Monday, 12 March 2012

MA funding 2012-3 news

The story so far...

Having decided that the country's number one economic priorities should be things like bailing out the bondholders of a private bank, handing over its main natural resources to multinationals, and enshrine austerity in perpetuity as an economic policy, the government has been "left with little choice" but to do things like shred the public sector to pay the price of private speculation, suck money out of the economy in order to help recovery, introduce a poll tax in the interests of equality and raise the costs of education in order to boost the knowledge economy.

All of this affects students, of course - the last one most visibly but the others at a broader level. What does it mean for you if you are interested in taking the MA CEESA next year? The basics are given here and an update here.

This post gives more details on levels of state funding and what the university will offer for postgraduates taking taught Masters degrees. The information here only applies to those who would have qualified for the old local authority grants (which are now being distributed by a central authority), in other words EU nationals resident in Ireland who fall below a certain family income.

For more information on funding for people not in this situation, see this page and follow the links.

An important qualification on all of this is that this is not an official information site on funding. It does do its best to make sense of a confusing situation but you will have to follow up yourself. We would encourage you to be persistent and not take no for an answer - and let us know anything you discover about how the rules are being applied this year.

From the state:

1. No maintenance grants will be paid for any new entrants from the 2012/13 academic year.

2. Full fees will still be paid for students with a family income of under €22703 and in receipt of one of a number of payments for the Dept of Social Protection. These students would previously have received maintenance support of €2375 per annum for postgraduate study. This will affect approximately 2000 prospective students nationally.

3. A further 4000 new students nationally, based on a means test, will receive a contribution of €2000 towards their postgraduate fees. Previously these students would have received a grant for full fees.

4. This will leave approximately 3000 students nationally who previously would have received a government grant of full fees, who in 2012/13 will have to pay those fees in full.

From the university:

Students who were in receipt of a local authority higher education grant for a final year of undergraduate study between 2008 - 12 can apply for a bursary offered by Maynooth. There are full details on the Graduate Studies website, but the essence is that there will be  a small number of bursaries worth €2,000 for the students with the highest undergraduate results applying to any given department. There will also be a €1,000 prize, details to be announced soon.

What this means for you:

The previous "maintenance grant" was €2375 p.a., but the Irish state's visa requirements expect visiting students to "show evidence of €7,000" [sic] to prove that they can support themselves during their stay. In other words the most important part of the old grant was the fees element, which has been cut back but is still available, in whole or in part, to many students.

There is limited evidence, but it seems that even before this latest round of cuts few if any students doing masters degrees were surviving on the grant alone. Some are working, in the home or for supportive employers; some have scholarships or grants; some are surviving on their savings; and we do want to underline this for the sake of people who feel daunted by the new barriers the state is placing in front of them.

Despite all these difficulties which already exist, our students have included people from very disadvantaged backgrounds, international students and immigrants, mature students and unemployed people, long-term activists and people with major caring responsibilities, as well as people in more traditional student situations. It isn't easy for anyone - but it isn't impossible.

The MA CEESA is organised on a two-day basis (Monday and Tuesday) in order to help accessibility for people who have caring responsibilities, are in employment or heavily committed to social movements etc. This does not mean that the course only takes up two days of your time! It is a full-time course which takes up the equivalent of a full working week, so if you have substantial responsibilities the classroom time plus reading, assignments and project will leave you very little free time. But it can be done - and many people tell us that it actually creates a space for them to breathe and think outside of the everyday.

Of course this does not work for everyone; we are very conscious of the pressures people are facing in so many different dimensions, and as well as supporting people who are trying to change this situation we are also constantly asking ourselves how we can do things differently in terms of equality and accessibility. At least for now, this is the best we are able to offer with what we have. We hope you will be able to join us and have what many students describe as a transformative year.