Quick guide to fees and finance if you’re from Northern Ireland
Northern Irish student looking for help with uni fees, loans and grants? Look no further, we’ve got you covered...
How much will my tuition fees be?
If you're from Northern Ireland, the most you’ll pay in tuition fees to study at a uni in Northern Ireland in 2018/19 is £4,160 per year. If you’re from England, Wales or Scotland, this rises to £9,250.
If you’re a Northern Irish student studying in England or Scotland you might pay up to £9,250 a year for the year 2018/19, and in Wales this would be £9,000.
The exact amount you'll be charged in tuition fees will vary from university to university, and depends on the course too – it could be much less than this.
- Must read: quick guide to fees and finance in the UK
Wait, I can’t pay all of that! How can I pay my tuition fees?
Don’t worry you can get a loan to cover this – you won’t be expected to pay it all upfront! Tuition fee loans are available from Student Finance NI.
You’ll only start repaying the loan once you've graduated and earning a certain amount. Interest is also charged on how much you owe, but this is fairly low in comparison to other loans.
Because the amount you repay depends on how much you earn, and not on how much you’ve borrowed, don’t choose a course based on cost alone.
What about living costs?
Of course there are other living expenses to consider, such as accommodation, food, course materials. Northern Irish students studying in Northern Ireland have access to a Maintenance Loan and either a Maintenance Grant or a Special Support Grant, to help cover these.
There are also grants for students in particular circumstances, such as those with a disability (whether mental or physical), as well as those with dependents.
Grants don't have to be paid back, unless you leave your course early or something changes dramatically in your household income and you're re-assessed, in which case you might have to repay some of the grant. However, loans do have to be repaid.
Feeling confused? You need to apply through Student Finance NI to see exactly what you’re eligible for (if you're a Northern Irish student, that is). But our guide below can give you a quick idea...
The maximum amount you can receive in maintenance loan will depend on where you will be living during term-time, as well as your household income. Below is a rough guide to how much you could receive:
- You’re living at home with your parents – £3,750 max.
- You’re living and studying away from home in London – £6,780 max.
- You’re living and studying away from home (not in London) – £4,840 max.
Additionally, if your course is longer than 30 term-time weeks, you’re eligible for an extra amount of loan too:
- You’re living with your parents at home – £55 per week
- You’re living and studying away from home in London – £108 per week
- You’re living and studying away from home (not in London) – £84 per week
Like the Tuition Fee Loan, you only begin repaying this once you're earning above a certain threshold (see more below). You’ll be charged interest on whatever you borrow too.
This is based on your household income. If this is below £41,065, you’ll be eligible to receive something, whether the full or partial grant:
- Household income is £19,203 or less – full grant of £3,475
- Household income is between £19,204 and £41,065 – partial grant depending on income
Special Support Grant
This is based on your eligibility for means-tested benefits. For example, if you’re a single parent or you have certain disabilities. How much you receive is based on the same household income criteria as the Maintenance Grant, with the same maximum amount of £3,475.
Learn more about the Special Support Grant, visit the Student Finance NI website.
Maintenance Grant vs Special Support Grant - which should I apply for?
The relationship between loans and grants can be a little complicated. In a nutshell, the Maintenance Grant can affect the amount of Maintenance Loan you can get, but the Special Support Grant doesn’t.
Note, you’re not able to get both the Maintenance Grant and Special Support Grant.
Extra help, such as grants for disability or dependents, would be considered separate from these, and won’t affect what else you can get.
Students in special circumstances
There are also specific grants available if you have children or adult dependants or a disability too. Because they’re grants, you don’t need to pay these back.
In some circumstances, medical or dental students are entitled to a grant to cover reasonable travel costs you’ve incurred as part of your course.
Bursaries and scholarships
Bursaries and scholarships, which you never need to pay back, could be available directly from your university. These are awarded for lots of different reasons, from personal circumstances to academic achievement. How much these are worth will vary from one uni to another, so check with them directly.
Student loan repayments
You don’t start repaying any students loans you’ve taken out until the April after you graduate, and only once you’re earning £18,330 or over before tax.
At this point you’ll start to pay 9% of what you earn over that amount. Repayments will be taken by your employer straight from your salary.
It’s worth checking back here to see what the repayment threshold is when you graduate, as well as the interest you'll pay based on the current Retail Prices Index (RPI); this is set to rise to RPI + 3.3% in September 2018 (up from 3.1%, as per government announcements in April 2018).
After 25 years, any outstanding debt you still owe will be written off, even if you didn’t pay anything during some of that time (because you weren’t working or earning above the threshold).