Ireland attracts a large number of foreign students each year due to its excellent reputation for education and welcoming culture. Ireland being part of the EU also helps to make it easily accessible for many students from inside the EU. A further reason for Ireland's popularity is naturally that the language of instruction is English, making it highly accessible to students from all over the world.
Ireland offers everything from lavish green hills to vibrant, metropolitan cities. As a student you get to experience it all, with a natural focus on excellent education in a society with close to no unemployment and a thriving business culture. Ireland offers a wide variety of opportunities, regardless of your interests and ambitions. Ireland is also very popular with international students for its very welcoming culture, with its pubs, characteristic music and not to forget - Guinness.
Ireland has a long and strong tradition of education and is historically known as the "Island of Saints and Scholars". This has led to education always being highly valued and a focus for funding and development. It has also been a major factor in Ireland's economic success in recent years. Among other things, Ireland was named "Best Place in the World to Live" by the Economist in 2005. It is also commonly referred to as the "Celtic Tiger" and was ranked the second wealthiest country per capita in the world by the UN Development Programme (2005).
Planning for Ireland
As an EU country, Ireland is open for students from across the EU and EEA member countries without visa requirements. This means that less preparation is necessary in view of a period of study in Ireland. However, regardless of what it is you aim to study, and for how long, moving abroad to study is always going to take a little more preparation and forethought than studying at home.
For non EU and EEA citizens, it is advisable to start preparing approximately a year in advance. This is in order to secure a student visa, apply to the schools of your choice, and be able to provide proof that you can afford your living during the period that you intend to stay in the country. Visa requirements vary for each parent country. Each student should take care to apply in advance through the Embassy or Consulate of Ireland in the student's home country or nearest neighboring country.
The Irish Education System
The Irish education system consists of Primary schools, Secondary schools (high schools), Third level colleges and universities and professional institutions. At the third level, institutions provide bachelor degrees of three years, master degrees of one to two years and doctorate degrees. Some institutions also offer shorter certificate and diploma courses.
International students are welcome to study at any third level institution. There are nine universities in Ireland - 2 in Northern Ireland and 7 in the Republic. These universities offer bachelor, master and doctorate programs in addition to a wide range of research.
There are also 14 institutes of Technology that offer programs at degree, national diploma and national certificate levels in a wide range of subjects such as engineering and science. All education at the institutes is validated by Ireland's national certification authority to ensure that the education provided holds the highest international standard. Many institutes of technology hold postgraduate diploma and degree programs, both taught and research.
A third type of higher education institution in Ireland is the Colleges of Education and independent third level colleges. There are five Colleges of Education for educating primary school teachers. Independent third level colleges offer certificate, diploma and degree programs in such areas as accountancy and business studies, law, humanities, hotel and catering, tourism studies and art. All these colleges have recognition and external accreditation from the national certification authority or alternatively from other institutions such as universities.
Different Types of Study
Studying in Ireland for foreign students is available in a variety of different forms. The majority of students choose to come through an exchange program where your parent university or institution will be able to help you with most of the necessary preparations.
You naturally also have the option of conducting a full course of study in Ireland. As the language of instruction for all courses in English, those with a sufficiently good knowledge of the language are eligible for doing anything from a bachelor to a masters or doctorate degree, provided they have the necessary prior education.
Entry requirements for the different types of study differ between institutions, but in general the following applies: A bachelor requires a completed secondary school education with sufficient results. A master degree will require a previously completed bachelor or equivalent from and Irish institution or equivalent abroad. A doctorate will require at least a master degree in your chosen field of research. In some cases, a doctorate also requires a certain amount of work experience for entry.
The school year is normally split into two semesters. The first semester starts around October and lasts until the end of December. The second semester generally starts toward the end of January and lasts until May. Exact dates vary from institution to institution.
Applying to higher education in Ireland
Application procedures differ depending on the type of course you are applying for. If you are aiming to study in Ireland through an exchange program, your parent institution will help you with any information you need.
If you are applying for entry into the first year of a bachelor program, applications generally go through the Central Applications Office, CAO. Application deadline for normal applications is usually at the start of February. Applications are submitted for a fee, which increases substantially the later you submit your application. It is therefore advisable to submit your application as early as possible. Late applications are accepted until the first of May for a fee of €90 (2008). In 2008, the fee for normal application was €45. See the CAO website for more information: http://www.cao.ie/index.php.
Applications to master or doctorate study are generally submitted directly to the institution. Each school will apply different rules, regulations and requirements for application. For more information, contact the admissions or international office of the university where you wish to study.
Grading in the Irish Education System
The grading system adheres very closely to the system used at UK universities. How exactly your final degree grade is reached is usually slightly different for each individual university or institution. The grading looks like this:
- Above 70%: First-class honors (a first)
- 65-69% Upper second-class honors (a 2.1)
- 60-64% Lower second-class honors (a 2.2)
- 55-59%Third-class honors (a third)
- 50-54% Ordinary
Living arrangements during study at the tertiary level can usually be organized through the university, college or institute. Most institutions have housing departments that can help you with allocation to university housing or off campus living. In many cases, international students are guaranteed a place in a university hall of residence during the first year, and in some cases throughout their period of study.
It is common, especially during the first years of study to live in accommodation provided by the university. There are usually catered or self catered halls of residence to choose from depending on your preference and budget. Here you will live with other students making it easier to meet new people, and truly experience the culture.
For more mature students or students in post graduate education, off campus housing may be preferable. Some universities have especially allocated housing for students with accompanying spouse or family.
Average living costs may differ somewhat depending on if you choose to study in Northern Ireland or in the Republic as different rules and fees apply.
For study at public institution in the Republic of Ireland, you can use the following guideline costs. These may however vary depending on institution and where you live (city or outside, university or private housing).
- Average living costs: 7480 (Euro)
- Home students tuition fees (this often includes EU and EEA citizens): Minimum: 0 (Euro)
- Foreign students tuition fees: Minimum: 7600 (Euro)
- Maximum: 17900 (Euro)
For further information go to:
Department of Foreign Affairs
List of Irish Embassies and Consulates
Student Visa Guidelines
For application information: