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Ireland’s higher education system

Not sure if Ireland’s education system is for you? Take a look at the multiple study options you have as an international student

Education has been prized in Ireland throughout its long and sometimes difficult history. Today Ireland’s higher education system offers excellent programmes for international students of all ages. More than one in ten full-time students come from overseas.

Most education institutions receive government funding. This means the standard of education is very high and international students who graduate here have a competitive advantage worldwide.

Higher education is provided mainly by universities, institutes of technology and colleges of education. A number of other third level institutions provide specialist education in professions like medicine and law.

The institution you choose depends on the subject area you’re interested in, and the level of qualification you’re looking for.

What are the higher education institutions in Ireland?

University

There are seven universities in Ireland, all ranked in the top 3% of institutions worldwide. Undergraduate and postgraduate degree programs are offered across a broad range of study areas. Irish universities have international offices to help international students adjust to academic life and join in social activities on campus.

Institute of Technology

Ireland has 14 Institutes of Technology which provide education and training study programmes in areas like business, science, engineering, linguistics and music. Study options are available at certificate, diploma and degree level, with different courses and entry requirements at each institution.

College of Education

Colleges of Education provide specialised training for students who wish to become school teachers. This can be achieved via either a three-year Bachelor of Education and an 18-month postgraduate diploma. For teaching at a post-primary level, students typically complete a primary degree and then a postgraduate diploma.

Private College

Private colleges offer specialist education and training in areas like vocational training, medicine, law, business studies and agriculture.  Students gain qualifications at vocational, certificate or degree levels.

Irish universities offer international students places on English foundation programmes to help improve their language skills. Minimum requirements are typically equivalent to IELTS 5.0.

What type of degrees can I study?

Undergraduate

You can study a bachelor’s degree in a general field of study and this generally takes around three-four years full time. In fields like architecture, veterinary science and dentistry, it takes around five years. Depending your study programme, you may receive a bachelor’s degree as a General Degree, Honours Degree or BA (Special Degree).

Postgraduate

Some students gain postgraduate qualifications, and these may be a postgraduate diploma, masters diploma or a PhD.

Programs may be teaching or research-based. This type of study is more focused and takes a more specialist approach to the area of study than undergraduate level study.

  • Postgraduate diplomas are often vocationally oriented, and directly linked to specific professions.
  • Master’s degrees are usually one to two years in length and usually involve coursework and a thesis.
  • PhD studies are usually take three years to complete

What is a third level degree?

A third level degree is a degree gained in college or university, in other words a bachelor’s degree.

Study methods in Ireland

How will I be assessed?

This depends on what you study, but you will generally complete fewer tasks which are longer in length, rather than smaller tasks which are continuously assessed. Students in Irish universities traditionally take examinations to assess their progress, but nowadays in Ireland, many modules and courses have no examinations and are graded largely on assignments.

How do I prepare for examinations?

Examinations (exams) usually happen at the end of semesters. This is called ‘sitting’ exams’. You will need to prepare for exams throughout the year by reading and doing assignments. You will also need to revise the material you have already covered in the weeks before the exam. It’s a good idea to ask your tutor or university library for copies of past exams, to give you some practice in answering the questions.

Exams can be challenging, especially for international students. If you are feeling overly stressed, you can usually access free counselling through the student counselling service on campus.

What is plagiarism?

It is very important to find out how your department prefers you to reference material when writing assignments. Referencing work means crediting the source of ideas, sentences and phrases you use in your assignment. If you don’t do this, it is called plagiarism and this is considered a serious offence.

If you have used a sentence word-for-word from another author in your assignment, you must put the sentence in quotation marks and reference the author. The same rule applies if you reproduce an author’s idea, even if you express it in your own words.

You can ask your tutor for guidance if you are unsure. 

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