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What is the Education Maintenance Allowance?

Published 2 May 2016 by

In 2012, the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund replaced the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) in England. But if you’re a student in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, you could still claim EMA.

The scheme encourages students who previously weren’t interested or couldn’t afford to continue with their studies at college or sixth form. Check to see if you or your child is eligible for EMA by seeing whether they meet the following criteria.

Who can get EMA?

To qualify, you must be aged between 16 and 18 and live and go to school in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. The allowance is for both academic and vocational courses, including some of the following.


• A Levels (AS/A2)

• NVQ (or SVQ) level 1,2 or 3

• BTEC National Diploma, National Certificate and First Diploma

• Pre U

• Baccalaureate

These courses can be based in a sixth form, college or another type of educational institution. You must attend a class or placement each week for a minimum number of hours to qualify. In Wales, the minimum is 12, in Northern Ireland it’s 15 and in Scotland it’s 21.

To continue receiving EMA, you must keep up with your studies and attend a class or placement regularly. Your school or college will monitor your attendance.

How much will I get?

Whether or not you can get EMA depends on the total tax year income of the parents or step-parents you’re living with. Any money you get from benefits or a part-time job doesn’t count.

The income threshold differs depending on where you live. See the following table* for more details.

Household Income
EMA Entitlement



Northern Ireland

One child

Up to £20,351

Up to £20,817

Up to £20,500

Two or more children

Up to £22,403

Up to £23,077

Up to £22,500

EMA is a fixed amount of £30. In Scotland, you’ll receive the payment every week, and in Wales and Northern Ireland you’ll get it every two weeks. This will be paid directly into a bank account, so you might need to open a bank or savings account if you don’t already have one.

You can claim EMA at any point in the school year. But to receive backdated payments, you will need to do this within 28 days of the course start date or by the end of September.

How to apply

The application process for EMA can vary depending on where you live. In general though, you should be able to pick up a form from your school or college. If you can’t, students in Wales can download one from Student Finance Wales and students in Northern Ireland can download one from nidirect.

You’ll need proof of your parents’ income and your bank details to apply.

The 16 to 19 Bursary Fund is the equivalent to EMA for students in England. Check out our blog for more details.

*Table inspired by Money Saving Expert.