NI student’s funding fears over University of Oxford place

Jack Reilly Jack Reilly with French HornJack Reilly

Jack Reilly from Annalong is currently studying at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London

A County Down student who has been offered a place to study a musicology masters at a University of Oxford college says he fears he will have to turn it down as he cannot afford it.

Jack Reilly, 22, from Annalong, is currently studying at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London.

He says he has been offered a place at Wadham College but that he must show that he will have more than £30,000 available for the next academic year.

Mr Reilly said it was looking “incredibly likely” that he might have to turn the position down.

“I have won a place to study musicology at Wadham College, a constituent college of the University of Oxford,” he said.

“The only problem is, in terms of finance, the university requires a financial declaration that says that I can provide £31,000 to £35,000 over the next academic year, which is quite a lot.”

‘Impossible situation’

Mr Reilly said £16,000 of that is for course fees, the remainder for living expenses in Oxford.

” It is just an impossible situation for me,” he told BBC Radio Ulster’s Evening Extra programme on Thursday.

“The student finance situation in Northern Ireland is completely unable to support it.”

Mr Reilly said student loan company Student Finance NI provides “a maximum of £6,500 to postgraduates – and that only goes towards the course costs, the actual fee, not any living expenses at all.

He said this was “completely different from the other student finance bodies in the UK”.

Mr Reilly said his father is a postman and his mother works part-time in a supermarket, and that his family does not “have £30,000 just to throw about”.

“I know some people do sort of crowdfunding sort of things, but it is a cost of living crisis at the moment, everyone needs every penny they can get their hands on,” he added.

“I feel uncomfortable asking for that sort of help as well.”

Post-grad funding ‘lower in NI’

Tom Allingham, communications director of student finance website Save the Student, says it is not “a unique case”.

“The amount of post-graduate funding available for students from Northern Ireland is substantially lower than anywhere else in the UK,” he said.

In a statement, a Department for the Economy spokesperson said that following a review and consultation on the level of postgraduate tuition fee loans in 2022, the “maximum amount of postgraduate tuition fee loan, available to eligible Northern Ireland domiciled students, increased from £5,500 to £6,500 with effect from the beginning of the 2023/24 academic year”.

“This increased loan amount, to be reviewed at least every three years, was determined at the time of the review to cover the majority of postgraduate taught fee levels set by higher education institutions in Northern Ireland.

“The review also considered the introduction of a postgraduate maintenance loan product.”

However, this option was “not deemed feasible at that time”, the spokesperson said.

“Since he came into post the economy minister has been clear about his wish to strengthen the support provided to students and he will be considering a number of options going forward,” they added.

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