Higher Education Equity of Access section of the Department of Education and Skills.

You should only write to the Department of Education and Skills if you wish to appeal the outcome of an initial appeal to the grant-awarding authority.

The Student Support Act 2011 provides for a new independent appeals board in relation to student grants. It is expected that this board will be established in 2012.


Where to apply

Send your completed application form (if not applying online) and required documentary evidence to your local VEC or your local authority.

Appeals: if you wish to appeal a decision, write to your VEC or local authority. If you wish to appeal the outcome of such an appeal, apply to the Department of Education and Skills at the address below.

Higher Education Equity of Access

Department of Education and Skills
Portlaoise Road
Offaly
Ireland

Tel:+353 (0)57 9325317

Fax:+353 (0)57 9325435

Homepage: http://www.education.ie/


Approved courses and institutions

In general, the new Student Grant Scheme covers all the approved courses and institutions covered by the 4 schemes it replaced. Details of what each scheme covered are below. The approved courses are prescribed in Regulation 4 of the Student Support Regulations 2011 (pdf) and the approved institutions are listed in Schedules 1 and 2 of the Regulations.


Higher Education Grants Scheme

The courses that were approved under the Higher Education Grants Scheme (pdf) and now come under the Student Grant Scheme are:

(a) Full-time undergraduate courses of not less than 2 years' duration or full-time postgraduate courses of not less than one year's duration taken in one of the approved institutions

(b) Full-time undergraduate courses of not less than 2 years' duration taken in a publicly funded university or third-level institution in another EU member state, with the exception of the following:

  • Courses in Colleges of Further and Higher Education (other than courses which are at Higher National Diploma level or higher)
  • Courses provided in a college that are offered in private commercial third-level colleges in the State and that are validated by that college
  • Courses in colleges akin to private commercial colleges in Ireland

(c) A full-time undergraduate course of a minimum duration of 1 year in one of the approved institutions which represents progression from a Level 7 (Ordinary Bachelor Degree or National Diploma) course to an add-on Level 8 (Honours Bachelor Degree) course.


Vocational Education Committees' Scholarship Scheme

The courses that were approved under the Vocational Education Committees' Scholarship Scheme and now come under the Student Grant Scheme are:

(a) Full-time courses at the colleges of the National University of Ireland; Trinity College Dublin; Dublin City University; the University of Limerick; Queens University, Belfast or the University of Ulster where the student progresses to the university course by completing a course at Level 6 (National Certificate) or Level 7 (National Diploma)

(b) Full-time approved undergraduate and postgraduate courses at approved institutions

(c) BTEC Higher National Diploma (HND) courses in certain colleges of further education and colleges of further and higher education in Northern Ireland

(d) Full-time approved undergraduate courses in third-level institutions in EU member states, on the same basis as the Higher Education Grants Scheme, in the case of students who have been awarded a National Certificate or a National Diploma


Third Level Maintenance Grants Scheme for Trainees

The Third Level Maintenance Grants Scheme for Trainees scheme has also been subsumed into the Student Grant Scheme. The approved courses for this element of the Student Grant Scheme are a series of one, two and three-year courses leading to qualifications at Level 6 (Higher Certificate) and at Level 7 (Ordinary Bachelor Degree) in Institutes of Technology. This element of the scheme is aimed at candidates requiring higher-level initial education and training to improve their employment prospects in line with the Government's sectoral employment priorities and entering approved Middle Level Technician or Higher Technical Business Skills courses for the first time in the academic year in question.

This element of the Student Grant Scheme is also open to mature candidates re-entering in order to complete such a course.


Maintenance Grants Scheme for Students attending Post-Leaving Certificate Courses

The Maintenance Grants Scheme for Students attending Post-Leaving Certificate Courses scheme has also been subsumed into the Student Grant Scheme. This element of the Student Grant Scheme is open to candidates who are entering approved Post-Leaving Certificate courses for the first time in the academic year in question.

Grants are available for full-time approved Post-Leaving Certificate courses of at least one year's duration at approved Post-Leaving Certificate centres. The list of approved centres is available from your local VEC. It is also in Schedule 1, Part D of the Student Support Regulations 2011 (pdf).

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