Northern Ireland

Tuition fees: Top-up loans for Northern Ireland part-time students

Stephen Farry, minister for employment and learning Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption DEL Minister Stephen Farry said the combination of grants and loans for part-time tuition fee support was unique in the UK

Part-time students in Northern Ireland will be able to get top-up loans to pay for tuition fees under a new scheme.

The Department for Employment and Learning (DEL) has said about 20,000 students in universities and colleges could potentially access the loan.

It will become available next year. Students with lower incomes will still be able to access existing grants.

The DEL minister said grants were often not enough to cover the full cost of tuition and were also means tested.

"In reality, most part-time students are ineligible to receive any support and the vast majority must self-fund their studies," Stephen Farry said.

"Following a public consultation exercise, I am now pleased to announce a new, non-means tested, 'top-up' tuition fee loan for part-time students.

"Students from lower incomes will continue to be able to access the existing grants, but they will also be able to top them up with a loan for their tuition fees should they need to, providing them with the same level of tuition fee support over the lifetime of their course as their full-time counterparts.

"Students ineligible to receive the existing fee grants will also be able to access these new loans.

"This combination of grants and loans for part-time tuition fee support is unique within the UK."

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