Available options for funding fourth level

Finding fourth-level university funding can be difficult, to put it mildly, writes Fergal Browne. There’s been a reduction in the amount of funding both universities and state institutions offer to students. Nevertheless, funding is still out there. Here’s a rundown of some of the funding options, at various levels, which are available.

University funding: 

One result of Ireland’s economic difficulties in recent years was the increase in postgraduate study as people attempted to upskill and gain an edge in an economy with less jobs and a more competitive market. Therefore, in order to attract Ireland’s best performing students to its postgraduate programmes, certain universities offer funding to top-performing students. NUI Galway, for example, offers €1,500 to any graduate seeking to study a master, who earns a First in an undergraduate degree. Each university varies in terms of what it offers so check the website of the relevant third-level institution to see what’s available.

Scholarships abroad: 

Many graduates in niche third-level institutions provide scholarships for students who wish to study there. Le Cordon Bleu, a top-class culinary school based in cities across the world, including London and Paris, runs cooking heats in the UK and Ireland with the winners receiving a fully-paid scholarship with the school in London for nine-months all expenses paid. Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London, which offers courses to those who want to move into the art business, offers scholarships for certain MA courses and provides funding based on the income of its students. For the United States, Irish students receive funding to study, research or teach in the U.S under the Fulbright Awards, while a range of grants are in place to study English courses in universities across continental Europe including a grant by the German Academic Exchange Service which gives students who study in German a monthly allowance of €750 and a lump sum for travel costs.

Loan options: 

Most lending institutions will provide loans to those wishing to do postgrads. Bank of Ireland, for example, offers its account holders a loan up to €7,500 at a variable rate of 5.5% with the first 12 months deferred in terms of repayment. Credit unions will also offer students a loan option although this may vary from different local branches. Generally, the loan rate is around 6%.

Springboard courses: 

Keep in mind there’s a certain number of courses which have no fees. They are subsidised by the state due to shortfalls in employment in these areas. This is something especially prevalent in the IT sector at the moment. For a full list of these courses, check out the springboard website.

Full-time employment, part-time postgrad: 

In many cases where the advantages of doing a postgrad benefit your employer, they will agree to fund your degree in part. This is particularly true in big graduate employers. Also, the state offers tax relief to those who do postgraduate degrees in a course with tuition fees up to a maximum of €7,000. For more details, see the revenue’s website.

The Irish Research Council: 

An agency of the Department of Education and Skills, this is the body to go to in terms of getting funding for fourth-level education from the state. Among the schemes the Council runs are the Employment Based Postgraduate Programme, which provides funding for companies to provide high-calibre researchers to work onsite and the Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarship, which provides funding to suitably qualified research masters and doctoral candidates. Click here for further info.

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