Two study options are available under the scheme:
- Second-level option
- Third-level option
All courses must lead to a Quality
and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) accreditation (these include FETAC or
HETAC awards) or equivalent. You must also progress in educational
qualifications. For example, if you already have a Level 6 qualification on the
National Framework of Qualifications, the course you attend must be for at
least a Level 7 qualification. This progression rule has been relaxed for
people applying for second-level courses at Levels 5 and 6 in certain limited
circumstances. If you already hold a Level 5 or 6 qualification in an area that
is no longer growing (obtained at least 3 years ago) and you have worked for at
least 3 years and you satisfy all the other BTEA criteria, you may be allowed
to do further courses at either of these levels - provided the course is at
second level, will enable you to progress your career, lasts no more than 2
years (24 months) and meets future skills needs or local demand. Your DSP case
officer must also recommend the course if you are getting a jobseeker's
You can attend a second-level course of education at any secondary,
community, comprehensive or vocational school. The course must be full-time and
lead to a certificate recognised by the Department of Education and Skills or
approved by Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI), for example, Junior
Leaving Certificate or a City and Guilds Certificate. An Access or
Foundation course is considered to be a second-level course for BTEA purposes.
You can attend any third-level course of education in an approved third
level institution (university, institute of education or third level college).
The course must be a full-time day course and be approved for the Student
Grant Scheme or be approved by the Higher Education and Training Awards
Council (HETAC). Note that not all HETAC courses are approved for BTEA.
In general you must be starting your third-level course at year one.
However, you may be eligible for BTEA if you:
- Are exempt from part of your course because of a qualification you
received in a previous course. For example, you have a higher certificate
in a course that you now wish to take to degree level.
- Completed a year (or years) of your course as a part-time student
- Completed earlier years before becoming unemployed or receiving statutory
- Are permitted by your school or college to proceed to the next year of a
course having dropped out or deferred a year (due to mitigating
- Were getting a One-Parent Family Payment (OFP) while in full-time
education and were affected by age-related changes to OFP. People in this
situation may be admitted to BTEA mid-course.
You can get the Back to Education Allowance for a postgraduate course of
study that leads to a Higher Diploma (H.Dip.) qualification in any discipline
or a Professional Masters in Education.
Other types of postgraduate qualifications are not recognised for BTEA. The
only exception to this is where a college has admitted a person without a
third-level qualification to a Master’s course on the basis of relevant life
experience - in these cases the
person may be entitled to BTEA.
You will not get BTEA if you already have a postgraduate qualification.
Student Grant Scheme is divided into 2 components – maintenance grants
and fee grants. You cannot get the Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) and the
maintenance component of a student grant together.
Although you are not entitled to the maintenance component of the student
grant, you must still submit a student grant application form to be assessed
for a fee grant to pay your Student Contribution (formerly called the student
services charge), field trip costs and tuition fees (if payable).
If you are getting a One-Parent Family Payment (or Jobseeker’s
Transitional payment) or a disability payment (Disability Allowance, Invalidity
Pension or Illness Benefit) you can choose to stay on your current social
welfare payment (if you continue to meet the rules of the scheme) and apply for
a student grant or you can choose to transfer to the BTEA, depending on which
option benefits you most. In general, people who are studying full-time are not
entitled to Rent Supplement unless they are getting BTEA.
more in our document on social welfare payments and student grants.
Qualifying for BTEA
In general, to qualify for the BTEA you must be over 21, or over 24 for
postgraduate courses - see also 'Age limits' below - and have been getting a
qualifying social welfare payment. You must always have been accepted onto a
Qualifying social welfare payments
Since 2015, if you are a new BTEA applicant and you were getting a
jobseeker's payment, Farm Assist, a One-Parent Family Payment or a Jobseeker's
Transitional payment, you must re-establish your entitlement to a primary
payment to continue to be entitled to BTEA for the second or subsequent years
Since 1 January 2015 you no longer qualify for BTEA when your Jobseeker’s
Benefit ends – after 6 or 9 months. You must qualify for another payment to
continue to get BTEA. People who qualified for BTEA from Jobseeker’s Benefit
before 1 January 2015 can continue to get BTEA until the end of their course
and if they are progressing to a new approved course.
For second level courses you must have been getting a qualifying social
welfare payment (see above) for at least 3 months (78 paid or
credited days of unemployment). You must be getting the
qualifying payment immediately before you start the course.
For third level courses you must have been getting a qualifying social
welfare payment (see above) for 9 months (234 paid or credited
days of unemployment). You must be getting the qualifying
payment immediately before you start the course. For the
Professional Masters in Education, you must have been getting a qualifying
social welfare payment for 12 months (312 paid or credited
days of unemployment.
Satisfying the qualifying period
You do not have to have been getting your qualifying payment continuously.
Periods spent on other qualifying social welfare payments (or getting credits)
that are not broken by more than 12 months (52 weeks) can be used to determine
whether you satisfy the qualifying period criteria. You must always be getting
a qualifying payment immediately before starting your
Time spent on the Back to Education Allowance (BTEA), Vocational Training
Opportunities Scheme (VTOS), full-time FET (formerly FÁS) training courses,
Community Employment schemes, Part-time Job Incentive scheme, Gateway,
Community Services Programme, Rural Social Scheme, TÚS, Workplace Placement
Scheme (WPP), Back to Work Enterprise Allowance, Short Term Enterprise
Allowance, Job Initiative, Job Assist and JobBridge may count towards the
qualifying period for BTEA purposes. This provision only applies where you have
established an entitlement to a qualifying social welfare payment
immediately before you start your course of study.
Time spent on Youthreach can count towards the qualifying period provided
you establish an entitlement to a qualifying social welfare payment before or
after completing the Youthreach programme.
Time spent in prison in the Irish State can count towards the qualifying
period provided you establish an entitlement to a qualifying social welfare
Time spent on Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA) or on direct
provision can count towards the qualifying period for BTEA. This applies
only if you establish an entitlement to a qualifying social welfare payment
immediately before you start your course of study and satisfy the linking rules
If you have been awarded statutory
redundancy and are entitled to a qualifying social welfare payment
immediately before you start the course you can get immediate access to the
BTEA without any waiting period. You must take part in the BTEA scheme within
one year of getting statutory redundancy and satisfy all the other conditions.
To qualify for the Back to Education Allowance, you must be at least 21
years of age. You must be 24 for a third-level postgraduate course.
However, if you are getting Jobseeker's Allowance,
Jobseeker's Benefit, Jobseeker's
Transitional payment or One-Parent Family Payment for the
required period (3 months/78 days, 9 months/234 days or 12 months/312 days),
are aged between 18 and 20 and have been out of the formal education system for
at least 2 years you may qualify.
If you are aged 18 or over (over 24 for the postgraduate
option) and getting Blind Pension, Disability
Allowance, Invalidity Pension or Incapacity
Supplement for the required period (3 months/78 days or 9 months/234
days) you may qualify.
Unemployment or illness credits
If you are signing on for unemployment credits or submitting medical
certificates for illness credits, for the required period of time (either 3, 9,
12 months or 2 years depending on your course), you may qualify to participate
in the BTEA scheme on a non-payment basis. This means that you do not get a
weekly Back to Education Allowance. You continue to be awarded credited
contributions while you are taking part in the BTEA scheme.
If you are participating in the BTEA scheme on a non-payment basis, you can
also apply for a student
grant to be assessed for both the fee and maintenance component of the
Other people who can qualify for BTEA
Since 2 June 2015, qualified
adults must establish an entitlement to a qualifying payment in their own
right before they can be approved for BTEA. The rate payable is based on their
entitlement. You can use time spent as a qualified adult to satisfy the
Before 2 June 2015, a qualified adult of a person who can claim BTEA could
qualify for BTEA in their own right.
Both partners can get BTEA while taking an approved course.
You must provide a certificate from the school/college confirming your
registration, commencement and attendance at the course. You must supply this
information before payment can begin. During the course of the academic year,
you may be asked to provide confirmation that you are still taking part in the
If you change from a jobseeker's payment to BTEA, you do not need to sign on while you
are getting BTEA.
BTEA and other payments
People getting a Back Education Allowance cannot work full-time and are not
eligible for Community Employment, Social Economy Programme, Tús, Rural Social
Scheme, any other FET (formerly FÁS) or Fáilte Ireland training programmes,
Work Placement Programme, JobBridge, Part-time Job Incentive Scheme or any
other employment or training scheme or programme operated by the National
People getting a Back to Education Allowance are not eligible for Family
Income Supplement (FIS).
BTEA and part-time work
Since the 2016/2017 academic year, people getting BTEA who take up work
during the academic year will be assessed under the rules (including means
assessment) that apply to their primary payment - the payment they qualified
for BTEA from. This only applies to new applicants or people who return to BTEA
after a break.
Previously, part-time work during the academic year did not affect the rate
of BTEA paid.
If you were getting a jobseeker’s payment before going back to education,
your BTEA is not paid over the summer months period between academic years. (It
will be paid from the start of the new academic year provided you continue to
satisfy the eligibility criteria.)
If you are not able to find work during the summer period, you may be
entitled to Jobseeker's Benefit or
Allowance. You must meet
all the conditions including being capable of work, available for work and
genuinely looking for work. If you claim Jobseeker’s Allowance (JA) and work
part-time your earnings are assessed against your JA.
If you were getting a One-Parent Family Payment, Jobseeker's
Transitional payment or a disability payment before going back to
education, your BTEA will continue to be paid over the summer provided you are
returning to an approved course and are progressing in your education. If you
work over the summer your means from work are assessed using the rules that
apply to the original payment.
If you stop work or your work pattern changes you should inform your Intreo
centre so your case can be reassessed.