How to fund an MBA: scholarships, sponsorship, bursaries and loans

Opting for an MBA might be a costly decision, but can be an investment that pays off several times over

The career pay-off for doing an MBA (Master of Business Administration) is well worth considering. While there may be a common misconception that you need to have a business background to do an MBA or that you need to know exactly what you will do with it, an MBA will help you achieve clarity on your career goals.

An MBA will help you to challenge your thinking, develop skills in areas you had hitherto no experience, and it will enhance your employability.

If you want funding for an MBA you may need to look to your employer or seek funding independently as the fees charged can be much higher than courses in other disciplines.

Sizeable fees deter many people from pursuing further education. However, it’s important to remember that this is an investment in your future, and one that will pay off several times over in your career.


MBA courses are structured to provide a chance to gain insights into several industries, explore interesting aspects of the business world, and gain insights into your chosen industry.

Candidates come from a variety of backgrounds, industries and positions, with a typical class of MBA students comprising a mix of professionals from areas such as finance, the Civil Service, retail, engineering and the non-profit sector.

Some colleges will reward you financially if you can successfully refer prospective students from overseas. For example, students at the private college Dublin Business School can get up to €500 if they refer someone to the course.

Academic achievers

For those with an excellent academic record there are several scholarships for high achievers, such as TCD’s 10 merit-based scholarships that pay 30 per cent of its MBA fees.

DCU also has a scholarship for study at its business schools for high-achieving women in partnership with the 30% Club, aimed at helping to increase the representation of women on boards of management and executive management levels.

TCD is offering one full scholarship and six bursaries worth €5,000 towards its MBA programmes, while DCU is offering a €10,000 bursary towards postgraduate study at its business school.

Other funding

Bank of Ireland offers loans of up to €14,000 for postgraduate students at a discounted rate of 5.6 per cent, with flexible repayment options over a period of up to five years. Don't forget that there is tax relief on postgraduate tuition fees.

Ulster Bank student customers can apply for loans of between € 2,500 to €40,000 depending on suitability.

AIB customers who have a Student Plus Account can apply for a student loan at a competitive interest rate up to a maximum of €50,000.

The demands of a full-time taught postgraduate course such as an MBA may make part-time work difficult, but casual work such as exam-marking, tutorial work, and thesis-proofing may be ways to fund your studies.

Boss pays up

Few if any small companies beyond multinationals here have a practice of paying full tuition fees for postgraduate programmes as a policy, although they might offer bursaries.

Several multinational companies will support staff to undertake MBAs, so students may look towards graduate employers who are known to cover fees for staff such as Microsoft, Google, LinkedIn, Intel and Salesforce.

If a Microsoft employee wants to pursue further education the firm will pay for two-thirds the cost of their course, be it a diploma, certificate or even a masters.

Intel provides financial assistance (tuition reimbursement or prepaid graduate tuition) for eligible employees who are completing job-related degree programmes, course work, certificates, and foreign-language training.

If you work for a small or indigenous company you may have to convince your manager to sponsor or part-sponsor you, or possibly give you paid study leave.

So, if you’re currently in work and your employer has no formal tuition benefit or assistance scheme, you will have to convince your boss to sponsor or part-sponsor you or possibly give you paid study leave.

If you can prove to your employer that doing an MBA will be of benefit to the company as well as your own career, you may convince them to offer some tuition benefit or financial assistance scheme.


UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School recently launched the ninth year of its Aspire Scholarship Programme. The scholarship provides graduates across the country with the opportunity to secure funding towards tuition at Ireland's leading business school.

This year will see 50 per cent funding made available for up to nine MSc scholarships and up to three MBA scholarships for the 2018/19 academic year.

These scholarships are for applicants who have the ambition to undertake a business masters, but who may not have the financial means to do so. Applications for the programme can be made online at before Friday, May 11th, 2018.

The Aspire Scholarship Programme was launched in 2010 following a donation of €500,000 from an anonymous benefactor. To date 90 graduates have benefited from the programme since its introduction, with many of these alumni having either secured roles in leading companies such as Accenture, EY, Citi, PepsiCo, AIB, Ulster Bank, Avolon, Microsoft, Intel and Google or have applied their learnings in start-up businesses of their own.

Fees for a full-time MBA at UCD are €34,500, while fees for an executive part-time MBA are €15,950.

Trinity College Dublin

The impact on your potential salary is an important consideration when deciding to pursue an MBA. If your employer isn’t paying for your course, embarking on an MBA can be an expensive undertaking.

However, compared to the United States, Ireland remains a more affordable alternative for undertaking an MBA. The MBA at Trinity College takes one year, as opposed to two years in the United States. An equivalent full-time MBA in the US can cost between $50,000 to $160,000 per year, while an MBA in Ireland – priced at €34,000 ( $42,000) – is a more affordable option.

According to Trinity, post-MBA graduates see an average 59 per cent increase in their salary, 57 per cent have increased level of seniority, and 75 per cent have changed industry sector. Trinity Business School’s exclusive career development team provides advice, workshops, one-to-one coaching and introductions to an extensive portfolio of company recruiters, industry contacts and alumni.

Dublin City University

The DCU Executive MBA is a part-time programme, delivered one day per week (Thursdays, 2pm-9pm) over two years across four semesters. DCU provides a €10,000 fee scholarship to the 30% Club to be used for post-graduate study in DCU Business School. The deadline for applications for the 30% Club/DCU scholarship is Thursday, May 10th, 2018, at noon.

University of Limerick

Outside of Dublin, University of Limerick provides an AMBA-accredited Executive MBA which is a two-year, part-time programme designed to fit the schedules of busy working professionals.

The programme is delivered in three-day blocks, once a month, on campus. There are four blocks per semester and two semesters each year.

The MBA programme focuses on five themes: Internationalisation; Leadership; Strategic Thinking; Managerial Vision and Competencies; and Entrepreneurship and Innovation. For those interested, University of Limerick provide the only MBA in Europe with specialist Aviation Management electives.

The fees for EU students are €13,500.


The UCC Executive MBA is designed to prepare its participants to become organisational innovators, managers and leaders. The course provides students with an understanding of core organisational functions and skills. It also provides an “integrative, critical understanding of the role of the leader/manager”.

The fees for Irish and other EU students are €13,500 per year. This includes €3,000 towards the costs of a placement and workshop.

NUI Galway

The JE Cairnes School of Business & Economics at NUI Galway, in collaboration with the 30% Club, also offers a scholarship for its Executive MBA programme. This scholarship is valued at €13,850 in total for the MBA programme which equates to 50 per cent of the fees (fees are €27,700 over the two years). Closing date for receipt of applications is Friday, June 1st, 2018.