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Costs and funding

It's one of the most important issues when considering postgraduate study: how will you pay your way?

Costs and funding

With so many new careers and jobs out there, it can be daunting trying to decide where your future lies. What seems like endless possibilities and opportunities can often translate into endless questions, costs and uncertainties. Funding is without doubt the major concern for those considering postgraduate study, so let’s take a look at some of the options and supports that are available.


Your first step should be to check the website of the institution you are interested in to find out exactly how much you can expect to pay in tuition fees.

Alternative upskilling and reskilling opportunities are also available via the Springboard and ICT Skills initiatives. See Springboard Courses for further information on both and information on eligibility and entry requirements.

Students applying for postgraduate courses should check their eligibility for a grant on the postgraduate section of the SUSI website.


Tax relief is also available on postgraduate tuition fees. details in relation to this relief are available from the Revenue Commissioners website.

There is some variation among the different universities’ fees. Those for research degrees average more than €4,000 per year, while fees for taught degree programmes can range from under €4,000 up to around €10,000 – usually for business courses. The charge for MBA (Masters of Business Administration) courses can be as high as €34,000. Fees in Queen’s University in Belfast are approx. £4,800 and £5,500 at the University of Ulster for full-time taught and research degrees, with a payment by individual credit system operating for part-time courses. It is important, particularly with overseas universities, to consider information about fees alongside the financial aid offered by the institution: it’s likely that you will be applying for funding at the same time as you apply for a place on the course.

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 useful cost of living tables on university or student union websites. For example, NUI Galway estimates living costs at around €1,240 per month. You can expect that to be a lot higher in Dublin. Accommodation is probably the largest item of expenditure for most students, particularly during these times of rising rents. This can vary from as little as €80 per week sharing a room in rented accommodation to around €150 approximately per week in digs. The other option is to live on campus where rents for an academic year can range from €3,500 to €5,500 but can rise to higher than €7,000 in some institutions. Most institutions provide comprehensive assistance, in terms of information only, regarding costs of living.

Tracking down funding sources: Four ways to find help

1. Help from your university

Many universities offer scholarships and bursaries to postgraduate students: check the universities’ websites for details. Some 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 (particularly in science and engineering).

Universities or individual departments may also advertise separately (in the press or on departmental notice boards) funding opportunities that have become available closer to the start of the academic year. Applications for university funding are often made at the same time as for academic places on a specific funding application form.

The North-South Postgraduate Scholarship Scheme offers funding to postgraduates undertaking a recognised masters or first year of a Phd programme, taught or research, in the other Irish jurisdiction. The scholarships are offered by Universities Ireland; Dublin Institute of Technology, the Open University and the ESB Group are partners in the scheme. The 2016 scholarships were worth €15,000 (approx. £13,000) each and each year there were four available: two in the law field, one in humanities and one in philosophy. The closing date for applications is in May. details from Universities Ireland

2. Help from the government

State support for postgraduate students exists but can be difficult to access, depending on the level of a student’s reckonable income; they may qualify for either a Postgraduate Fee Contribution of €2,000 or a Postgraduate Fee Grant, up to a maximum of €6,270, towards the cost of their fees.

Postgraduate students who are eligible for the Postgraduate Fee Contribution of €2,000 are not eligible to receive the maintenance grant. However, students who are eligible for the Postgraduate Fee Grant (Special rate) are also entitled to the special rate of maintenance grant. See student finance funding from the HEA and for details.

Postgraduates may get financial assistance under the Student grant Scheme with the cost of tuition fees for approved postgraduate courses in Ireland and Northern Ireland. There is no assistance under the Scheme for courses elsewhere in the EU. There are 2 ways postgraduates may qualify for assistance under the Student grant Scheme. They may either get a new flat rate fee contribution of €2,000, if they pass the fee contribution means test or get all their tuition fees paid and essential field trips (up to €6,270). Excellent general information is available at Citizens Information.

There is no mandatory support for postgraduate study in Northern Ireland but you may be able to apply for help through your college or university under the Access to Learning Fund and the Additional Fee Support Scheme. For students in Northern Ireland, the disabled Students Allowance (dSA) could pay for extra costs incurred as a direct result of a disability – for advice, contact SKILL.

Other than the disabled Students’ Allowance, there is currently no standard student support package available for postgraduate students from the Student Loans Company. However, from the beginning of academic year 2017–2018, postgraduate tuition fee loans for Northern Ireland students will be available. You can find an overview of and guidance on available funding in Northern Ireland on the Department for Employment and Learning website. Information is also available from the Northern Ireland Education and Library Boards website and the Student Finance NI website

3. Help from your employer

In technological, scientific and, sometimes, business areas, funding may occasionally be available for a research topic of interest to employers. This funding is normally applied for at department level and through research teams rather than by individuals. Some students may make personal arrangements to have part-time study fees paid for by their employers.

If you’re in work and thinking about a postgraduate course related to your current career, consider asking your employer whether they would contribute to the costs – highlighting the benefits to them. Some of the more expensive taught postgraduate programmes, such as MBAs and professional courses, are more likely to be undertaken with employer support.

4. Other help

You may need to approach financial institutions for additional support – some may have designated study loans. You may consider working part time to fund your studies – research students, in particular, may be offered tutorial work, exam marking etc. But do be aware that it is less easy to absorb part-time work into the demands of a taught postgraduate course than it may have been on undergraduate courses.

How can you find funded research Study

Funding postgraduate research Positions

Most institutions advertise funded postgraduate research positions on the postgraduate study/research section of their website. These are normally funded as part of a larger project. In Northern Ireland you can obtain details of what is available on the Student Finance NI website

Research councils

The Irish Research Council was established in 2012 to support a healthy research ecosystem in Ireland. The research Council has a clear focus on early stage research careers across science and humanities, as well as 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 individual early stage researchers and cultivate agile 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 visit if you are considering a research postgrad in the Republic of Ireland.

UK Research Councils

Research and Innovation UK is the rebranded 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, so follow our advice to help make the application process easier. Applying for funding is similar to applying for a place on a course and in some cases applications for academic places and for funding may overlap. So all the usual rules for completing applications apply. For the best chances, attend briefings at your college from funding bodies for insight into their guidelines, attend any sessions offered by your careers service, and have your application checked by an academic mentor if possible.

Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI)

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 The will give you an estimate as to if and what you will be entitled to some funding from SUSI. The eligibility reckoner provides an approximate indication of your possible eligibility for grant funding based on the information that you provide in response to the questions asked. 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.

Meet the eligibility requirements

There is usually a lot of competition for funding. You should have good academic results and a good fit for the programme concerned. Funding bodies expect the best possible results overall 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; also 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, always meet the deadline!