Ireland is home to many well-ranked universities and is a popular choice for international students. Its history, picturesque countryside and unique culture make it an appealing choice for students around the globe.

Why Study in Ireland

Ireland has seven public universities which are all featured in the top 700 of the QS World University Rankings 2021. It also hosts 14 technology institutes, of which one also features in the top 700 rankings. In addition to the public universities, Ireland also has a number of private institutions, which vary in size from 200 to 9000 students.

Dublin hosts the most higher education institutions in the country and has been ranked as the 34th best student city in the QS Best Student Cities 2018. Dublin boasts a vast wealth of culture and activities to keep students entertained outside of their studies; from its world-renowned pubs to its stunning architecture.

Galway offers an alternative experience to the craziness of Dublin, although it is by no means a quiet place. As an artsy city known for being a cultural hub, it also offers scenic beaches, a bustling city centre and nightlife.

Cork is located in the south and offers an easy gateway to exploring the Irish countryside. A popular tourist destination, Cork provides a mix of history, culture and nightlife.

Ireland Education Vs UK/US

Ireland offers degree programs in universities, specialist colleges and technology institutes, at which students can embark on a vocational study in a range of subjects including; marketing, textiles, healthcare and media, amongst others.

One big difference between study in the US and Ireland is that in the states, students study a broad range of subjects to begin with and decide on the subject in which they wish to major later on in their degree. However, in Ireland, students must decide on their major area of study when initially applying to the university.

Ireland also offers diplomas which are the equivalent to associate’s degrees in the US. These programmes of study are generally shorter in length and provide a more vocational form of study.

Students should also note that, whilst in the US medicine, dentistry and law cannot be studied at undergraduate level, they can be studied at this level in Ireland.

Top Irish Universities

  1. Trinity College Dublin: Founded in 1592, this is the oldest university in the country. Now Ireland’s most prestigious university, it has been ranked as joint 104th in the world. The university has three faculties: Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences and hosts over 17,000 students.
  2. University College Dublin: Home to 34,000 students, University College Dublin has been ranked joint 193rd globally. It was founded in 1854 and it consists of five colleges.
  3. National University of Ireland, Galway: Located outside of the capital city, the university hosts more than 18,000 students. It has been ranked as joint 260th in the QS World University Rankings 2021 and it has also been assigned five stars for its assessment system. Now undergoing a €400 million redevelopment, this is an institution that is moving from strength to strength.
  4. University College Cork: Officially renamed in 1999 as the University College Cork – National University of Ireland, Cork, this university is located in the south of Ireland. It achieved a ranking of joint 338th in the QS World Rankings and, in 2010, was the first university to be awarded the ‘Green Flag for Environmental Sustainability’ award.
  5. Dublin City University: This university, a relatively new institution founded in 1975, only gained status as a university in 1989. Located in the capital city, Dublin, it has quickly gained global recognition and was recently ranked at 422nd in the world. Offering distance courses as well as on-campus learning options, there are approximately 17,000 students, 1,000 of which are on distance learning programs.

Other Irish universities of note:

  • The University of Limerick
  • Dublin Institute of Technology
  • National University of Ireland, Maynooth
  • Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) – Ireland’s most prominent medical school, ranked in the top 500 medical schools in the world

International Students

The application process in Ireland differs, depending on whether you are an EU or non-EU applicant, so be careful to follow the right steps when applying.

EU students

Application for all undergraduate courses will be through the Central Applications Office (CAO) and can be completed online. The normal price for applications is €40 but applying online offers a discounted price of €30.

Non-EU students

Non-EU students will need to contact the International Office of the university or institution at which they wish to study directly, in order to apply.

Language Requirements

For international students, proficiency in English will be an entry requirement. If your English is not up to scratch, look out for prep courses in English offered by a number of universities. There are also opportunities to study English at tuition schools.

Fees for International Students

Students from the EU, EEA and Switzerland are eligible for the Free Fees Initiative. This means that no tuition fees will need to be paid, only a registration fee, costing approximately €3,000 to cover examination entries, clubs and societies.

For other foreign students, tuition fees in Ireland are dependent on the course, place of study and nationality of the student. Fees in Ireland are also known to fluctuate year on year, so it is worth checking carefully when applying for the published fees for the academic year in which you will start your studies.

For the academic year 2018/19, undergraduate fees ranged from €45,000-€54,000 for medicine (and related disciplines), €9,950-€24,958 or courses in science, technology and engineering fields and €9,750-€22,000 for other programs (in the arts, humanities and business fields).

For non-EU students wishing to study postgraduate programmes, fees for 2018/19 were €4,000 – €48,000 for medicine (and related disciplines), €9,250-€24,000 for engineering, €9,250 – €45,000 for Science and Technology, €9,250 – €22,00 for arts and humanities and €9,250 – €35,000 for business related studies.

Some institutions in Ireland are more affordable than others; the National University of Ireland, Galway charges approximately €6,000 per year in comparison to €7,500 at Trinity College Dublin. Even more impressive is the Cork Institute of Technology which charges as little as €3,500 per academic year. It should be noted, however, that non-EU/EEA students will generally be charged double this for tuition fee costs.


The Government of Ireland International The studentships are open to high-calibre students from non-EU/EEA countries. The grants last for one year and students can be awarded up to €10,000 to support with costs and living expenses. This scholarship is awarded for:

  • The final year of study in an undergraduate degree
  • One year of study for a taught master’s programme
  • One year of research in a 2-year master’s degree or PhD programme

This scholarship is available at all participating universities and 60 opportunities are awarded per academic year. Universities will also remove tuition and registration fees for the year of scholarship study for successful students.

Part-time Work and Making Money in Ireland

Part-time work is not necessarily easy to find in Ireland. Most jobs – such as bartending or waitressing – require that the applicants have a minimum of one year experience. However, if you are successful in finding a job, the minimum wage in Ireland is €9.55 per hour and students are legally permitted to work no more than 20 hours per week during term time (and the government states no more than 40 hours per week during holidays).

Living Costs in Ireland

As described in the Student Visa section, international students applying to study in Ireland will need to show evidence of funds for living costs and tuition fees in order to be granted permission to study in Ireland. However, the cost of living in Ireland is slightly over the average for Europe and students should, therefore, expect higher living expenses.

The government expects students to have an annual sum of €7,000 for living expenses available, although a survey by the Dublin Institute of Technology suggested that students needed closer to €12,000 annually for living expenses.

Living costs in Dublin will be higher than other locations in Ireland; it is well-known for its high cost of living and rent is higher than other locations around the country. Galway and Cork offer cheaper living, with students needing only around €800-€900 for living per month.

Student accommodation will take up most of a student in Ireland’s monthly budget – approximately 38% in fact. Halls of residence are available, costing €200-300 per month, which is higher than the cost of accommodation on average for most European locations. Studies have shown only about 12% of international students use university accommodation.

Private rentals, flat sharing and homestays are other options available to foreign students. If you choose to live alone, you should be expecting to pay approximately €430 per month for rent. Other costs, such as utilities and internet costs, should not exceed €200/month.

Students in Ireland are eligible for cheaper transportation through the Student Leap Card. A monthly pass for students costs around €50-55 and public transport is, therefore, a popular options for students to get around. Many students also choose to ride bicycles which is a good option for saving money and keeping fit!

Student Visa

Students exempt from needing a visa to study in Ireland:

  • Students from the EU, EEA or Switzerland do not require a student visa
  • There are other countries, such as Australia, Japan and Canada, who are also exempt from needing a visa. Full details can be found on the website.

The cost of a student visa is dependent on the country from which you are applying. However, general pricing is €60 for a single entry student visa and €100 for multiple entry.

For those students requiring a visa to study in Ireland:

  • You must apply for the visa before arriving in Ireland
  • You must enrol on a full-time course on the Interim List of Eligible Programmes (ILEP).
  • Apply online for your visa using the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration service.
  • If your programme of study will be less than 3 months, apply for the ‘C study visa’.
  • If your programme of study will be more than 3 months, apply for the ‘D study visa’.
  • Provide the following information with your application for a student visa:

o    Letter of acceptance from the higher education institute at which you will study (full time course, minimum of 15 hours study time / week)

o    Evidence of English language ability

o    Proof of fee payment in full

o    Evidence of funds (approximately €7,000) available for costs during first year of study

o    Evidence of access to a minimum of €7,000 living costs as well as cost of course fees for other years of degree programme

o    Proof of medical insurance

o    Explanation of any gaps in educational history

o    A confirmation of intent to return to home country on completion of degree. This can be through submission of a passport with a minimum of 6 months validity after the end of the course date.

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