If you are moving to Ireland in order to study or if you wish to enroll a child into a third-level college, 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 colleges of education (collectively known as higher education institutions, or HEIs).
Universities in Ireland are state-funded, but they are generally autonomous. You can choose from four 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 recognized colleges including the National College of Art and Design and the Royal College of Surgeons
-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. In the Dublin area they are Dublin, Tallght, Blanchardstown and Dun Laoghaire. Around the country they are in Cork, Waterford, Tralee, Dundalk, Athlone, Galway and Mayo, Sligo, Letterkenny, Limerick, and Carlow. These colleges run courses in Engineering, Computing, Science, Business, Catering and a wide range of other areas. Students generally qualify with Higher Certificates (Level 6) or Ordinary Bachelors degrees (Level 7). Honors Bachelors degrees (Level 8) are also available.
Colleges of education
There are several college of education in Ireland, providing specialized training for primary school teachers. Most of these are 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 Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC) 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 centralized 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 take 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 unless it is a college in the Institutes of Technology Central Evaluation Forum.
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. Colleges’ requirements differ but generally they look for an acceptable English language proficiency test, for example the TOEFL or equivalent. 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.
Visas and student visas
If you are traveling 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.
A small number of places are retained for mature students, those over the age of 23. These places are designed to improve access to third-level for adults who may not have sufficient points from their Leaving Certificate to compete with school-leavers. If you are interested in applying for one of these places, you should first contact the college of your choice. Some colleges require you to apply through the Central Applications Office and you must apply before 1 February of the year you start your course. There are a number of part-time and modular courses and distance education options available if the full-time education option does not suit your circumstances.
Free fees: If you are a European Union national or have official refugee status and you have been normally resident in a EU member state for at least three of the five years before beginning third-level education, you will not be charged fees for approved full-time undergraduate courses in state-run universities and Institutes of Technology, although you may have to pay a small amount for registration, exams, etc. You may be eligible for a maintenance grant. Funding is not awarded where students already hold an undergraduate degree.
EU fees: If you are an EU citizen or have official refugee status and you have received all your post-primary in the EU but have not been resident in an EU state for three of the five years before beginning third-level education you will qualify for EU fees. Alternatively, if you are not an EU citizen but you have been residing in an EU country for three of the last five years before entering third-level education you may be eligible for EU fees.
Non-EU fees: If you are applying for a place at third level as an overseas student, you will be charged full tuition fees and you will not be eligible for maintenance grants. If you choose to enroll in a private college, you will have to pay annual fees. These vary from college to college. Tax relief at standard rate is available for fees in approved private colleges.
How to apply
Apply to the Central Applications Office (CAO) using a CAO application form. Make sure that you enclose the appropriate fee with your application. For participating higher education institutions, application can be made online through the CAO.
Application deadlines for EU/EEA nationals
Your application should be submitted by 1 February of the year you wish to start the course.
If you miss the February deadline, you can submit your application up to 1 May. You will have to pay an additional “late fee”.
Application deadlines for non-EU nationals
If you are now, or have been in the past, resident outside the EU, you may be required to apply directly to the Higher Education Institute (HEI). You need to contact the Admissions office of the following HEIs to enquire whether you should apply through the CAO or directly to the HEI.
You should make your enquiries well before the closing date of 1 February and preferably not later than the previous 15 December. If you are applying to any other HEI you should apply through the CAO.
Where To Apply
Central Applications Office
Office Hours 9:30-17:15
+353 91 509 800
fax +353 91 562 344