Ireland has, in recent years, established itself as one of the most attractive destinations for international students looking to study in an English-speaking country.
Located next to the UK, yet unencumbered by the complications that have arisen as a result of Brexit, Ireland offers not only the chance at a world-class education (Ireland ranks in the 20 best education systems worldwide) but is also a convenient location for those looking to explore Europe, as it remains part of the EU.
Applying to study internationally is always an involved process that requires a lot of research and paperwork, however, it’s important that anybody thinking of going to study in Ireland does their homework beforehand.
Let’s take a look at the necessary steps when applying to study in Ireland.
Universities in Ireland
There are, perhaps surprisingly, a mere seven universities in Ireland. These are located in Galway, Dublin, Cork, Maynooth, and Limerick. All seven of these universities fall within the top 650 universities worldwide, with one (Trinity College Dublin) cracking the top 100.
In addition to these universities, Ireland also has 14 institutes of technology.
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Entry Requirements for Universities in Ireland
Entry requirements to study in Ireland vary from university to university, and it will be necessary to check with the university to which you’re looking to apply.
That said, as a bare minimum you will need to have completed upper secondary education (a high school diploma or the equivalent in your home country). Some universities may also require SATs, A-levels, IB Diploma, or additional tests.
If English is not your first language, you will also need to complete an English-language proficiency course, or otherwise produce proof of English proficiency (for instance, a minimum IELTS or TOEFL score as dictated by the university).
Applying to Study Abroad in Ireland
Before applying to universities in Ireland, it’s worth considering that the process is different depending on whether you’re an EU or non-EU student.
If you are an EU applicant, you can apply for all undergraduate courses via the Central Applications Office. The CAO offers a handbook that lists all of the courses offered in Ireland, as well as instructions and guidelines on how to apply for each one.
Do I Qualify as an EU Applicant?
You are an EU applicant if you satisfy one of the following conditions:
- You are ordinarily resident in the EU and have completed full-time secondary school education, and/or have worked full-time in the EU for three out of the five years prior to applying.
- You hold an EU passport and have completed full-time secondary school education in the EU.
- You hold official refugee status.
- You have been granted humanitarian leave to remain in Ireland and have been ordinarily resident in the EU for three of the five years prior to your application.
The parents of applicants aged 23 or under must also satisfy one of these conditions in order for their child to be eligible.
Non-EU applicants must directly contact the university to which they’d like to apply; there are no universal standards for international students.
In addition, it will be necessary to demonstrate a minimum level of English-language competence before being considered eligible. A number of English-language certificates are accepted including GCSE English, IELTS, Cambridge Proficiency and Advanced.
What Paperwork Will I Need?
In order to apply, you will need the following documents:
- A personal statement;
- Your school leaving certificate (high school diploma, IB diploma or equivalent);
- Transcripts of your school/college grades;
- Reference letters (if applicable);
- Certificate of English-language proficiency (if applicable).
How Much Are Tuition Costs to Study in Ireland?
For EU applicants, tuition is paid by the HEA (Higher Education Authority) through the Irish Free Fees Initiative. Note that you must have been resident in the EU for three of the past five years in order to qualify for this, and it must be your first time entering higher (university) education in Ireland.
Non-EU applicants are not eligible for HEA support. The cost for an undergraduate course varies from year to year and from course to course; on average, however, expect to pay from around 10,000 euros/year (for a business course or degree) up to 55,000 euros/year (for a course or degree in medicine or health).
Note: University courses in Ireland are the equivalent of degrees or academic majors in the USA.
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Applying for your Student Visa
Assuming your university application is successful, it’s time for the next step: getting your student visa.
In order to apply for your student visa, you will require the following documents:
- A signed copy of your application form;
- Your original passport and a full copy of all previous passports;
- An application letter explaining your reasons for going to Ireland, and affirming your commitment not to become a burden on the state during your time there;
- A letter of acceptance from your university;
- A full history of your education/employment, with explanations for any gaps;
- A copy (or copies) of any proof(s) of payment for university fees;
- A copy (or copies) of your school leaving certificate (high school diploma);
- Evidence of your English (or Irish) language ability;
- Evidence that you are able to financially support yourself in Ireland;
- Proof of private medical insurance;
- Details of previous Irish visa refusals (if any);
- A ‘summary of finances’ form detailing all income and expenditure while in Ireland, including housing and study fees.
You will also need to pay a 300 euro administrative fee upon approval for the visa; note that you do not need to pay this if your application is rejected.
Scholarships to Study in Ireland
Non-EU students unable to afford the tuition fees should not despair, however. Hundreds of scholarships to study in Ireland are available, including 60 from the Irish Higher Education Authority. For a full list of all currently available Irish scholarships, look here. Additionally, take a look at our MacQuil.com Scholarships page for a comprehensive directory of scholarships and tuition-free programs.
Whether you’re interested in studying in Ireland as an EU citizen or as an international student, we hope that this guide has been of some use to you in your journey.
Although applying to study in Ireland can seem quite daunting initially, remember that if your high school certificate reflects your academic excellence, your chances of receiving a letter of acceptance are high. Simply make sure to follow the proper steps, and you’ll soon be joining thousands of other international students on the Emerald Isle!
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Ireland ranks in the 20 best education systems worldwide. All 7 Irish universities fall within the top 650 universities worldwide. Besides excellent academics, Ireland is known for being the friendliest country in Europe. Ireland is also considered a safe, warm and welcoming country. Additionally, as part of the EU, Ireland offers free fees to EU citizens.
That depends on your program of study. For example, an undergraduate business course (business degree) may cost around 10,000 EUR/year, and a medicine program may cost up to 55,000 EUR/year. Additionally, living costs range between 550-1,000 EUR/month.
Yes. Several Irish universities offer scholarships to international students who meet their award requirements. Some scholarships may be partial, some may cover study abroad terms, and others are for citizens from specific countries. The Government of Ireland also awards 60 scholarships to students from one-year master’s degrees and doctorate programs.
If you are from a non-English speaking country and studied in a language other than English, then you will need to submit mimimum scores. Most Irish universities accept IELTS scores, TOEFL scores, and Cambridge Proficiency scores. Trinity College Dublin, for example, requires a 6.5 IELTS score or a 90 TOEFL ibt score.
Denisse is a global education and communications consultant, as well as the main person behind MacQuil. As an international mentor and frequent traveler, she enjoys sharing information to help anyone travel, study or work abroad.
Denisse holds a Master's in Management from GWU, a Master's in Education from Harvard University and an Executive Coaching Certificate from the University of Cambridge.