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Financing your studies

University tuition fees and financial support in Northern Ireland

An overview of undergraduate university tuition fees and student finance if you’re from Northern Ireland.

Belfast City Hall Northern Ireland


  1. Undergraduate student finance in Northern Ireland

  2. Tuition fees and tuition fee loans

  3. Funding your living costs

  4. Extra funding for university

  5. Studying abroad or on a placement year

  6. Student finance and second degrees (ELQ)

  7. Applying for student finance in Northern Ireland

  8. Repaying your loan

Undergraduate student finance in Northern Ireland

If you're from Northern Ireland and taking a degree, you may get a combination of support from grants as well as loans, reducing the amount you have to repay. Below we outline what's available to undergraduates for 2021/22 entry. 

To be classed as a student from Northern Ireland, you normally need to have lived in Northern Ireland for the three years before starting your university course. See our information on student finance eligibility, which includes arrangements after Brexit.

Tuition fees and tuition fee loans

If you’re going to university in Northern Ireland

Universities can charge you up to £4,530 a year for undergraduate tuition. You can apply to Student Finance NI for a loan of up to £4,530 to help cover this fee. If you wish to study at a private institution, where fees may be higher, you’ll need to pay the excess yourself.

If you’re going to university in England, Scotland or Wales

Universities in England and Scotland can charge you up to £9,250 a year, while universities in Wales can charge up to £9,000. If you’re taking an accelerated degree (which is completed in less time than a normal degree) universities in England can charge up to £11,100. You can apply for a loan of up to £9,250 (or up to £11,100 for an accelerated degree) to help cover this fee.

If you study at a private provider, you'll get a maximum of £4,530 towards your fees. If your fees are higher, you'll have to pay the difference yourself.

If you’re going to university in the Republic of Ireland

If you’re eligible for support from Student Finance NI, you can apply for funding to study a course in the Republic of Ireland (ROI). Here, you pay a tuition contribution rather than a tuition fee. This is €3,000 in 2021/22. A loan is available to cover your tuition contribution.

Funding your living costs

The support you get is determined by your household income and where you’ll live during term time.

You can get a maintenance grant if your household income is £41,065 or less. However, it'll decrease the amount of maintenance loan you can apply for. The maximum grant is £3,475 for those whose income is £19,203 or less.

If your household income is above £41,065, you won't qualify for a maintenance grant. Also, above £41,540, the amount of maintenance loan gradually reduces to the minimum amount shown in the table below. The expectation is that you’ll find the difference elsewhere, whether through contributions from your parents, a part-time job or savings.

Student finance in Northern Ireland for 2021/22

Household income Maintenance grant Loan – if living with parents Loan – if living in London Loan – if living elsewhere
£19,203 £3,475 £1,863 £4,893 £2,953
£25,000 £2,201 £2,199 £5,229 £3,289
£30,000 £1,215 £2,535 £5,565 £3,625
£35,000 £689 £3,061 £6,091 £4,151
£41,540 £0 £3,750 £6,780 £4,840
Minimum loan (75%)   £2,812 £5,085 £3,630

If you study overseas for a term or up to a year, you can get a maintenance loan of up to £5,770.

If your course is longer than 30 weeks in the academic year, you can get an additional loan.

The maximum per week is:

  • £55 – if you’re living with your parents
  • £108 – if you’re living in London
  • £84 – if you’re living outside of London
  • £117 – if you’re studying overseas

You aren’t eligible for this if you’re getting a reduced rate loan, for example if you’re on a year-long paid placement.

Extra funding for university

You could get a special support grant instead of a maintenance grant if you meet other criteria such as being a lone parent. The amount of grant you'll get is the same, up to £3,475.

However, unlike the maintenance grant, the special support grant won't reduce the amount of maintenance loan you can apply for.

If you qualify for a student finance grant, you may also be eligible for a university bursary. Contact your university to find out more.

Depending on your personal circumstances, other government support may be available. For instance, if you’re leaving care to enter higher education, or you have a disability. Find out more on our page covering student finance and funding.

Some courses receive other government backing. If you study a healthcare course, check our page on the NHS bursary to see how this might affect your funding. Similarly, if you're from Northern Ireland and studying a social work course in Northern Ireland, you might be eligible for a Department of Health bursary. According to Student Finance NI guidance, you’ll still be eligible for the standard financial support.

  2. Student finance and funding
  3. University bursaries and scholarships
  4. NHS bursary

Studying abroad or on a placement year

Some degree courses include a period where you study abroad or go on a work placement to gain experience. If you’re abroad or on placement for a year, you still pay a tuition fee to your home university, but it'll be reduced. By how much depends on the nation your university is in. Your tuition fee loan will also be reduced.

If your course requires you to study abroad, your living cost loan will be at the overseas rate. The amount will depend on your household income and how long you’re away for.

Living cost support for those on placement depends on whether it’s a paid placement or not. It’s best to check with your local Student Finance Northern Ireland office to see what support you may be eligible for. 

Student finance and second degrees (ELQ)

Generally, you can only get undergraduate funding for your first degree. There are a few exceptions to this rule,  but you may not get full funding. In Northern Ireland, graduates can take medicine or dentistry  as a second degree. You could be eligible for a means-tested maintenance loan, but you’d need to pay your own tuition fees (or student contribution charge in ROI) for the duration of your course.

Support may also be available for courses leading to professional qualifications in Veterinary Science, Social Work, Teaching and Architecture (to complete the RIBA Part 2 course). If you plan to study a second degree, check with Student Finance Northern Ireland whether you're eligible for support.

Applying for student finance in Northern Ireland

You can apply online to Student Finance Northern Ireland.

If you’re going to be a full-time undergraduate, you can apply from March of the year your course starts. It’s best to apply early, to ensure you have your loan by the start of your course. You'll need to apply for a loan each year of your course.

The Student Loans Company (SLC) will pay your tuition fees to your university at the beginning of your course. The maintenance loan is paid into your bank account at the start of each term, once you’ve registered on your course.

Repaying your loan

You start repaying your student loan from the April after you leave university, and once your salary has reached a certain amount. You pay a percentage of your income.

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