Ireland’s higher education system
Not sure if the education system in Ireland 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 reflects the country’s emphasis on education, and how important it is to put in place a world-class system that can help graduates develop a competitive edge.
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?
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 or an 18-month postgraduate diploma. For teaching at a post-primary level, students typically complete a primary degree and then a postgraduate diploma.
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.
You can study a bachelor’s degree in a general field of study and this generally takes three to four years. In fields like architecture, veterinary science and dentistry, it takes around five years. Depending on your study programme, you may receive a bachelor’s degree as a General Degree, Honours Degree or BA (Special Degree).
Some universities also offer students the chance to complete an Honours degree, which is more intensive than a standard undergraduate programme. When an honours degree is completed, the word ‘Hons’ is added at the end of the degree title.
Postgraduate Some students gain postgraduate qualifications and these range from a postgraduate diploma and masters diploma, to a PhD.
Programmes may be teaching or research-based and are often more focused - taking a specialist approach to the area of study as compared to undergraduate levels.
• 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 with a longer duration each, rather than a continuous series of micro tasks. Students in Irish universities traditionally sit for exams to assess their progress, but these days, modules and courses are graded largely on assignments.
How do I prepare for 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 revising, catching up on readings and doing assignments. 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.
If you are feeling overly stressed, you can seek free counselling sessions through the student counselling service on campus.
What is plagiarism?
It is important to find out what is your faculty’s preferred referencing method for written assignments. Referencing work means crediting the source of ideas, sentences and phrases you use in your assignment. If you neglect this, it is called plagiarism and 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.