Postgraduate study and qualifications

Funding your postgraduate study

14 Jul 2023, 09:33

Funding is a major concern for many considering postgraduate study. Having just endured the financial constraints of undergraduate study, the costs of postgraduate study can be daunting. However, there are supports in place and with good planning, and factoring in the necessary time, there are funding programmes that you may be able to take advantage of to help ease the financial burden.

Man in a college library

Fees

Your first step should be to check tuition the fees for the institution you are interested in. Alternative upskilling and reskilling opportunities are also available via the Springboard and ICT Skills initiatives. See springboardcourses.ie for further information.

Springboard+

Springboard+ is a government initiative offering free and heavily subsidised courses at certificate, degree, and masters level leading to qualifications in areas where there are good employment opportunities such as ICT, engineering, green skills, manufacturing and construction. There are over 300 courses available for 2023/4, the majority of which are flexible and part-time. Find out more at www.springboardcourses.ie .

Human Capital Initiative

The Human Capital Initiative (HCI) Pillar 1 offers free and discounted full-time courses in areas such as technology, data, engineering, manufacturing and construction. Several courses are also available that address green skills and climate change. Courses are at graduate and postgraduate diploma level. Springboard+ is co-funded by the Government of Ireland, via the National Training Fund, and the European Union. Human Capital Initiative Pillar 1 is funded by the National Training Fund. More information on this is also available via www.springboardcourses.ie .

Maintenance and accommodation

You will also need to factor in your living costs: while awards cover fees, they are unlikely to support living costs in full. You can often find cost of living tables on university or student union websites. For example, NUI Galway estimates costs of around €4,950 to €9,900 for a bedroom in shared accommodation for a nine month academic year. TU Dublin estimates the cost of living for students in Dublin to be around €1,478 per month though this seems to be a conservative estimate with UCD estimating monthly costs to be between €1,405 and €2,565 per month. On-campus accommodation in the capital ranges (for shared spaces) from over €650 to over €1,300, and more for the student living buildings that have proliferated in the cities. There is an increasing amount of these apartment complexes, but prices for them can be prohibitively high. Most institutions provide assistance, in terms of information only, regarding costs of living. Students should also be aware that the emergency legislation introduced on 27 March 2020 to restrict rises in rent due to the pandemic has now lapsed. Rent will be the biggest expense of postgraduate study. If you have problems paying your rent, you should engage as soon as possible with your landlord or the Residential Tenancies Board at www.rtb.ie.

Help from your university

Many universities offer scholarships and bursaries to postgraduate students, check the universities’ websites for details. Some funding may be attached to a particular course or given to students undergoing financial hardship. Several Irish institutions offer postgraduate funding for research degrees, on a competitive basis. You should also check individual departments, which may, for example, have funding awarded to research teams.

North-South Postgraduate Scholarship Scheme

The aim of this scheme is to encourage outstanding students from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland to cross the border to undertake postgraduate study and experience life in the other Irish jurisdiction. Universities Ireland offer at least four scholarships, each worth €15,000, to students who have been accepted to undertake a recognised Master’s Degree or are entering the first year of a PhD programme at a university in the island of Ireland that is not in the same jurisdiction as the university where they have previously studied. Strict eligibility rules apply – please read the Guidance for Applicants carefully. The dates for applications normally appear before the start of each academic year and close the following May. Further details are available from universitiesireland.ie and on the postgraduate section of www.nidirect.gov.uk .

Irish research

The Irish Research Council (www.research.ie) aims to support a healthy research ecosystem in Ireland. The research Council is focused on early-stage research careers across science and humanities, as well as the promotion of increased opportunities in interdisciplinary research. The Council was established and mandated to:

  • Fund excellent research within, and between, all disciplines, and in doing so to enhance Ireland’s international reputation as a centre for research and learning.
  • Support the education and skills development of excellent early-stage researchers and cultivate independent researchers and thinkers, whilst offering a range of opportunities which support diverse career paths.
  • Enrich the pool of knowledge and expertise available for addressing Ireland’s current and future challenges, whether societal, cultural or economic.

You should also visit research.ie if you are considering a research postgrad in the Republic of Ireland.

UK research

UK Research and Innovation (www.ukri.org) is the umbrella body for the seven research Councils in the UK. The individual research Councils are:

You should approach your prospective academic department to discuss applying to one of the research councils.

How to successfully apply for funding

Competition for funding is rising. Applying for funding is similar to applying for a course and in some cases applications for academic places and for funding may overlap. So, the usual rules for completing applications apply. For the best chances, attend briefings at your college from funding bodies, attend any sessions offered by your careers service, and have your application checked by an academic mentor if possible. Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) is Ireland’s national awarding authority for all higher and further education grants. You can visit SUSI’s eligibility reckoner via www.susi.ie. This will give you an estimate as to if and what funding you will be entitled to from SUSI. The eligibility reckoner provides an approximate indication of your possible eligibility for grant funding. Your use of the eligibility reckoner is not an application for a student grant and it is not an assessment by SUSI of your eligibility for a grant. Your actual eligibility for a student grant can only be determined on the basis of your formal application to SUSI made through the on-line application system and on the formal assessment of your application by SUSI.

Timing it right

If you want to study at a North American university this means early on in the previous year (usually at the same time that you apply for your university place). Competitive awards are announced at the start of the academic year, with deadlines from November onwards.

Meeting the eligibility requirements

There is usually stiff competition for funding. You should have good academic results and a good fit for the programme. Funding bodies expect the best possible results throughout your academic course, normally at least a 2.1.

Complete the forms carefully

Read forms and directions carefully and make sure you give the information required. Give evidence of your track record in the subject and motivation and a sense of direction; emphasise your interest in the department and university. Provide information about extra-curricular activities. This might include academic transcripts, academic references, a ‘statement of purpose’, or a statement from your bank manager or guarantor. And of course, meet the deadline!

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