Free Fees Initiative (Full Time Undergraduate only)

Please note that to be eligible for the Free Fees scheme students must first qualify for the EU fee rate. See this web page for more on the EU fee rate.

Fee status and the Free Fees Initiative
Under the terms of the Free Fees Initiative, the Irish Exchequer will pay tuition fees to the University on behalf of students registered for the first time on qualifying, full-time, undergraduate degree programmes. Such programmes must be of a minimum duration of 2 years. 

Undergraduate students are generally automatically assessed for “free” fees. Students who are eligible for the Free Fees Scheme are required to pay the Student Contribution Charge and the Student Centre Levy.

Part-time and postgraduate programmes are not covered under the Free Fees Initiative. 

If you are unsure of your eligibility for Free Fees, please use our Fee Assessment eligibility reckoner and our FAQ to help you determine your fees.This flow chart provides a graphical overview of how we assess eligibility for “free” fees. Current students, please check your UView record in SISWeb, which will show you whether HEA Free Fees applied to your student account.

Who should apply for the Free Fees assessment?

If you fall under the below conditions, you are required to formally submit an application for Free Fees assessment. You need to make an application online.
  • I am not a current school leaver
  • I have Previous Third Level attendance
  • I have a non-EU place of birth and/or citizenship

How to apply for Free Fee Assessment ?
In order to apply for Free Fees assessment you should submit copies of the appropriate documentation online.

Students who have a Non-EU place of birth and/or citizenship checklist
Students who have previous third level checklist
Students who are not current school leavers checklist

It is important that you read and clearly understand the qualification criteria that apply, as well as the terms and limits of the Free Fees Initiative. Incomplete applications will be rejected and you will be required to commence the process from the beginning.

Eligible UK students who enrol for eligible courses for the current 2019/20 academic year in a third level college recognised for the purposes of free fees and student grant purposes, will be eligible to avail of the Department’s Free Fees and Student Grant schemes 

  • All the criteria for eligibility must be met in full prior to commencing a course. Once registered the student’s status cannot subsequently be changed
  • Students who qualify for free fees under the Free Fees Initiative will receive funding for their tuition fees for the normal completion of their chosen programme
  • Students must understand that the application of free fees is limited and not open-ended
  • Tuition will be paid for the first attempt at a module only
  • Repeat fees are not covered under the Free Fees Initiative
  • Each programme has a minimum or ‘default’ number of credits to be attempted and passed for the award of a degree - for example - a student undertaking an Arts degree is required to attempt and pass 180 credits; a student undertaking an Engineering or Science degree, 240 credits and so on
  • Free fees will cover the tuition element of the programme fee up to the default number of credits required for the award of the degree
  • IMPORTANT: Any additional credits taken in excess of this limit by way of choice, 2nd attempts, substitution, resit or repeat must be paid for in full by the student
There are three criteria for qualification.
All must be met in full prior to commencing a degree programme. 

A. Students must belong to one or more of the categories below:-
  • are EU*, EEA* nationals or nationals of the Swiss Confederation
  • have been naturalised as an EU*, EEA* national or a national of the Swiss Confederation during the course of their course (and meet the residency criterion)
  • have official Refugee status in the Republic of Ireland or
  • are family members of official refugees who are granted permission by the Minister for Justice and Law Reform to enter the Republic of Ireland and to reside in the Republic of Ireland
  • have leave to reside in the Republic of Ireland on humanitarian grounds i.e. "Humanitarian leave to remain in the State” or
  • have permission to remain in the Republic of Ireland as a family member of an EU/EEA/Swiss citizen and have the classification "4EUFam"on their GNIB card or
  • be a person in respect of whom the Minister for Justice has granted permission to remain following a determination not to make a deportation order or
  • be a person granted ‘subsidiary protection with permission to reside in the State’

B. All students must meet a Residency criterion: 

All students must have been ordinarily resident in the EU/EEA/ Swiss Confederation** for a minimum of 3 of the 5 years prior to commencing a programme at UCD.

Important Note: 
For determination of eligibility for free tuition fees the place of residence of a student is deemed to be their place of education. This means that if a student receives their full-time education in a non-EU/EEA/ Swiss jurisdiction they will not be eligible for free fees.

  • Students who are the children of Semi State Agency officials, Government officials (all Departments), Irish officials working with the UN, and children of volunteer development workers who reside in non-EU countries as a result of their appointments must note that as and from September 2013, the exemption from meeting normal EU residency requirements will cease. The Department of Education and Skills has withdrawn this concession for legal reasons (30 January 2013)
  • Minor and dependent adult children who are in full time post-primary education, the spouse/the civil partner of Irish State Officials, and comparable EU/EEA/Swiss State officials, who reside with that State official while posted outside the EU/EEA/Switzerland on diplomatic or consular missions, shall be deemed to be resident in their home EU/EEA/Swiss State for the purposes of the residency clause of the Free Fees Initiative
C. Students must not have a degree or previous third level attendance 

Students who have been verifiably absent from third level education for a minimum of 5 years since attempting, but not completing, an approved course (please see a list of approved courses/institution here) AND who belong to one of the above categories may be considered “second chance” i.e. eligible for a further round of funding under the Free fees Initiative to pursue approved courses at the same level.

Prior Attendance Degree graduates Students who have already completed a first-time undergraduate degree or who have a postgraduate qualification are never entitled to Free Fees.
If a student has a postgraduate qualification without having completed a primary degree they will not qualify for free fees if they chose to pursue an undergraduate programme.
Students who have completed and been awarded a level 7 “Ordinary” degree Where a student has been awarded a level 7 degree and wishes to progress to a level 8 degree they may be entitled to free fees. It is intended to allow students who have completed a Level 6 or 7 course and wish to undertake a related Level 8.
If a student is accepted as a transfer- progression from a Level 7 course, they may be eligible for Free Fees for the remainder of their course at UCD. 
Students who hold a Level 7 qualification, and who were approved under the Free Fees Initiative for the course, and who undertake a new Level 8 course from year one cannot be considered as progressing for the purpose of Free Fees Initiative. In this case, the Level 8 course would be considered as a second undergraduate course and not eligible under the Free Fees Initiative. However, students may be entitled to free tuition fees for the final year of their Level 8 course i.e. if they level 7 degree was of 3 years duration then they will be entitled to free fees for the fourth and subsequent years only
Students who have attended but have not completed a Level 6, 7 or 8 programme A student who has attended a third level course within the EU/EEA, Swiss Confederation in the past five years, and has not completed the course, will be liable for all fees for the equivalent period that s/he was in attendance.

Note: This regulation applies whether or not the institution attended was publicly/government funded or was private or fee-paying.
Ordinarily resident means being resident in the EU/EEA/Swiss Confederation for a minimum of 183 days in any one calendar year for a minimum of 3 years 

Approved courses - please see a list of approved courses/institution to which the Free Fees Initiative applies

”Second chance”  - students who have been verifiably absent from third level education for a minimum of 5 years since attempting, but not completing, approved course AND who belong to one of the above categories may be considered eligible for a further round of funding under the Free fees Initiative to pursue approved courses at the same level.

A ‘Change of Nationality’ clause - students who do not meet the nationality criteria of the schemes, will continue to be ineligible for free fees, however if such students subsequently acquire EEA citizenship during their third level studies they may be entitled to free tuition fees for the remainder of their course of study as follows:
  • Students who acquire EEA citizenship up to 31st January in an academic year may be entitled to free tuition fees from the second half of the academic year.
  • Students who acquire EEA citizenship from 1st February may be entitled to free tuition fees from the commencement of the next academic year.
In order to be eligible under this ‘Change of Nationality’ clause students must have met all other criterion of the Free Fees Schemes, apart from nationality, at date of entry to their course of study.

Exceptional circumstances such as certified serious illness - Where grading exemptions in extenuating circumstances have been approved by the School’s Programme Board tuition fees will not be charged for the modules thus graded.

Where grading exemptions have not been awarded application must be made to the Student Records office enclosing detailed medical certificates and details of hospitalisation etc and/or other evidence where relevant.

Withdrawing from a programme - If a student decides to withdraw from a programme and is in receipt of Free Fees they must be aware of the consequences. If a student withdraws from a programme for which free fees are claimed they will be held liable for all tuition fees for the equivalent period of attendance if they decide to attend another third level programme in the Republic of Ireland.

The European Union (EU)/European Economic Area (EEA)/Swiss Confederation
The European Union (EU) is an economic and political union of 28 countries. It operates an internal (or single) market which allows free movement of goods, capital, services and people between member states.

The EU countries are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK.

The European Economic Area (EEA): The EEA includes EU countries and also Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. It allows them to be part of the EU’s single market.

Switzerland is neither an EU nor EEA member but is part of the single market - this means Swiss nationals have the same rights to live and work in the Republic of Ireland as other EEA nationals.

P21 & P60
P21 is an accumulated statement of total income, tax credit and tax paid for a particular tax year for all employment in the tax year. It also includes tax paid by spouse if jointly assessed. For this reason it is used to make a judgement about residence. You can request your p21 via

A P60 is a single document issued by an employer for an individual in a single employment. It is issued if a person was in a particular employment on 31 December of the year. It will not include details of any other employment or income or of spousal income. It can be issued even if a person was only employed for the last week of the year so therefore is not a reliable indicator of residence and cannot be accepted for Fee Assessment purposes.

Also if someone leaves employment they get a P45 and no P60 whereas they can get a P21 (on request)

It is important to understand that the P60 is not a Revenue assessment of a person's tax position and is not an indication of final tax liability for the year. The P60 merely provides a summary of the tax, PRSI and USC deducted by a single employer in the tax year.

If the residency documentation is in the name of your husband/wife but cites that there is a spouse, you must provide a marriage certificate.