Funding for postgraduate study in Northern Ireland

Last updated: 25 Jan 2023, 13:37

We take a look at the different types of postgraduate funding currently available in Northern Ireland.

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Funding your postgraduate studies represents one of the greatest challenges you will face, however, there are some supports and options in Northern Ireland which can help.

Financing yourself or seeking help from your employer

Fees vary greatly depending on the course and institutions, but fees normally amount to several thousand pounds. Your course, or institution prospectus will give you a full breakdown of what the course will cost, but you will also need to factor in living and travel expenses into your budget.

Employer sponsorship

Many students take a year away from studies after their undergrad degree in order to save money to fund their further study. Another option is work while doing your postgrad, but this requires a lot of juggling between coursework and your paid work, so make sure you can handle that particular challenge. If your working for an employer in ann area related to the sector that you wish to study. you could ask your employer to sponsor you.

Even if your employer can’t foot your postgrad bill, perhaps they can be flexible with working time around assignment deadlines etc.

Postgraduate tuition fee loans in Northern Ireland

Other than the Disabled Students’ Allowance , there is currently no standard student support package available for postgraduate students from the Student Loans Company. (Source: NIDirect Government Services)

However, from the beginning of academic year 2017-2018, postgraduate tuition fee loans for Northern Ireland students will be available.

Whilst the exact details are yet to be finalised, it is anticipated that you will be able to apply for non-means-tested tuition fee loans of up to £5,500, to help with course costs, from Summer 2017.

Please monitor for more information on these developments.

Professional and Career Development Loans

You may be in a position to take a loan to cover the costs of your study. A Professional and Career Development Loan (PCDL) is a bank loan (provided by The co-operative bank(external link opens in a new window / tab) ) which is designed to help pay for work-related study, training and qualifications to with improve job skills, launch a new career or both. PCDLs can range from £300–£10,000 and cover up to 80 per cent of course fees.

For more information on PCDLs and to find out if you are eligible to apply:

Awards & studentships

The vast majority of students will need some assistance with meeting the cost of funding their course. Searching for an award can be a major exercise in itself so you should leave plenty of time to do your research.

See some examples of postgraduate funding below:

Department for the Economy studentships

The Department for the Economy (DfE) sponsor postgraduate studentships at Queen’s University (QUB), Belfast and Ulster University (UU) for research and certain approved full-time postgraduate courses leading to higher degrees (Masters and PhDs). If you wish to apply for a DfE studentship, you should check with QUB or UU if your chosen course is eligible for DfE studentship funding, and if so apply directly to that university.

Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs postgraduate studentships

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) offers a limited number of full-time postgraduate studentships in the UK and Republic of Ireland.

Research Councils UK

There are seven Research Councils in the UK, which distribute government funding in various postgraduate subject areas. If you wish to apply for Research Council funding, you should check if your chosen course is eligible for Research Council funding and if so apply directly to the Higher Education institution.

Other awards

Institutions such as the Royal Society Royal Academy of Engineering and the British Academy offer awards.

Eligible students undertaking certain courses of Initial Teacher Training such as Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE) may be eligible to apply for the undergraduate package of student financial support.

There are also trusts and charities which offer awards to students, such as the Wellcome Trust, provide support for medical research. You can find lists of trusts and charities in most public libraries. Useful publications include the Educational Grants Directory, The Charities Digest, The Grants Register and the Directory of Grant Making Trusts.

Applying for funding

It is important before applying that you read the application guidance carefully and do some research into exactly what the funding will cover. Take note of the application deadline and give yourself plenty of time to apply, remembering that in most cases you will need to apply for a place on your chosen course and a scholarship/award separately. If you are applying to do postgraduate research, you may also have to write a very detailed proposal, so it may help if you discuss your research plans with the school / faculty before applying.

More useful links

This article was updated in February 2017. The material and links for the above information was sourced from

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This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the gradireland content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

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