The Free Fees Initiative allows students (both home and international) to apply directly to a university in Ireland for free tuition fees to cover the cost of undergraduate studies. Like many countries that provide funding to international students, for example, the British Chevening Scholarship and the DAAD Scholarship in Germany, this Initiative also funds international students.
Fees may vary depending upon whether you are an undergraduate student studying at an eligible institution. Postgraduate study is not funded under this scheme. You can see details of the eligibility criteria for each course below.
The Irish Higher Education Academy (HEA) does not assess whether students qualify for these programmes. Your university will determine if you are eligible based on the criteria listed below.
You must pay a student contribution charge (around €3,000) if you qualify for the Free Fees Initiative. If you qualify for the Free Fee Initiative, you may apply for a grant towards your student contribution or tuition fees from Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI).
Eligibility for Free Fees Initiative
EU nationals residents for at least 3 of the 5 years preceding their application to study in Ireland will qualify for the Free Fees Initiative. Students who meet this criterion can apply directly to their chosen university in Ireland for free tuition fees.
The criteria for determining eligibility are as follows: Students who already hold a level six qualification or a level seven qualification (which is below undergraduate Level 8) and are progressing to Level 8 (honours bachelor degree) course without necessarily having had an exemption from the standard length of the course, are eligible for free tuition fee under the Free Fees Initiative.
Tuition fees will be paid only for those students studying full-time undergraduate courses.
To qualify for Level 8 courses, you must meet these requirements.
- Tuition fees may not exceed €9,000 per year (€4,500 per academic year) for full-time students who were ordinarily resident in the EEA/EU, Switzerland or the UK for at least 3 out of 5 years preceding their entry to the course and who meet the eligibility requirements of the scheme.
The scheme is subject to these conditions:
- Tuition fees will only be paid for full-time undergraduates.
- Courses must last at least two years. Exceptions may include short courses for specific purposes.
- You need to apply to these courses at an institution in Ireland that is eligible for financial aid.
- Tuition fees will be waived for students who meet specific requirements. However, full tuition fees will still apply if you don’t meet these requirements.
Am I eligible for free tuition under the Free Fees Initiative if I hold Level 5, 6 or 7 qualifications?
Students who already hold a Level 5 qualification (Foundation Certificate), Level 6 qualification (Higher Certiﬁcate or National Certificate), or Level 7 qualification (ordinary bachelor degree or National Diploma) may be considered eligible for free tuition if they progress to a Level 8 course without receiving an exemption from the standard length of the undergraduate course.
- Tuition fees will not be paid for students who choose to re-enrol in the same course after completing their first year of study. However, if there are exceptional circumstances (such as cases of certified serious illnesses), then the fee waiver may be granted.
- Students who have previously pursued but had not yet completed a course of third-level study and then resumed third-level study may be deemed eligible for free tuition fees if they were studying at a college/university which did not receive any government funding for their courses during the previous academic year. Part-time and evening classes are included in this category too.
- Tuition fees will cover eligible students who, having enrolled in an approved course, attend for less than five years before withdrawing from the program.
- Tuition fees payable do not include any fee for registration, exam, and student services.
Eligible institutions under the Free Fees Initiative in Ireland
Institutions that benefit from the Free Fees Initiative include:
- Universities – University College Cork (UCC), University College Dublin (UCI), Maynooth University, Trinity College Dublin (TCD), Dublin City University, University of Limerick, Technoloigcal University.
- Institutions of Technology – Athlone Institute of Technology, Carlow College, Dundalk Institute of Technology, Dún Laoghaire IT, Galway-Mayo Institute Of Technology, Letterkenny Institute of Technology, Waterford Institute of Technology, Limerick Institute of Technology, Institute of Technology, Sligo.
- Other Colleges – Coláiste Mhuire (Sligo), Marino Mary Immaculate College (Dublin), St Angela’s College (Carlow), National College of Art and Design (Dublin), National College of Ireland (Dublin), Pontifical University of Maynooth (Maynooth), St Patrick’s College.
Are international students eligible for free tuition under the Free Fees Initiative in Ireland?
To qualify for free tuition under the Free Fees Initiative, international students must meet one of the following three requirements:
- Students must be nationals of one of the European Union member countries.
- Persons who the UNHCR has granted refugee status.
- A family member of someone who has been granted refugee status in Ireland may be allowed to live in Ireland if they meet specific criteria.
- As long as they are not illegal immigrants, persons who are allowed to stay in the country as a family member of an EU citizen may reside here without any restrictions.
- People who were granted Humanitarian leave to remain before the Immigration Act 1999.
- You must be a person who the minister for justice and equality has permitted to reside in Ireland following a determination by the immigration service that no deportation order shall be made against you under section 3 of the Immigrations Act 1999.
- You may be a person who has been granted permission to reside in Ireland under regulation 4(4) or16(3)(a)or 16(4)(a).
- You may be a person who has been given certain rights under the International Protection Act 2015 (see below).
- A person who comes to live in Ireland through no fault of their own but because of war, persecution or natural disaster is known as a ‘Refugee’. They are protected by law and can apply for permission to stay in Ireland. However, if they do so, they cannot work until they have lived in Ireland for three out of the last five years
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