Study USA student Sinead Loughran and Minister Stephen Farry of Department for Employment and Learning meet President Bill Clinton at Queen's University Belfast March 2014
Study USA student and Minister Farry meet President Clinton ©

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The Study USA programme, originally known as the Business Education Initiative, was established in 1994. It is a highly successful and innovative programme which offers undergraduate students studying in Northern Ireland the opportunity to study for one academic year at church affiliated universities and colleges in the USA.

The purpose of Study USA is:

  • To develop the academic and applied skills of ambitious and talented students.
  • To create an opportunity for students to realise their ambitions.
  • To assist community building in Northern Ireland by widening horizons of students in a new cultural setting.

Study USA provides an excellent opportunity for students studying in Northern Ireland to experience university life and study in the USA. The programme offers significant financial incentives and is well regarded amongst graduate employers. Overall, the purpose of Study USA is to produce graduates with an international perspective who will be capable of eventually making a contribution in advancing the Northern Ireland economy.


Designed to assist with the Peace Process, the programme was developed in the 1990s and carried out by the Inter-Church Committee on Northern Ireland, in partnership with the Training and Employment Agency (later replaced by the Department for Employment and Learning, and now Department of Economy).

The White House provided their own endorsement for the programme in March 1995 in a letter written by President Bill Clinton to Reverend Henry Postel, Chair of the Northern Ireland Working Group in the Presbyterian Church USA, and member of the Inter Church Committee on Northern Ireland.

In 2014 former US President Clinton met with Study USA alumni Sinead Loughran and the then Minister for Employment and Learning, Dr Stephen Farry MLA, and congratulated the success of this important programme over the past twenty years. The same year saw a number of events to celebrate 20 years of the programme.

The programme and its participants are highly regarded within the network of 140 partner institutions across the USA and continues to receive significant support from the American and Northern Irish governments.

During the 1994/95 academic year, nineteen students from Northern Ireland studied at 11 Presbyterian Colleges. Since then the number of placements grew substantially and peaked at 165 per year. Presently between 50 – 60 placements are available each academic year.