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Funding for postgraduate study in Ireland

There are several potential sources of funding for postgraduate study in Ireland.
Western Ireland

In spite of continued uncertainty surrounding state support for this year's crop of fourth-level students, there is still a variety of funding available for both taught and research-based postgraduate education in the Republic.

Research Council funding

The Government of Ireland Awards from the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences and the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology are extremely important for students seeking funding for research in the Republic of Ireland. Annual awards of just over €30,000 after tax for IRCHSS postdoctoral fellowships, and around €24,000 after tax for IRCSET’s ‘Embark’ initiative postgraduate scholarships, are available. IRCHSS also offers postgraduate scholarships, and IRCSET offers postdoctoral fellowships, plus an Enterprise Partnership Scheme for postgraduate and postdoctoral candidates. The Scheme links with industry and eligible public bodies to award co-funded scholarships and fellowships to Irish research students. Awards are announced early in the academic year.

Research Councils merge

On 29 March 2012 the new Irish Research Council, a merger of the IRCHSS and IRCSET, was officially launched. The merger won't affect existing postgraduate scholarships or research fellowships, but will, the government hopes, ultimately result in a strengthening of focus on early stage research careers. Bringing the science and humanities disciplines together should also facilitate an increase in interdisciplinary research opportunities. The Irish Research Council will remain the principal body of postgraduate study and research in Ireland.

The newly formed Research Council has just announced its inaugural industry-based Postgraduate Programme, under which students will undertake their research in collaboration with an enterprise partner. Exact details of the programme, and how the merger will impact on other existing funding application procedures for next year’s research students, have yet to be announced.

The Student Grant Scheme

Both the Higher Education Grants Scheme (HEGS) and the Vocational Education Committees’ Scholarship Scheme (VEC Scheme) have been absorbed by the new Student Grant Scheme. This single, unified scheme replaces the previous four grant schemes (which also included the Third Level Maintenance Grants Scheme for Trainees and the Maintenance Grants Scheme for Students Attending Post-Leaving Cert Courses). The idea is that this conflation will make the grant application process a simpler one for students across the board for the academic year 2012–13.

Grants awarded under the Student Grant Scheme are reviewed annually. Be aware that the value of grants in the wake of the December 2011 budget is subject to change. No maintenance grants will be paid for new postgraduate students in the 2012–13 academic year, although fee grants will continue to be paid for those postgraduate students who would previously have been eligible for the special rate of grant. Based on means testing, 4,000 postgraduate students will have access to a €2,000 fee contribution grant. For more details see citizensinformation.ie. Information on eligibility conditions, including closing date and application forms, are available from the appropriate local authority and the grants section of studentfinance.ie.

Universities and institutes of technology funding

Several of the higher education institutions in Ireland offer postgraduate funding – studentships or scholarships – on a competitive basis. They do so mainly for research degrees, in order to attract the best possible funding. You will find details of individual institution funding policies on the fees/funding sections of the institution websites.

Other bursaries

The Fund for Students with Disabilities covers most full-time postgraduate courses in both Ireland and Northern Ireland. You don’t have to be in the first year of your course to be eligible for supports from the Fund; a claim is made by the institution on behalf of the student after an assessment of need. Students themselves cannot apply directly to the Fund. For more information go to studentfinance.ie.

All the information in this article was correct at the time of writing, January 2012. It was updated in April 2012.