With thousands of internationally-recognised postgraduate courses and an English-speaking population Ireland is the perfect study abroad destination
Irish universities are renowned for educational excellence and Ireland has one of the youngest populations in Europe, an enticing combination should you choose to further your studies abroad.
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 will combine to offer an endless list of leisure opportunities when the opportunity for some free time arises.
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 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.
All seven rank within the world's top 650 according to the QS World University Rankings 2015/16. Trinity College Dublin is the highest entry, at number 78, followed by University College, Dublin (154) and University College, Cork (233).
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 attending UK universities can take part in the European Union's (EU) education, training and youth support programme Erasmus+. The scheme offers study, training and work experience placements and opportunities are open to students at Bachelor, Masters level and Doctorate level. Placements can last from three months to one academic year.
Financial support is available through the Erasmus+ grant, which can help with travel and living costs.
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. To learn more about the scheme and to apply for a placement speak to the Erasmus+ coordinator at your university.
Degree courses in Ireland
Irish universities offer a range of undergraduate programmes, which can be studied both full and part time. Full-time courses typically 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 to two years to complete. 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.
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:
- Doctorate degrees;
- postgraduate diplomas.
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.
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 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.
Funding to study in Ireland
If you need a little extra help funding your studies there are plenty of scholarships available. Each university provides scholarship opportunities funded through its own resources. To look for scholarships and check eligibility criteria visit individual university websites.
To give you a taste of what’s on offer scholarships include:
- The School of Education scholarship and the DUC Business School PhD scholarship at Dublin City University;
- College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences Excellence scholarships for taught Masters at University College, Cork;
- Taught Masters Scholarships at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth.
Scholarships are also provided by the government and other organisations.
If you are an EU student you may also be eligible for the postgraduate loans in Northern Ireland.
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.
Non-EU/European Economic Area (EEA) students are ineligible for Student Grant Scheme funding.
How to apply
Postgraduate courses are generally oversubscribed and competition for places on popular programmes is fierce. To increase your chances make sure you thoroughly research your course and apply in advance.
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.
Alternatively you will need to submit your application 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.
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.
If you are a student from the UK, EU, European Economic Area (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 European Union 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;
- 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;
- 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.