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Education system in Ireland

Know how the Irish education system works!

Academic excellence, internationally-recognised qualifications, vibrant campus life, abundant growth in research, and immense employment opportunities, education in Ireland will offer you all.

Study levels in Ireland

The Irish education system is quite similar to that of the UK which in itself explains the quality it provides to its students. Education in Ireland is mainly categorised in four levels.

  • Primary education including pre-primary
  • Post primary education
  • Further education and training
  • Higher education

National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ)

The NFQ specifies the standards of Irish education qualifications. It measure and compares the learning standards and achievements of qualifications and also facilitates the transfer between institutions i.e. it allows students to move from one study level to another as long as their student visa requirements are fulfilled. Since the qualifications under NFQ correspond with that of European Qualification Framework, your degree is recognised and accepted globally.

Note that the both Irish universities, Institutes of Technology and HECA private colleges provide third-level qualifications on the NFQ.

Fee structure

Ireland is a great place to enjoy a world-class education, quality of life and colourful confluence of culture. While the tuition fee in Ireland is reasonable, it is best to plan well to manager your expenses well. Tuition fees for international students vary according to the type and duration of the course. Each university in Ireland sets its own tuition fees, depending on subject and level of study. The average degree costs between €10,000 and €25,000 a year.

Teaching and learning style

Universities and colleges in Ireland provide an interactive and innovative learning approach wherein you’ll be engaging with your classmates and your instructor alike while understanding the topic/concept of discussion. Irish system reaches out to support international students, both in the classroom and outside of it.

You’ll be expected to do a lot of independent learning which can include working on assignments, reading a lot of academic lists and making notes during your lectures. In addition to lectures, tutorials are also conducted to helps students understand the concepts in a better manner. The classroom size is small and English is the medium of instruction. As an International student, you may take some time to get used to the Irish accent but once you do, you’ll know why it is called the most charming accent of the world.

Higher (or third-level) education

The higher education comprises universities, colleges, and institutes of technology, most of which are Irish government funded. Ireland has a total of 7 universities, 7 colleges of education, 15 private higher education institutions and 14 Institutes of Technology (IoT). There a few additional third-level private institutions in Ireland that offer specialised education in disciplines like business studies, art and design, law, medicine, etc.

Higher education can entail degree and non-degree programs.

Non-degree programs



Level 6

Higher certificate (mostly offered by IoTs)

Duration: 2 years

Level 7

Higher diploma

Duration: 1 year

Level 8

Graduate diploma

Duration: 1 year

Level 9

Postgraduate diploma

Duration: 1-2 years

Degree programs



Level 7

Bachelor’s degree

Duration: 3 years (medicine, dentistry, veterinary science,and architecture programs may be for 5-6 years)

Level 8

Honours bachelor’s degree

Duration: 3-4 years

Level 9

Master’s degree

Duration: Mostly 1 years with exception to certain courses that may extend to 16-24 months

Level 10

Doctoral degree

Duration: 3 years of research followed by dissertation

Pathway programs

There are also many pathway programs to higher education for international students including foundation studies mostly in business, social sciences, engineering or pure/applied sciences. Irish universities have arranged with private pathway providers that helps students receive the extra support and assistance they need to succeed. International students aiming for masters can also apply to pre-master pathway programs if they’re unable to fulfil the requirements for direct entry.

Academic year

Higher education is usually divided into two semesters.

First semester: Starts in September and runs till December
One-month Christmas break: December/January
Second semester: Starts late January and runs till May
Summer break:  May till early September

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.

Ready to get started? Book a FREE appointment to discuss your study options in Ireland .

Recommended articles

Why study in Ireland

Ireland has one of the best education systems in the world and there are many reasons to study here. Schools and universities are globally connected and graduates of Irish education institutions have access to opportunities in many different careers all over the world.

Student visa for Ireland

Before you get on the plane, there are some important documents you’ll need. If you are from a non-EU (non-European) country, you will most likely need a student visa for Ireland. Don’t worry, we’re here to help with all that boring paperwork!

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