The Mature Student Trap



Alan writes:

My dear friend Niamh, a wonderful, smart, caring, and frankly just incredible woman has put up a story {above] on her Facebook of her trouble trying to acquire a grant through SUSI (Student Universal Support Ireland) despite what I’m sure you’ll agree are some quite deserving circumstances. I’ve asked her if it’s OK if I share the post with you and she has agreed. I think some of your readers may be interested to see what some people have to go through to try (and fail) to get even a partial contribution to the fees….

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83 thoughts on “The Mature Student Trap

  1. Joe the Lion

    That’s ok but she should get SUSI to response this in writing – why she is ineligible

    The way the process actually works is that you have to apply, get rejected and then have the rejection appealed ‘having regard to all the circumstances’

    In these circumstances they have a fair bit of discretion and may use it to your friend’s benefit.

    The issue of course is a time constraint, if your friend enrols for the Masters, attends classes (if the college lets her register without paying), and then has to wait for all this crap to be processed, it could subject her to academic sanctions or other privations. The trick there is to get a college professor or head of department to write a letter to SUSI saying what a good student your friend is and how they will not be able to finish their education without the grant etc. That seems to close the deal generally speaking.

  2. ZeligIsJaded

    I know of several people affected by this situation.

    I terms of pursuing post-graduate education (Or undergraduate for that matter) as a mature student, you should definitely try to find a cosy place to live, and stay unemployed for as long as possible.
    There are a large variety of good box sets available online now, and you should have plenty of material to occupy yourself while you wait.

    The more benefits you claim over this period, the more proof you will have that you are deserving of an education.

    Resist the temptation to work for a living at all costs, even for short periods, as even a slight break from being unemployed will cause you no end of problems.

    It only becomes irrational when you think about it!

    1. Spartacus

      The entire welfare system, education system, back-to-education, back-to-work, and education grants system in this country is full of anomalies such as these. There appears to be no appetite for fixing any of it, just carry on with more of the same waste and mismanagement of resources.

      I wonder if we tried pay benchmarking or similar as an incentive… would that help at all?

  3. Jonotti

    You already have a degree so get working. I’ve no idea why the state are funding postgraduate degrees for unexceptional students. If you’re good you should be able to get a scholarship.

      1. Jonotti

        I was 21 starting a PhD with no council or parental support required. The entitlement of Irish people is astounding. Apply for a scholarship.

        1. ExPostGrad

          Your comments are so insulting.

          I can only assume you are a troll when I read your comments on this website.

          As a person who finished a 4 year degree straight out of secondary school, spent the following 6 months looking for work in said area, I ended up in a retail job as there were simply no jobs in my skillset without emigrating to the UK or USA.

          I spent 4 years working on a standard wage while trying to find a degree related job on the side and had no luck.
          Eventually the company I was working for went bust and I was let go along with hundreds of others. This was 2012. So I decided to go back to college and get a Post Grad in I.T. given the abundance of opportunities.

          I was entitled to zero help. No dole because I was student (obviously) and no grants as I was not sitting on my arse unemployed for a year or whatever ridiculous amount of time was required, as the article above mentioned.

          Appealed again and again and got nowhere.
          Eventually got my redundancy 9 months later which was used to pay off the loan I had taken to cover my living situation and fees. Working full time now and finally back in a comfortable position money wise.

          The time I spent in the Post Grad was the most stressful year of my life. Living off practically nothing and having to borrow to do even that.

          And why am I moaning? Because as someone who has never ever been on the dole or asked for anything from the state, and paid my taxes since working part time in my late teens, I was told to basically Fupp off.

          So fupp you Jonotti you obnoxious cocky self righteous bottomhole.

          1. SweetPeteato

            It’s not a right but that’s not really the argument. From my experience, whether undergraduate or postgraduate, the current system rewards people on social welfare rather than the people that work in low paid employment which seems very unfair. I know a significant number of people who have left employment for the sole purpose of getting their education paid for. The BTEA for example is very generous when compared to trying to save for an undergrad course while getting paid peanuts.

          2. Jonotti

            No, this person wants it free and paid for because people on welfare get funding. I’d like to see nobody get postgraduate funding. BTEA is the biggest joke going. Paying for losers to piss about for years. Competitive scholarships and state loans for all.

        2. Nigel

          You’re the Randian superman that puts the rest of us to shame and discredits the very concept of the social safety net.

          1. Joe the Lion

            Wasn’t Superman Nietszchean? Or was that Superego?

            This poster makes a good argument for legal abortion

          2. Nigel

            Yeah, but he doesn’t seem to be a nihilist, just a neo-Victorian misanthropist who believes that external financial support from the state denotes a moral failing both on the part of the person receiving the aid and the state, as well as an intolerable imposition on people who don’t require that aid, and that his success represents a minimal moral standard below which represents physical, moral and intellectual inferiority.

          3. Nigel

            Blame the Randian overlords who ran the global financial system into the ground and the craven political class that screwed everyone else to bail them out. They follow pretty much the same principles right up to the point where it all falls apart.

        3. AmeliaBedelia

          So Jonotti, you got Research Council funding or what? Hint. This money comes from the same pot as council funds. Clap yourself on the back Mr Bootstraps.

          1. Jonotti

            All public service salaries also come from the same pot. These are won through open competition which makes me superior.

          2. Jonotti

            You’re a student so what do you know. Try your hand at the executive officer competitions and I doubt you’d get far.

    1. Mark Dennehy

      Nonsense, for two reasons:
      1) Continuing adult education is a pretty major requirement these days. It’s not one or two exceptional geniuses going off to save the world, postgraduate education is a massive thing worldwide, it’s how you progress in most professional careers and it’s your only chance to change career direction if you want to. And if your economy was based on one industry which has since almost completely collapsed taking several others with it (talked to legal coffee drinker about how many solicitors went to the wall after the building industry’s conveyancing work dried up?), then postgraduate education is pretty much your best shot at trying to recover. That, or waiting a decade or so for the next generation to come up through the current system and just writing off everyone around at the moment as a lost cause.

      2) Scholarships need money. We don’t have much anymore. Can you see where this is going? (Oh, and this idea that scholarships are a true meritocratic solution is sortof bent over a table without so much as dinner and a movie by the point that people who have to work nearly full-time to support a family don’t have the time to study as much as those who don’t, so the playing field for scholarships is not even).

      1. Jonotti

        If you want to live in a society with free full time postgraduate study for all incoming income support then you can pay for it.

        Scholarships are awarded on merit to the best students in disciplines that might actually benefit the economy some say. Interpretative dance masters need not apply. We can never have true meritocracy by your standards if “oh I had a lot going on in my life” excuses are acceptable.

        1. Sinabhfuil

          Jonotti, can you direct us to a list of scholarships? I was under the impression that scholarships had more or less ceased to be during the years when third-level education to degree level was briefly free.
          I’ve heard of various scholarships that seem to have disappeared – like the one that was supposed to pay back in part for tearing down the beautiful Frascati House in Blackrock and replacing it with some chain stores in a brutalist building. And wasn’t there one in memory of George Bernard Shaw, and I think financed by his will – though of course this is in a fluffy subject, literature, rather than the more useful marketing science.

          1. Mark Dennehy

            Why stay in Ireland, he asks in a case where the person involved was the financial support for several family members.

            Son, you are giving postgraduate students a bad name here. Please stop that.

          2. Sinabhfuil

            Thanks, Jonotti. These don’t seem to be for engineering, etc, though; rather (though the deadline has closed already) for things like conflict resolution, teaching and learning enhancement, climate/water/sustainability, growing up in Ireland, outreach/public awareness of sciences, intellectual property (ie patents) in science.

            There used to be Erasmus scholarships, where you’d go abroad and work in your discipline as part of a doctorate, but these aren’t much good to those who are thinking about making a living and having a degree as CV material.

            Incidentally, while I agree completely with you that we badly need more STEM graduates – and of course for that we need excellent maths and science teachers and labs in schools – might I also make the point that where Ireland has consistently shown excellence is in literature. Not that anyone’s going to get rich as a writer.

        2. Mark Dennehy

          “then you can pay for it”

          So you managed to get into a PhD programme without the ability to read, did you? Yeah, I have to call bullshit on that one having been in one myself. Reading is kindof a core requirement.

          I used to have this great moment every new years when I figured out how much I’d paid in tax the previous year and them worked out how many kids that much would pay to send to college. It was a source of pride, that I’d actually paid something back that meant something.

          1. Mark Dennehy

            Unless your last name is Rowling, no, you’re not rich off the stuff you’d publish. But thanks for overplaying it and illustrating that you’re not actually a postgraduate student, you’re just some teenage kid who’s never had dependents in his life and who wants to get a rise out of adults who’re talking about something a bit more serious than you’re used to.

            Broadsheet, *this* is why you need moderators on the comments section…

          2. Jonotti

            No, I didn’t publish any novels. In the academic world publishing means peer reviewed journal articles. Mad how I know this stuff and I’m only a teenager living in my parents basement even though nobody in ireland has a basement.

          3. Mark Dennehy

            Publishing in the academic world actually covers a lot more more than getting into the IEEE Transactions lad, but you wouldn’t know that, not having actually been in that world.

          4. Don Pidgeoni

            Clearly something very high-powered to be posting on here so much. And before you ask, Im a student so its fine for me

        3. Nigel

          ‘If you want to live in a society with free full time postgraduate study for all incoming income support then you can pay for it.’

          I guess it’s important to weed out the people who aren’t independently wealthy at that level. Inherited/family wealth is a kind of intellectual rigour, isn’t it?

      2. Don Pidgeoni

        Exactly. A minimum in my line of work is a Masters and it was pretty hard work to find the money for this as I wasn’t eligible for a loan even for fees. And scholarships are pretty rare because of issues with funding.

  4. Mark Dennehy

    This is why getting rid of the “free fees” scheme instead of expanding it to cover everyone in every case (including postgraduate education) was a terrible idea by smallminded people.

    “Oh, but rich people’s kids would have been paid for by the poor” – really? I’d say we need to have a talk about statistical distributions, averages and means and medians, but the irony would break me. Does anyone really think that 50% of the people in this country are rich? Does nobody think that maybe it’s closer to 5% or even less? And if the downside of really free education for everyone is that 1% or 2% of the people getting that free education could have afforded to pay for it, that is not really a downside we should have been fretting over.

    I used to have this great moment every new years when I figured out how much I’d paid in tax the previous year and them worked out how many kids that much would pay to send to college. It was a source of pride, that I’d actually paid something back that meant something. These days, you get to calculate how much you helped pay off out of the debt some random unpunished gambler in the financial sector generated.

    It is not a step forward :(

  5. JimmytheHead

    Went through a similar case myself but was lucky to have parents who could help me pay rent during college. Working almost full time screws your grades up and makes college so much more stressful than it should be.The grant system is insanely out of date and the dole have an instant “no students” policy as soon as you walk in the door.

    Long term solution: Get Joan “Banks are more important than commoners” Burton sacked, vote for Sinn Fein or an independent candidate next time around and hope they dont hide behind the incredibly out of date constitution when it comes to discussing educational benefit.

    1. Mark Dennehy

      Because it’s in the best interests of the taxpayer to create more taxpayers, not to create more people who can’t afford to pay tax.

      But that’s a kindof advanced concept that obviously requires postgraduate economics degrees to understand, so you can see where the whole catch-22 bit comes in. You can’t understand the concept without having the degree, and you can’t get the degree without understanding the concept.


  6. eric cartman

    we need a serious revisit on what courses should be subsidised.

    english , classics, sociology, anthropology, literature, journalism – all overbloated and you should have to pay to do those.

    we need more engineers and mathematicians , not english teachers and perpetually unemployed grads.

    also a masters shouldnt be free. This person has a degree. I have a leaving cert with failed maths and run a company with a turnover of close to half a million a year. this person should go out and work.

    1. Jonotti

      There is plenty of funding for high quality stem students. All the rants here are from jealous arts and or mediocre students that wants to state to drop 20k (fees and living costs) on their masters vanity project.

      1. Mark Dennehy

        Jonotti, go look up what an engineer earns outside of the IT sector.
        Then come tell me we’re well looked after.
        Then after that, tell me how we don’t need any other kind of degree outside of stem.
        Tell me how we’ll have better students if we sack all the english teachers and how that will lead to a better world for the next generation.

        And if you can do it without quoting Ayn Rand, that’d be nice.

        And when you’re done, go google the word “Mincome” and tell us what happens to your head as you read about it.

      2. Starina

        It’s hardly a vanity project for this girl — she’s trying to get a higher qualification so she can maybe, just maybe bring in more money to support her family.

        Having money =/= being a “high quality” student. That is the erroneous logic used in the states.

          1. Mark Dennehy

            Yeah, because working two fulltime low-paying jobs and studying parttime and supporting several dependents is so easy that it’s a wonder why we don’t all do it.

          2. eric cartman

            I understand she wants to help her brothers, but perhaps her mother should get a job instead of the daughter being the breadwinner.

  7. munkifisht

    I have always found the excuse, your parents can cover it if you are a dependent, really rather unsettling. Really? At 17 you can live independent of your parents, in the very definition you are no longer dependent. What if you and your family don’t get on? What if you were had an abusive upbringing? Does that matter?

    Should parents be expected to pay for their children’s education when it is not the parents that will benefit from their future earning potential, but rather society. It of course should be society, but cutting funding to education is an easy political football to play. People in College tend to be of the age that they are still figuring out the political system (another flaw, people of that age should be actively engaged in politics but the vocational approach of primary and secondary education does not allow this). Add to this the fact that the political decisions of the past 20 years, not only the decisions that led to the crash, but also schemes like SlaveBridge and the decreasing levels of investment due to the brain drain itself, now mean the Irish youth have to emigrate to have any chance of earning and having a life, meaning those who can still vote (of course Ireland being one of the few countries in Europe where it’s citizens living abroad can’t vote on domestic elections) are those who have little investment in education and are typically conservative.

    Ireland has had an internationally recognised education system but successive poor decisions, increasing size of classrooms, cutting of teacher number and salary, the replacement of free education with excessive registration fees and a general lack of foresight has led to the end of that impression as a actual truth. Considering the massive investment the Nordic countries are making in education means Ireland will be left behind and in 20 years the world will have passed us by and we’ll be back to scrabelling in the dirt for spuds.

  8. pissedasanewt

    I got a cert in a DIT (IT’s back in those days), then bumped it up to a Diploma through the open university and part time study. It was good enough for me to get a job in my current company, but now HR has decided that everybody they are going to hire from now to do the same job as me should have a masters regardless of experience.

    As they do support further education, I suppose it means people won’t be coming in the door then asking the company to pay for a masters through part time study.

    1. Jonotti

      This is result of the free education arms race. We have a generation of people in their 20s that have paid no income tax. They’ve bumbled from college, to welfare, to casual bar work with various failed postgraduate courses in photography. The state is funding this nonsense.

      1. Mani

        And what kind of race have we to thank for you? I’ve the feeling it’s the ‘brother and sister got drunk on babysham one night and gave into simmering tension-race’

          1. Jonotti

            Following the formula to a tee. 1. Take a word in my post. 2. Use that as a basis for a peurile statement 3. Wait for the virtual laughs to come in.

            You’re not a funny guy. You’re the average guy in the office that thinks he’s funny. Average smarts and obvious refernces.

          2. Mani

            I think this is the problem.

            It’s not my intention to be funny. I genuinely think you are the end product of an incestuous relationship, possibly either mother -aunt or father-uncle had syphilis, something that might explain your, eh, problems. You’re definitely the product of an unloving home. Very little affection shown. It would explain why you haunt this place, where it’s clear you have no time for the posters and they have no time for you. So it must remind you of home I guess. What I’m saying is… go to your room?

        1. Jam

          so you are not trying to be funny. Its fair enough to verbally abuse people whose opinions differ from the majority of posters then? Renders the whole exchange of opinions/ideas thing a little pointless doesn’t it?

  9. Reegore

    Was on the dole for near a year and couldn’t believe how easy it was to get into a Masters for free. Me living at home with my folks getting free board and keep. Meanwhile there was others in the class after shelling out 10k for the privilege. How is that right???

    Soon as I got a job I packed it in as would have had to stump up the cash, which I didn’t have. Nearly regret going back to work and not seeing it out on easy street.

  10. UndergradStud

    As a undergraduate student who has had an abusive upbringing (who didnt want to bring her mother up for abuse so instead moved, out, worked and finished her leaving cert independently before moving onto third level) i really really feel for you! As i didnt go through the social services and applied to SUSI as an independent at 18 theyve used the fact that i clearly have no official advocates to ignore me and deny me what im entitled to. Ive been very much pushed to try to overturn policy by many professionals in different areas because of my case. But honestly im a forth year student carrying a massive load thats only just got me through to now, i live on 40 euro a week and havent been unemployed since i was fifteen. Cant be taking on things like that! Hope it works out for you and if it doesnt please find some way of doing it anyway and saying a big f you to SUSI. Maybe some day we’ll be in some sort of position of power that allows us to try and change things!

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