Most undergraduate students attending publicly funded third-level courses do not have to pay tuition fees

Most undergraduate students attending publicly funded third-level courses do not have to pay tuition fees


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Under the terms of the Free Fees Initiative, the Department of Further and Higher Education pays the fees to the colleges instead.

A separate annual charge is payable to colleges for the costs of student services and examinations see Student contribution’ below.

Free fees

  • Residence and
  • Nationality and immigration status and
  • Course requirements

You must have been living in an EEA member state or Switzerland for at least 3 of the 5 years before starting your course. The members of the EEA (the European Economic Area) are the member states of the EU, along with Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein.

  1. Be a citizen of an EEA member state (see above) or Switzerland or
  2. Have official refugee status or
  3. Be a family member of a refugee and have been granted permission to live in the State or
  4. Be a family member of an EU national and have permission to live in the State, with a stamp 4EUFAM on your residence card or
  5. Have been granted humanitarian leave to remain in the State or
  6. Have been granted permission to remain in the State by the Minister for Justice and Equality, following a determination by the Minister not to make a deportation order under Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999.

Free fees do not apply to courses in private colleges, whether they have Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) approval or not. The fact that a course is listed by the Central Applications Office (CAO) is not, in itself, enough to make it a free fees course.

EU fees

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If you do not qualify for free fees you may still be eligible for EU fee rates. EU fee rates are set by each individual third-level educational institution. You should contact the one you are interested in to find out about the EU fee rate and whether you qualify.

Since , an Irish, EU, EEA or Swiss student who has spent at least five years in primary school or second level school in Ireland can avail of EU fee rates.

If you do not qualify for EU fees you can be charged non-EU fees. Each third-level educational institution sets its own fee rates. You should contact the ones you are interested in to find out more about their fees – see ‘Where to apply’ below.

Postgraduate fees

In general, you will have to pay fees for a postgraduate course. However, you may get financial assistance under the Student Grant Scheme.

Student contribution

Most colleges charge an annual student contribution, formerly called the student services charge. It is also known as a registration fee and it covers student services and examinations. The amount of the contribution varies from one institution to another. The maximum rate of the student contribution for the academic year 2021-2022 is 3,000.

If you are getting Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) you may qualify for exemption from the student contribution. More information about the BTEA and the student contribution can be found in our document about social welfare payments and the student grant.

Student grants

Student grants provide financial support to eligible students. There are 2 elements to the student grant – a maintenance grant and a fee grant. A maintenance grant is a contribution towards your living costs. A fee grant can cover:

If you do not qualify for a maintenance grant, but your family’s reckonable income is below certain limits, you may qualify for a partial fee grant. This means that you will either be exempt from 50% of the student contribution, or exempt from 50% of any tuition fees and all of the student contribution.

Tax relief

You may be able to claim tax relief on tuition fees that you have paid. Families who pay student contributions for more than one student in a year can also claim tax relief on the second and subsequent contributions. Read more in our document on tax relief for third-level fees.

How to apply

There is no separate application for the Free Fees Initiative. Your eligibility will be assessed on the basis of the information you give when applying for a college place.