Wednesday, 3 February 2016

How to apply / fees and funding 2016-17


Who should apply?
We are keen to have a mix of backgrounds and experience on this course, so please don't assume that this course isn't for you! We very much welcome activists who want to go back to education, as well as students who are keen to get involved in movements, mature students as well as traditional ones, and people with different community or movement points of reference. Our students come from a range of different countries and ethnicities, genders and sexualities and different kinds of ability. 
We are used to students with caring or work responsibilities. Many of our students have left school early or had a bad experience of college education previously. Maynooth as a whole has a very high rate of non-traditional students by international standards and there are some supports available. Beyond this our bottom line on the course team - as activists, as adult and community educators and as sociologists - is that we are committed to making it possible for you to do this course and thrive. We can't offer guarantees, but we are usually successful in supporting people in difficult circumstances to do CEESA and enjoy the experience! 

Contact details:
For general information and queries, please contact the Dept. of Sociology, NUI Maynooth, Co. Kildare, Ireland at or (+353-1) 708 3659.

To apply to this course, you need to go through Ireland's online application system for postgraduate courses at The PAC code for the MA is MHA64. The deadline for applications is 30 June 2016, but we suggest you register for PAC well in advance so you can see what information they will be looking for. Our form asks you for two references. These can of course be the usual academics etc., but for this course they can also be activists or community educators etc. who can talk about your practitioner knowledge and skill.

The basic requirement for entry is a BA with a 2:2 result or higher, or the equivalent of a BA. If you are in doubt about whether you meet this requirement, please email us via the address above and one of us will get back to you.

Along with the usual information for the online form, we will look for a short (one – two pages) statement about any aspects of your experience which you feel are relevant to the course, and what you are hoping the course will be able to offer you that will benefit your practice. The personal statement isn't a test! We want to tailor the course to bring out what students already know and can share with each other, and what their priorities are in terms of learning needs, and we can't do that if we don't know where you're coming from. 

International students may need to have an offer of a place earlier than the deadline - if this is your situation please let us know and we will handle your application accordingly in such a way as to neither advantage nor disadvantage those whose applications are handled at different times. (We also handle late applications along similar lines.)

Interview and follow-up:
Usually we will get in touch with you and arrange an interview. These are typically with two members of the team and are as much about you getting a chance to ask us questions and see what you think as the reverse - after all, you are putting a year of your life into this, and we don't want anyone to do that if the course isn't for them! The interview is face-to-face if possible (of course sometimes this isn't) and will be held as soon as possible after the deadline so you have as much time as possible. It's not a formal occasion - do please come with your toughest questions and a clear sense of what you are looking for and we will give you the best answers we can!

If all goes well we will send you an offer of a place (via PAC). PAC then gives you a deadline by which you have to accept the offer or lose it. To accept the offer you pay an acceptance fee which comes out of the overall course fee (see below).

If we don't accept you, it is because we genuinely don't think you would enjoy or benefit from the course. We don't want "bums on seats" - taking people's money and time for the sake of numbers - and we would prefer everyone to find a course that really suits them.

Preparing for the course:
We make available a set of preliminary readings for the course, as far as possible available free online. This is to help people prepare, particularly in the areas which are new to them - and it can also be a useful resource for people who aren't currently in a position to do the course but are interested in the subject anyway!


Tuition fees have not yet been set for the academic year 2015 / 2016, but should be in the region of €5,250 (the 2015-16 rate) for Irish and other EU students; for non-EU students the tuition fee is likely to be in the region of €13,000 (the 2015-16 rate). There is also a €112 levy on registration. NB that the "student contribution" paid by undergraduates (a backdoor way of introducing fees) is not applicable to postgraduates, so your total costs consist of tuition fees, the €112 levy and the PAC application fee.

For EU students, half of the tuition fee is payable prior to or on registration and the other half is usually payable before February 1st. There is also a "Postgraduate Easy Payment Plan" in which you pay 40% of the total fee plus the €100 levy prior to registration and the remainder in 7 equal instalments by direct debit - this is available only to those who don't have any grant or other internal / external funding. For non-EU students resident overseas, the full fee is payable before registration. In either case €200 of the fee is paid when accepting the offer of a place (however this comes out of the tuition fee and is not an extra cost).

Up-to-date information is available via the Fees and Grants Office and
Graduate Studies.

You will probably need to set aside some time to find out about funding possibilities!

Ultimately fees are set by government policy on higher education, according to which Irish and other EU students are partly subsidised while those from outside the EU pay what is calculated as the full cost of their education. The state has been running down support for postgraduate education as part of a broader politics that aims to make higher education in general a paid-for privilege rather than a right. For some history of how austerity-related cuts have affected access to postgraduate study see this post. 

The system is complicated and takes time to explore. Below are some starting points:

From the state:

The Student Finance website has some useful information on this. All student funding from the state is now processed and administered through the newly centralised system SUSI (Student Universal Support Ireland). This system has a number of well-publicised problems but it is important to say that delays in SUSI have not prevented students taking part in the course - they simply had to spend more time than they should have done trying to get the system to work.

There are two ways postgraduates may qualify for student grants. 

1) Low-income applicants in receipt of one of a number of specified social welfare benefits may get a fees grant up to €6,270.

2) A flat rate, means-tested fee contribution of €2,000. The initial income threshold is €31,500 but there are a number of other factors taken into consideration when assessing eligibility, including how many family members are in full-time study. 

All applications are made through Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) and the process will probably open around mid-May for the coming academic year. It is important to say that the grant covers a range of different nationalities and statuses. More on this at the SUSI site.

SUSI Helpdesk contact details:, tel. 0761 08 7874, facebook

There is more detail and clarification at the Student Finance site here.

Some people may be able to benefit from tax relief on fees: details here.

If you are already in receipt of state benefits / supports, the type you have (e.g. Jobseekers, Lone Parents, Back to Education etc.) can make a big difference in terms both of what funding might be available to you but also in terms of whether you will be able to maintain your existing benefits while studying. (NB also that information-gathering is now very centralised so your new student status will show up where it might not have before!) If you are currently on benefits, we strongly recommend that you talk to your local Citizens Information Centre well in advance of taking the course to discuss your options. Some people may be in a position to change from one type of benefits to another but this takes time.

From the university:

There are two funding sources at NUI Maynooth; for more details see this page.

1) Taught Masters Bursaries at a value of €2,000. Last year there were 60 of these which will be shared across all taught MAs in Maynooth. To apply you must have achieved a minimum 2:1 in your undergraduate degree and have been in receipt of a SUSI or city / council Higher Education Grant for your undergraduate studies. Details of this year's scholarships have not yet been released.
2) Maynooth Alumni Scholarships at a value of €5,000. These are open to NUIM graduates (including 2015-16 graduates). Details of this year's scholarships have not yet been released.

It is also worth doing a search online as there are a limited number of specific scholarships and bursaries offered on the basis of criteria like the area of research (e.g. this site) or the North/South Postgraduate Scholarships which support students from Northern Ireland pursuing postgraduate studies in the Republic. Some trade unions also have schemes for members. Again Student Finance has a good starting list of possibilities. Worth noting also the FormSwift startup scholarship, for people considering starting up a nonprofit.

Beyond this, there are grants, supports and even occasionally scholarships, for fees and for maintenance, as well as tax relief on fees, student medical entitlements and support for students with disabilities. You can find information about these from Citizens' Information, the HEA's Student Finance site, and the Graduate Studies page on funding and finances. You can also contact the Maynooth Fees and Grants office.
International students will find useful information on funding and many other practical issues at the Irish Council for International Students.

And lastly:

Finally, you can find practical information for prospective Maynooth students at this page, including access students, mature students, international students, and childcare.

The basic message that we hear from CEESA students is that postgraduate study is not easy but is doable for people from a wide range of different situations and backgrounds. As a team we are committed to supporting people in difficult personal circumstances to be able to complete the course.