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Access Funding

On behalf of the Department of Education and Skills, the HEA manages two funds that are designed to enable students from the equity of access target groups to participate in higher education: the Fund for Students with Disabilities and the Student Assistance Fund.

Fund for Students with Disabilities

The Fund for Students with Disabilities (FSD) provides funding to students with disabilities attending both further and higher education courses. Students attending approved courses in Northern Ireland, the UK, and the EU are also eligible.  This FSD is administered by the HEA and is disbursed on the basis of applications made by higher and further education institutions on behalf of their students. Since 2008 almost €70m has been disbursed from the FSD, supporting over 38,000 students.

The purpose of the scheme is to provide students with a disability assistance and equipment to enable them to access, to participate and to complete their course of study. Categories of disability include:

  • Blind/visual impairment
  • Deaf/hard of hearing
  • Mental health difficulty
  • Physical disability/mobility impairment
  • Significant ongoing illness
  • Specific learning difficulties

Eligible students can receive assistance from the FSD from further education level up to doctoral level, and it can be applied for during any year of study (closing dates apply each year). A claim under the fund is made on behalf of an eligible student by their institution following an assessment of need. A student wishing to make a claim for support from the FSD should contact the disability or access officer in their institution or, if unknown, their course co-ordinator for further information or a referral. They will then have their needs assessed and the institution will make an application to the FSD on their behalf.

Guidelines for the administration of the Fund for Students with Disabilities by institutions for the 2014/15 academic year are available in the links below:

For Irish higher education institutions click here

For Irish further education institutions click here

For Northern Ireland institutions click here

For other UK and EU institutions click here

Student Assistance Fund

The Student Assistance Fund (SAF) is intended to tackle disadvantage by providing financial support to disadvantaged students who require additional financial support to enable them to fully benefit from their third-level studies. Funding is provided by the HEA to the higher education institutions on the basis of student numbers, and each institution disburses the fund to students on application. Since 2008 almost €43m has been has been disbursed from the SAF, supporting almost 67,000 students.

Students who are registered with eligible institutions, and are participating in courses which lead to an undergraduate or postgraduate qualification, can apply for the SAF. Institutions are advised that resources should be targeted at those disadvantaged students most in need. It is a matter for each individual institution to target its resources having regard to the needs of its students and the range of programmes/facilities available to it. 

Guidelines for the administration of the SAF by higher education institutions for the 2014/15 academic year are available here

www.studentfinance.ie is a comprehensive, user friendly guide to student grants and financial supports available in further and higher education. Clear and detailed information is provided on the full range of student supports, including:

  • Maintenance Grants (see also susi.ie)
  • Fund for Students with Disabilities
  • Back to Education Allowance
  • Student Assistance Fund
  • Course fees
  • Scholarships

In addition, you can find answers to questions you might have on the various schemes in the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) section of www.studentfinance.ie . A ‘Useful Links’ section is also provided, which includes details on grant administering bodies and other educational agencies.

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