Thousands of international students flock to Ireland every year to further their studies and it's not hard to see why. Find out more about Irish universities, tuition fees and visas
Known for educational excellence, the Irish government annually invests over €782million into higher education institutions, which helps to ensure that Ireland maintains one of the best education systems in the world.
If you choose to study in the country you'll be able to choose from over 5,000 internationally-recognised qualifications, so you're bound to find a course that suits you. Should you choose to stay after graduation, you'll have plenty of opportunities at your fingertips. Ireland is home to an impressive number of international companies, with organisations such as Google, Dell, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, GSK and Pfizer all having headquarters in the country.
What's more the Emerald Isle provides a safe and friendly place to study. Its traditional Gaelic culture and rich history in the arts, coupled with coastal landscapes, unspoiled countryside and metropolitan cities offer endless leisure opportunities.
Higher education in Ireland is provided by a range of institutions, including seven universities, seven Colleges of Education and 14 Institutes of Technology.
Ireland's seven universities are state funded and include:
- Dublin City University (DCU)
- National University of Ireland, Galway
- National University of Ireland, Maynooth
- Trinity College, Dublin
- University College, Cork
- University College, Dublin
- University of Limerick.
Five institutions feature in the world's top 500 according to QS World University Rankings 2018. Trinity College Dublin is the highest entry, at number 88, followed by University College, Dublin (168), National University of Ireland, Galway (243), University College, Cork (283) and Dublin City University (391).
Popular student cities include the country's capital, Dublin, which houses the greatest concentration of universities and colleges. Galway on the west coast and Cork on the south coast are also popular student destinations.
The academic calendar in Ireland reflects that of the UK. You'll usually start in September, work through to December and then break for Christmas. You'll resume your studies in January and finish in June/July with a break in between for Easter.
Students currently attending a UK university can take part in the European Union's (EU) education, training and youth support programme, Erasmus+. The scheme offers study, training, work experience and voluntary placements to many young people, with opportunities lasting from three months to one academic year.
Financial support is available through the Erasmus+ initiative, for any UK public, private or not-for-profit organisation that is actively involved in education and training. However, your university must have a formal agreement with a partner university in Ireland. Check that your institution is involved in the programme and offers the Erasmus+ scheme in your subject.
This information is still valid following the UK's decision to leave the EU and will be updated if changes happen.
Degree courses in Ireland
Irish universities offer a range of undergraduate programmes, which can be studied both full and part time. Full-time courses last three years.
Entry requirements vary between institutions and from course to course so check with your chosen university before applying. You'll usually need to have completed upper secondary education, possess a valid school leaver's certificate and be able to prove your proficiency in English.
If you are a UK or EU student you will apply for all undergraduate courses through the Central Applications Office (CAO). Non-EU or international students will need to apply directly to their chosen institution, either online or by downloading an application form and sending it through the post.
To search for undergraduate courses visit Education in Ireland - What can I study?
Postgraduate programmes are available in a variety of subjects from arts and humanities to business and finance, and engineering to medicine.
Irish Masters follow a similar structure to those in the UK and usually take one year to complete. Some research Masters may take two years. You'll work through modular units of study, completing any necessary assessments, before embarking on a dissertation in your final year.
Entry requirements differ between institutions and courses; however most programmes require a 2:2 undergraduate degree in a related discipline as a minimum.
The majority of postgraduate courses in Ireland are taught in English, so if this isn't your first language you will need to provide evidence of your proficiency.
Make sure that you understand the entry requirements for the course that interests you before applying. Contact the university to clarify if necessary.
To search for postgraduate courses visit Education in Ireland - What can I study?
Other postgraduate qualifications on offer in the country include:
- postgraduate diplomas
- Doctoral degrees.
Irish Doctoral degrees usually last three or four years full time and you can study both 'traditional' and 'structured' programmes. The structured PhD has all the same academic components of a traditional PhD but provides an additional level of support by incorporating an organised programme of training and evaluation.
The majority of PhDs are taken at universities, but high-quality programmes are also on offer at Institutes of Technology.
You'll need an upper class (2:1) Masters in a relevant subject to gain entry onto a Doctoral programme.
Tuition fees vary widely for both undergraduate and postgraduate courses. In the majority of cases the cost will depend on your course, your institution and whether you're classed as a UK, EU or non-EU student. At both study levels fees for international students are considerably higher.
The country operates a Free Fees Initiative for undergraduate study, whereby EU/European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss students attending publically-funded courses do not have to pay tuition fees. If you qualify for the scheme you'll only need to pay a registration fee of around €3,000. For more information on free undergraduate fees see Citizens information - Third level student fees and charges.
Postgraduate course fees in Ireland are set each year so for accurate, up to date figures check your chosen university's website. As a rough guide Masters students in Ireland can expect to pay anything between €6,000 and €10,000 for a postgraduate course. Some programmes, mainly business or medicine, will be more expensive.
Funding to study in Ireland
If you need a little extra help funding your studies, financial support may be available from your chosen university in the form of scholarships and bursaries. To look for scholarships and check eligibility criteria, visit individual university websites.
Financial awards are also provided by the government of Ireland and other organisations. For a list of available scholarships see Education in Ireland - Scholarships.
The Irish Student Grant Scheme is the main source of financial help for undergraduate students. It is split into two parts: maintenance and fee grants. Maintenance grants go towards students' general living costs and fee grants are designed to cover students' tuition fees, cost of field trips or student contribution. In order to get a student grant you must be a national of an EEA member state or Switzerland or have immigration status or leave to remain. Postgraduates may get financial assistance under the Student Grant Scheme, with the cost of tuition fees for approved postgraduate courses in Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Postgraduate students may either:
- receive a new flat rate fee contribution of €2,000, if they pass the fee contribution means test.
- get all their tuition fees paid (up to €6,270), if they meet the qualifying conditions for the special rate of grant for disadvantaged students.
If you are an EU student you may also be eligible for postgraduate loans in Northern Ireland.
Non-EU/European Economic Area (EEA) students are ineligible for Student Grant Scheme and postgraduate loan funding.
How to apply
Postgraduate courses are generally oversubscribed and competition for a place on popular programmes is fierce. Each institution will also have its own application procedures and deadlines so to increase your chances make sure you thoroughly research your course and apply in advance.
In most cases you'll apply directly to the international office of your chosen institution, either online or through the post. The application process usually involves the completion of an application form/personal statement, the submission of transcripts of your previous results and a postgraduate interview.
However, a handful of Irish institutions use the Postgraduate Applications Centre (PAC) to process Masters and PhD applications. Similar to the Universities and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS) in the UK, you submit your application online. PAC charges a non-refundable processing fee of €50. To see if your university utilises PAC visit their website.
All postgraduate courses in Ireland are taught in English so you must be fluent in the language.
If English is not your first language you will need to pass an approved language test before registering for your course.
Approved tests include:
- Cambridge Proficiency
- Cambridge Advanced
- PTE Academic
For a full list of approved language tests see Education in Ireland - Postgraduate courses.
You may be able to take English courses at your university, but if these are not available there are a number of private English language colleges around the country.
If you are a student from the UK, EU, EEA or Switzerland you do not need a visa to study in Ireland. A full list of countries exempt from needing a visa can be found at Citizens Information - Visa Requirements for Entering Ireland. If your home country is not on this list you will need a study visa.
This visa information is still valid following the UK's decision to leave the EU and will be updated if changes occur.
If you do need a visa to study in the country you should apply for this online at the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS). If your course will take less than three months to complete you should apply for a 'C study visa'. If your course lasts longer than three months, you should apply for a 'D study visa'.
You will need to submit the following documents with your visa application:
- a letter of acceptance from a recognised school, college or university confirming that you have been accepted onto a full-time course
- evidence of your academic and English language ability
- confirmation that course fees have been paid in full
- proof that you have sufficient funds (usually €7,000) to support yourself during your stay
- Evidence that you or a sponsor have access to at least €7,000 for each subsequent year of your studies
- verification of private medical insurance
- an explanation of any gaps in your educational history
- confirmation you intend to return to your home country after leaving Ireland.
You will also need to provide two colour passport photographs, your current passport and a signed letter of application including your full contact details.
If you're a non-EU student you will need to register with the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) upon arrival if your period of study will last more than 90 days.
Visa application fees reach €60 for a single journey visa and €100 for a multiple journey visa. Aim to apply for your visa as early as possible - the standard processing time is eight weeks but this can increase during busy periods.
Comparison to UK qualifications
Qualifications gained in Ireland are widely recognised around the world and all degree courses studied in the country are directly comparable to their UK counterparts.