Higher education scholarships for over 250 disadvantaged students in Northern Ireland are to be funded by racing magnate JP McManus.

The Limerick businessman has provided a fund of around €6m (£5.4m) to help high-flying A-Level pupils.

The first bursaries will be awarded for those starting university in September and are worth £5,500 (€6,081) a year each.

Northern Ireland's Employment Minister Reg Empey said: 'This new scholarship scheme will provide a financial boost to those who are currently planning their future studies and careers.

'The vision and practical support of people like JP McManus from the world of business shows that philanthropy can make a real difference to the lives of students looking to gain all the benefits from our higher education system.'

It will support up to 25 students a year for studies at undergraduate level.

A total of 19 scholarships will be available through schools and six through Further Education colleges. Every county in Northern Ireland will benefit.

Northern Ireland's Education Minister Caitriona Ruane said: 'This scholarship scheme has the potential to open doors to university education for young people from some of our most disadvantaged areas.

'It will include young people in both English and Irish medium schools and will be awarded on the basis of performance in A-level examinations.'