The Ultimate Guide to Funded Training in Northern Ireland

Our Guide to Funded Training in Northern Ireland gathers all of the most important information in one place. Find out which funding opportunities best suit your needs, without spending hours researching.


Northern Ireland's education system starts guiding all students towards external qualifications (like GCSEs and other vocational qualifications) when students turn 14 years old. 

The goal is to ease the transition from schooling to adult learning or the workplace.

However, education is only compulsory until the age of 16. And there are many paths to choose from in the post-compulsory education category. This can make navigating the full range of funds, bursaries, grants and loans available challenging.

The available funding is primarily directed at two key phases:

The 16 to 18 Education Phase

For students entering the 16 to 18 education phase, it is important to seize this opportunity to choose what you can learn and how you can learn it. Academic subjects are not the only option. General and vocational qualifications are also great ways of gaining work-specific skills and qualifications.

As a 16 to 18 year old, you can generally approach your studies in three different ways.

On the one hand, you can choose to continue  secondary schooling (sixth form) at a school or college. On the other hand, you may choose to pursue further education and vocational training at one of six regional further education (FE) colleges.

Alternatively, you may also decide to start an apprenticeship. If needed, Training for Success programmes can help you get ready for an apprenticeship or to start further education.

The Adult Learning Phase

Beyond the 16 to 18 year old phase, there is adult learning. The initial focus is mainly on raising basic skills with maths and english qualifications, and encouraging adults back to learning and employment.

However, adult learning also includes apprenticeships and publicly funded programmes that lead all the way to highest qualification levels. The highest qualifications are offered by higher education institutions, further education colleges, and alternative providers.

Higher and further education programmes are structured on a five-level framework, with three cycles of bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral studies. The framework includes short programmes such as foundation degrees and postgraduate certificates.

A-Levels are the most common entry qualification to bachelor programmes, but other qualifications may be accepted. Well-established routes - like Access programmes - exist for those who lack formal qualifications.

So what are you waiting for?

With so many providers, and so much information about courses, programmes and packages - in so many different places - are you finding it difficult to determine where to begin looking?

That’s exactly why we’ve created our Guide to Funded Training in Northern Ireland!

Our guide to funded training in Northern Ireland will help you to quickly and easily see which funding best suits your needs, without spending hours researching (we’ve done that bit for you!)

We’ve summarised what you’re eligible to apply for (based on your age and where you live), as well as the kind of funding you’ll get and whether you’ll have to pay it back. 

Download the full funding guide

Want to know if you're eligible for free, funded training? Download our easy-to-use guide!

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About the author

Dean Ehrlich is a digital content editor at

He develops content to support product and site growth. Originally trained as a lawyer, he converts jargon into human. 

Photo of Statue of Queen Victoria at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland by Dimitry Anikin on Unsplash