The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has taken its toll on all levels of education in Northern Ireland, from nursery schools right up to universities.

The closures of schools, colleges and universities has meant a disrupted time for everyone.

For those studying in university it has been a bumpy road.

While transfer tests, GCSEs and A-Level exams were all cancelled and students had a fair idea of where they stood, many in university are frustrated at the perceived lack of assistance they have been getting from the Government.

£500 payment

But it seems that there is something to look forward to, as the Economy Minister, Diane Dodds, has announced further funding of more than £10m for the hardship fund, while all students studying in Northern Ireland will receive a £500 payment.

Nursing students who have played a vital role in helping with the pressures Covid-19 has created in the Health and Social Care Trusts will also receive a £2,000 payment.

The payment will be available to non-salaried nursing or midwifery students who completed a clinical placement between October, 2020 and March, 2021.

Lucy Cosgrove, a First Year Queen’s University nursing student from Rosslea, spoke to The Impartial Reporter about how financial worries were causing her stress.

She is glad to hear the news of the payments for students, but will be even happier when it actually reaches her bank account.

“My biggest stress is the financial status of not being able to work because of Covid,” explained Lucy. “You can’t work and then go into a hospital in case you are contaminating others.

“And I have to pay rent; my uniform was £180, and you don’t really get any money for diesel and I’m travelling up and down the road to placement in a car that is about to give up on me.

“I am just stressed with having no money. I’m hanging on by a thread.”

With a grant of £430 coming in a month, £300 of that is put away for rent which leaves Lucy with £130 to live on.

She feels that students have been completely neglected and points to the underspend of money by Stormont departments when it could have been used to help students.

“Students are feeling forgotten about. We all are trying to do our best.”


The announcement of the further funding from the Economy Department is a positive, even if it has taken this long.

“It has definitely helped the stress levels. Some of the money will go straight to the house, and the grant will help pay off my insurance.

“But I will be happier when I see it,” added Lucy.

One part of the further funding for students which has been met with some trepidation is the £10.4m for the hardship fund.

Lucy says the application for it will just add more hassle for students who need money in their pockets.

This is something that Daniel Fitzpatrick, who is currently completing a part-time Masters in Environmental Engineering at Queen’s University, agrees with and believes the “amount of hoops” students have to jump through on top of their work to get it is ridiculous.

Daniel, from The Knocks, also feels that the money needs to go straight into students’ pockets; however, this is not the case for himself.

Part-time students and Further Education students are not eligible for the £500 payment, and it is something Daniel has yet to find out why this decision has been made.

“It’s only for full-time students, both undergraduate and post-graduate. I’ve tried to figure out that myself, and asked a few people, but [about this we all know] nothing.”

Daniel admits that he has not been worst hit as a student, but points out that part-time students usually have to continue working alongside their studies, and if they have been let go from employment, they are being affected both by that and not being eligible for the payment.

He pointed out that bills for students with cars or phones and similar required expenses don’t end when money doesn’t come in, people get laid off, or there is no furlough support.

“For most part-time students, it is financially harder,” Daniel added.