Third Level Education in Ireland
If you are moving to Ireland in order to study, you will need to explore the full range of options available to you.
The third-level education sector in Ireland consists of universities, Institutes of Technology, and teacher training colleges.
Universities in Ireland are state-funded, but they are generally autonomous. You can choose from 4 universities in Ireland. These include:
- The National University of Ireland (NUI), which is the umbrella university covering University College Dublin, University College Galway, University College Cork, and St Patrick's College in Maynooth. The NUI also has 3 recognised colleges. These are the National College of Art and Design, the Royal College of Surgeons and St. Angela's College of Education.
- The University of Dublin, which is generally known as Trinity College Dublin (TCD)
- The University of Limerick (UL)
- Dublin City University (DCU)
Institutes of Technology
There are 14 Institutes of Technology located around the country. There are colleges located in Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Tralee, Dundalk, Athlone, Galway, Sligo, Letterkenny, Limerick, Castlebar and Carlow. These colleges run courses in Engineering, Computing, Science, Business, Catering and a wide range of other areas.
Students generally qualify with a National Certificate or Diploma, although Degree courses are also available in some colleges.
Colleges of Education
There are five Colleges of Education in Ireland, providing specialised training for primary school teachers. These are all located in Dublin, with the exception of the Mary Immaculate College of Education, which is based in Limerick.
In addition to the state-funded colleges, there are a number of fee-paying third-level educational institutions offering courses, mainly in professional vocational training and business. Some of these colleges are linked to universities or professional associations and their qualifications may be accredited accordingly. Others offer National Council For Educational Awards (NCEA) accreditation. It is important to check out the accreditation on offer before you choose your course.
Picking a course
The Central Applications Office (CAO), which is based in Galway, operates a centralised applications procedure for all third-level colleges. The CAO produces an annual booklet listing all of the third-level courses on offer through their system. This is a useful place to start. Pick out a small number of courses that are of particular interest and send away to the relevant colleges for further, detailed information.
The Points System
Entrance to third-level education in Ireland is generally decided by competition. At the end of their secondary school education, students sit the Leaving Certificate exam and their grades are converted into numerical points based on scores in their 6 best subjects. These points are calculated and third-level places are awarded on that basis.
Recognition of qualifications from other countries
If you have taken your secondary school exams under another system in another country, you will need to check whether your qualifications will be sufficient to secure a place in the Irish third-level course of your choice. Contact the college directly to confirm this before making your application.
English Language Requirements
English is the language of instruction at all third-level colleges in Ireland (some colleges also instruct in the Irish language) so you will need to show that you are proficient in the language before you will be accepted on a course. You may be able to take English courses at the college of your choice, but if these are not available there are a number of private English language colleges around the country.
If you are travelling from a country that requires a visa to enter Ireland, you should contact the Irish diplomatic mission in your home country before you travel. If there is no such diplomatic mission in your country, write well in advance to the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin, and ask for a visa application form. You will be asked to provide:
A valid passport number
The date of issue and the expiry date of your passport
The date, place and mode of your arrival in Ireland
A letter from the college that has offered you a place
A letter explaining where you will get sufficient funds to cover fees and maintenance
Recent passport photographs
Visa application fee.