Fund for Students with Disabilities
The purpose of the Fund for Students with Disabilities (FSD) is to assist further and higher education institutions in ensuring students with disabilities have the necessary assistance and equipment to enable them access, fully participate in and successfully complete their chosen course of study.
The FSD is one of the main funding sources supporting participation by students with disabilities in approved further and higher education courses in Ireland. It also supports students from Ireland to study on approved courses in Northern Ireland, the UK and other EU countries.
Eligible students on an approved course can receive assistance from post-leaving certificate to doctoral level during any year of study. Full-time undergraduate courses must be not less than two years in duration. Part-time undergraduate courses (Republic of Ireland only) must be not less than one year in duration. Postgraduate courses (Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland only) must be not less than one year in duration.
Which colleges participate in the FSD?
- Dublin City University
- Maynooth University
- National University of Ireland, Galway
- Trinity College Dublin
- University College Cork
- University College Dublin
- University of Limerick
- Technological University Dublin
Institutes of technology
- Athlone Institute of Technology
- Cork Institute of Technology
- Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art Design & Technology
- Dundalk Institute of Technology
- Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology
- Institute of Technology, Carlow
- Institute of Technology, Sligo
- Institute of Technology, Tralee
- Letterkenny Institute of Technology
- Limerick Institute of Technology
- Waterford Institute of Technology
- Marino Institute of Education
- National College of Art and Design
- National College of Ireland
- Mary Immaculate College
- St Angela’s College
- Pontifical University, St Patrick’s College Maynooth
- Carlow College, St Patrick’s
- Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
- St Nicholas Montessori College
- The Honorable Society of King’s Inns
- Law Society of Ireland
Further Education and Training
The eligible courses under the FSD are full-time approved post-leaving certificate (PLC) courses of at least one year in duration in Ireland. The list of approved PLC courses is available from the ETBs or SOLAS. With effect from the 2020/21 academic year, SOLAS will assume responsibility for the management of the FSD for the further education and training sector. Any queries relating to FSD eligibility and supports for students on PLC courses should be directed to your PLC college, local ETB or SOLAS.
UK and EU colleges
Full-time undergraduate courses of not less than two years duration and, for Northern Ireland only, full-time postgraduate courses of not less than one-year duration pursued in a university or higher education institution which is maintained or assisted by recurrent grants from public funds in an EU Member State or the United Kingdom, with the exception of the following:
1. Courses in colleges of further and higher education (other than courses which are at Higher National Diploma level or higher);
2. Courses provided in a college which are offered in private commercial third-level colleges in the state in question, and which are validated by that college; and
3. Courses in colleges akin to private commercial colleges in Ireland.
In the case of higher education institutions in Republic of Ireland
- Full-time undergraduate courses of not less than two years in duration; or
- Part-time undergraduate courses of not less than one year in duration; or
- Postgraduate courses (full- or part-time) of not less than one-year in duration.
In the case of further education institutions in Republic of Ireland
The eligible courses under the FSD are full-time approved post-leaving certificate (PLC) courses of at least one year in duration in Ireland. The list of approved PLC courses is available from the ETBs or SOLAS.
For UK (including Northern Ireland) and EU higher education institutions, please see above.
Who is eligible for support under the FSD?
To be eligible for support under the FSD, a student on an approved course must:
- have a verifiable disability in one or more of the categories outlined below;
- meet the nationality and residency criteria outlined below;
- be a participant on a full-time, or part-time (Republic of Ireland only), course; AND
- have a verified need for specific supports to enable participation on their chosen course.
|Categories of disability|
|Autistic Spectrum Disorder|
|Attention Deficit Disorder|
|Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder|
|Deaf/hard of hearing|
|Developmental co-ordination disorder (dyspraxia/dysgraphia)|
|Mental health condition (for example bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, clinical depression, severe anxiety, severe phobias, OCD, severe eating disorders and psychosis)|
|Significant ongoing illness|
|Specific learning difficulties (dyslexia or dyscalculia)|
|Speech and Language Communication Disorder|
In order to be eligible for support under the FSD, a student must be legally resident in Ireland for at least three of the five years up to the day before her/his approved course commences in an approved institution. If the student does not qualify at the beginning of their course, it is possible for her/him to meet this requirement during the course of her/his studies. This should be reviewed at the beginning of an academic year.
In order to be eligible for support under the FSD, the student must be either:
- an Irish national OR
- a national of another European Union member state, the European Economic Area or Switzerland.
- Students who are non-EU nationals, but who are eligible for free or reduced fees in line with the criteria for the Free Fees Initiative, may be considered for eligible for funding under the FSD subject to meeting other relevant FSD criteria.
In relation to the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, for the 2020/21 academic year United Kingdom nationals studying in Ireland may continue to be supported under the FSD provided they meet the other criteria of the FSD e.g. eligibility criteria for support, approved course and HEI.
What supports are covered under the FSD?
- assistive technology equipment and software (including student training)
- non-medical helpers (e.g. personal assistants, notetakers)
- academic/learning support
- deaf supports (sign language interpreters, speedtext)
- transport support
What supports are not covered under the FSD?
- assessment or diagnosis of a disability
- any medical equipment, assistance or support
- services that can reasonably be expected to be provided by the HEI or by another agency (e.g. HSE)
- course-related equipment, materials or software (i.e. applicable to all students on the course)
- support or assistance provided outside the academic year, or periods during the academic year when the college is closed (save for exceptional circumstances where HEI’s have discretion to consider cases)
- subsistence, mileage and accommodation costs for personal assistants, note-takers, speed-text operators or ISL interpreters
- staff training and development
- policy work or research
- student accommodation (i.e. on-campus or off-campus)
- salaries of staff in disability or access services involved in administrative work
- membership fees or subscriptions (i.e. AHEAD or similar)
What do I need to do access support?
Students do not need to apply to the FSD in order to access supports. The FSD is a funding programme to assist higher and further education institutions in ensuring students with disabilities have the necessary assistance and equipment to enable them access, fully participate in and successfully complete their chosen course of study.
Students are advised to register with the disability or access office in their college as soon as possible so that supports available through the FSD can be accessed.
Students must meet particular criteria in order to qualify for support and they will be informed of these when they register with the disability or access office.
Funding is allocated to the college, not the student. The college has full discretion on how the FSD is allocated at local level and remains responsible for the management of funding throughout each academic year.
Students are not generally required to organise services, supports or source equipment themselves – this is done by their college in consultation with the student.
What other supports and services are available?
Depending on the college and the resources available, a range of additional services and supports may be on offer. These may include:
- a disability service with dedicated support staff
- measures to enhance the accessibility of buildings
- non-standard admissions procedures, whereby students with disabilities may be admitted to a course without necessarily having achieved the full CAO point level for that course (see details of DARE scheme below)
- tailored induction programmes for students with disabilities
- access to student accommodation units (on campus or otherwise) reserved specifically for students with disabilities
- psycho-educational assessment for students experiencing problems associated with specific learning difficulties or dyslexia
The Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) is a third-level alternative admissions scheme for school-leavers whose disabilities have had a negative impact on their second level education. DARE offers reduced points places to school leavers who, as a result of having a disability, have experienced additional educational challenges in second level education.
Where can I find further information?
- a college’s website and prospectus
- disability and access offices in colleges
- a college’s disability policy
- local education and training boards
- AHEAD (Association of Higher Education Access and Disability)
The Fund for Students with Disabilities is managed by the Higher Education Authority on behalf of the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science.