The Back to Education Allowance scheme (BTEA) supports persons who have been in receipt of a social welfare payment, including the Widows, Widowers or Surviving Partners payments, to pursue full-time courses of education at second and third level subject to meeting the qualifying conditions. In general, access to the BTEA at postgraduate level (QQI levels 8 & 9 (masters)) is not permitted under the terms of the BTEA scheme.
Consequently, jobseekers proposing to study for postgraduate qualifications for masters such as MA, MSc, M.Eng, M.Phil., MBA and Professional Graduate Diploma are not eligible for BTEA funding.
The only exceptions where BTEA can be approved at postgraduate level is where the jobseekers intend to undertake studies leading to:
(i) Professional Masters in Education (QQI level 9) which replaced the Professional Diploma in Education from September 2014;
(ii) Master degree based solely on life experience where the applicant holds no other third level qualification. In such cases, a Case Officer must ensure that the applicant provides documentary evidence from the third-level institution confirming that admission is based solely on life experience and that the applicant is not the holder of any third level qualification;
(iii) Higher Diploma (H.Dip) in any discipline (QQI level 8); and
(iv) Certain Springboard courses – (QQI level 8).
My Department does not offer specific supports for students pursuing third-level qualifications through distance learning or online courses under the back to education programme.
BTEA is not intended to be an alternative form of funding for people entering or re-entering the third level education system. The Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) Grant, payable by the Department of Education and Skills, represents the primary support for persons pursuing education. The eligibility rules that govern the payment of a student maintenance grant are a matter for that Department.
I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.