The higher education system in Ireland is broad and varied. You should research the different types of institutions to decide which is best for you.
In Ireland you will find:
There are seven universities in Ireland. Irish universities tend to be fully incorporated into the life of their cities and regions and always encourage students to get involved in a wide range of extracurricular activities.
Universities offer degrees at bachelor's, master's and doctorate levels, along with undergraduate and postgraduate diplomas in a wide range of disciplines. Irish university degrees are fully recognised internationally, ensuring graduates from Irish universities can make full use of their qualifications across Europe and the rest of the world.
Colleges of education
These provide three-year, full-time courses in primary school teaching, resulting in a recognised teaching qualification.
Institutes of technology
The technology sector is overseen by the Higher Education Authority (HEA). There are fourteen institutes of technology located throughout Ireland offering programmes at levels six to ten of the National Framework of Qualifications. These involve undergraduate programmes leading to higher certificate awards or bachelor's degrees, and postgraduate awards leading to master's and doctoral degrees, in a wide variety of subjects. Most institutes have schools of science, engineering and technology, and business. Many also have programmes in other areas such as humanities and languages, art and design, tourism and healthcare.
All institutes can make awards up to Level 9 (master's) and about half of them can award up to Level 10 (doctorate); PhD degrees for the remainder are granted by the Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC).
Along with state-funded institutions, Ireland has a number of private institutions, mainly involved in business and professional education training. Many of the programmes offered by these colleges are validated by the HETAC and some have links with universities and/or professional associations through which the courses on offer are accredited. They usually offer a number of different degrees, certificates and diplomas. Although private institutions may offer better-funded facilities and smaller classes, they are likely to have considerably higher tuition fees.
English language schools
There are currently over 110 quality-assured English language teaching organisations in Ireland that are recognised by the Department of Education and Science. These offer a variety of courses, such as general English and more specialty courses such as Business English. Usually, a language school will offer a package inclusive of tuition, accommodation and other activities. English language schools are quality assured by the Administration and Co-ordination of English Language Services (ACELS), as part of the NQAI.
How to applyApplying to institutions abroad can be a lengthy process, so make sure you start gathering materials for your application early and research all the relevant application deadlines thoroughly. Being organised will help to make the process easier.
How to apply
The main system for applications to Irish institutions is the Central Applications Office (CAO). This will mainly be used by EU students, who can apply to any higher education institution in Ireland through the CAO. This centralised system allows you to apply to up to ten courses across multiple institutions in Ireland.
Students from outside the EU may need to apply to the institution directly. Contact each institution's Admissions Office to enquire whether application is through CAO or to the institution directly.
Full details about how to apply, and an explanation of the application and offers process, can be found in the CAO handbook. The CAO handbook contains all the information you will need to fill out your application and should answer any questions or concerns you may have.
- Online discounted rate - €30
- Normal application (online or paper) - €40
- Late online application - €60
- Late paper application - €80
- Change of mind - €0
It is your own responsibility to ensure that you submit your form on time. Avoid leaving it until close to the closing date, so that you have time to review your application if you wish. No extensions to the closing date will be given.
Entry requirements are often based on a scoring system and will vary between different institutions, so it is best to contact the international office of your chosen institution to find out what grades you will need for your course and how your own qualifications compare. For guidance on the scoring system or applications visit the Central Applications Office.
For those applying to institutes of technology, the Institutes of Technology Central Evaluation Forum (IOTCEF) provides a central scoring system for applicants presenting school leaving qualifications other than Irish Leaving Certificate and FETAC Level 5/6 examinations. This central evaluation process provides a guideline to the qualifications accepted. For more information, visit the IOTCEF website.
English language requirements
To study at third level in Ireland, students are required to demonstrate competency in the English language. Proof of competency includes completion of a relevant English language test, such as IELTS, TOEFL or Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE). You should contact your chosen institutions to ask which English language awards they are willing to accept.
National Framework of Qualifications
Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC)
Higher Education Authority (HEA)
National Framework of Qualifications
Accreditation and Co-ordination of English Language Services (ACELS)