Student Assistance Fund

Photo of 3 students from above sitting at a picnic table studying


The Student Assistance Fund, first established in 1994, provides financial support to full- or part-time students who are experiencing financial difficulties while attending higher education. From the years 2009/10 to 2019/20, over €87 million has been allocated through the Student Assistance Fund to students in higher education institutions.


The Student Assistance Fund can be claimed for expenses such as books, rent, food, medical costs, class materials, light and heat bills, essential travel and childcare.

Funding is administered at a local level by higher education institutions, subject to HEA guidelines. Student Assistance Fund allocations to higher education institutions are calculated using figures for the total student population and Deprivation Index Scores (DIS).

Since 2017, an additional €1 million per year has been allocated to the Student Assistance Fund with higher education institutions asked to prioritise and ring-fence this element of funding for the support of part-time students who are lone parents or members of the other access target groups identified in the National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education 2015-2019. Since 2019, additional funding has been allocated to the Student Assistance Fund in respect of students studying for a Professional Master of Education. As part of the Government’s COVID-19 response package, an additional €8.1 million was allocated to the SAF for 2020/21 bringing the total amount available to €16.2 million.


In 2015, the HEA commissioned an independent review of the Student Assistance Fund to determine whether the policies, guidelines and practices relating to the fund were fit for current and future purpose. This review took place as part of the implementation of the National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education 2015-2019.

The main finding of the review was to affirm that the Student Assistance Fund continues to be highly-valued as a source of support for students. Demand remains strong and the flexibility which the fund allows, catering for a diverse group of students in a variety of circumstances, reinforces the need for its continuation and development.

The review also identified a number of challenges that the HEA, working with the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science and higher education institutions, is now working to address. The common goal is to ensure that the Student Assistance Fund is more effective and targeted in supporting as many students as possible and those who are in the greatest need of support.

The Student Assistance Fund is managed by the Higher Education Authority on behalf of the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science.


Our use of cookies

We use necessary cookies to make our site work. We'd also like to set optional analytics cookies to help us improve it. We won't set these optional cookies unless you enable them. Using this tool will set a cookie on your device to remember your preferences.

For more detailed information about the cookies we use, see our Privacy Policy page

Necessary cookies

Necessary cookies enable core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility. You may disable these by changing your browser settings, but this may affect how the website functions.

Analytics cookies

We'd like to set Google Analytics cookies to help us to improve our website by collecting and reporting information on how you use it. The cookies collect information in a way that does not directly identify anyone.