14 January, 2019 - Minister McHugh announces his plan to increase the Student Assistance Fund (SAF) by €1 million for Professional Master of Education students

Minister of Education and Skills Joe McHugh T.D. today announced an additional €1 million is being/has been allocated to the Student Assistance Fund (SAF) for Professional Master of Education (PME) students who are experiencing financial difficulty.

This additional funding is ring-fenced to provide support for students on PME programmes and it is part of the Department’s wider responses to teacher supply issues, as set out in the Teacher Supply Action Plan.

Minister McHugh said: “Addressing the current and future challenges in teacher supply is a national priority to which I am fully committed. 

“I am aware of the financial demands placed on students, including those on Professional Master of Education courses.  This additional €1m is a significant boost in financial supports for student teachers who may be experiencing financial difficulties.  I have no doubt it will help to give them more peace of mind during their studies.”

In 2018 the allocation for the SAF was €9.1m.  In the region of 16,000 students benefit from it annually.  The new allocation brings the total fund to €10.1m.

In 2017 an additional €1m was allocated to the fund and ring-fenced specifically for students from the target groups in the National Access Plan to help deliver the goals outlined within that plan.

Students in third-level institutions can apply for support under the SAF if they experience exceptional financial need.  Information on the fund is available through Access Offices in the third level institutions.  This fund is administered on a confidential, discretionary basis.

Minister McHugh said:  “The fund is there to help.  It is designed to support students in a sensitive and compassionate manner. The aim of the increased fund is to ensure financial circumstances do not impact student teachers from furthering their careers.”

Notes for Editors 


There will be more than 2,200 places for students in Professional Master of Education courses at state funded HEIs in the coming academic year.  That includes 1,800 places for Post Primary PME in the 2019/20 academic year and 420 places for students in the Primary PME.

Action Plan for Teacher Supply

The Action Plan for Teacher Supply was published by Minister McHugh on 8th November 2018. Twenty two Actions have been identified under four policy headings:  Data/Research; Higher Education; Promotion of the teaching profession; Policies and arrangements impacting on teacher supply.

One of the actions under the Higher Education heading is for the Department to explore the provision of additional supports for postgraduate initial teacher education students. The additional SAF funding now being provided follows from this action.

A copy of the Action Plan is available here: https://www.education.ie/en/Publications/Education-Reports/teacher-supply-action-plan.pdf

Student Assistance Fund

The Student Assistance Fund (SAF) provides financial assistance to students experiencing financial difficulties while attending third level.  Students can be assisted towards the rent, childcare costs, transport costs and books/class materials.  An additional €1m was added to the Fund in 2017 which is specifically ring-fenced for part-time students who are lone-parents or members of the other access target groups.  Prior to that the fund supported full-time students only.  A total of €9.1m had already been allocated through the Student Assistance Fund (SAF) in 2018/2019.

This announcement will make a further allocation of €1m to the 2018/2019 allocation. This additional funding will be ring-fenced for students studying a Professional Master of Education programme in the 2018/19 academic year and who are experiencing financial difficulty. The additional funding is one of the implementation measures arising from the Department of Education and Skills Teacher Supply Action Plan.  This total amount of funding available now under the Student Assistance Fund is €10.1m. Over 16,000 benefited from this fund in 2016/17.

Further information can be found at www.studentfinance.ie

National Access Plan - PATH 1

This increase to the SAF compliments the Programme for Access to Higher Education (PATH) which allocated €2.7m to increase participation by underrepresented groups to initial teacher training.  The fund was established by the Department of Education & Skills as a commitment to support the National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education 2015-19.

The Programme for Access to Higher Education (PATH) is a dedicated fund committed to increasing participation by underrepresented groups in higher education. The fund was established by the Department of Education & Skills as a commitment to support the National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education 2015-19 (now extends to 2021).

An allocation of €2.7m was being made available, over a three-year timeframe, for initial teacher education access initiatives under Strand 1 of the PATH Fund to support the development of access programmes and routes to teacher education. The funding is contingent on projects being in accordance with Department policy and, where relevant, meeting the Teaching Council's criteria for Initial Teacher Education programme providers. Funding is also subject to satisfactory reporting to the HEA which evaluates progress reports submitted by the centres of education. The objective of PATH Strand 1 is to increase access to initial teacher education for students from the target groups that are identified in the National Access Plan.

The particular groups targeted are:-

  • Entrants from socio-economic groups that have low participation in higher education
  • First-time mature student entrants
  • Students with disabilities
  • Part-time/flexible learners
  • Further education award holders
  • Irish Travellers

The funding will support a range of new initiatives and partnerships and it is expected that these activities will support more than 120 new students, from groups that are currently under-represented, to participate in initial teacher education programmes.

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