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Studying in Ireland

Ireland offers a diverse range of higher education institutions from traditional Universities to the more recently established Institutes of Technology, Colleges of Education and Independent Colleges.  A broad choice of courses is offered across all disciplines.  The Universities also offer Academic Year, Semester and Summer Programmes -many with credit transfer arrangements.

Although a number of educational institutions are clustered around the capital city Dublin and the other main urban centres, each region of the country is strongly represented by high quality third level institutions.

  • Universities – There are 7 state-funded universities located in the south of Ireland
  • Institutes of Technology – There are 14 located around the country
  • Colleges of education – There are several colleges of education providing specialised training for primary school teachers
  • Private 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

A full list is available on the Education in Ireland website – Where can I study?

Choosing a course

QualifaX is Ireland’s National Learners’ Database. It is the “one stop shop” for learners and provides the most comprehensive information on further and higher education and training courses –

The points system

Entrance to third-level education 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.

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 –

Finance contains a wealth of financial information for students including:

  • Student Grant
  • Fund for Students with Disabilities
  • Student Assistance Fund
  • Back to Education Allowance
  • Course Fees
  • Other Finance: Bursaries & Scholarships
  • Postgraduate Students

Cross-border issues

Recognition of qualifications – If you have taken your secondary school exams in Northern Ireland, you may 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.  Further information is available on the CAO website:  Applicant Scoring for GCE/GCSE – for applicants from 2016


  • The All Ireland Scholarship Scheme, which is funded by JP McManus, provides significant financial support to high achieving students from challenging economic backgrounds
  • North South scholarships: Universities Ireland offers bursaries to students undertaking a recognised Master’s course (taught or research) in the other Irish jurisdiction –
    NOTE: these are awarded annually, so check the website to see when the applications for the scheme opens.

Tuition Fees for Northern residents studying in the South

Students from Northern Ireland who study at colleges in the Republic of Ireland are not required to pay tuition fees. Under the present arrangements Northern Ireland students attending courses at publicly funded colleges in the Republic of Ireland have their tuition fees paid by the Irish Government.  All students pay a contribution charge. For the academic year 2017-2018 this is €3,000. Students will receive sterling value of £2,417.70 please see guidelines.

See also:

Page last checked: September 2017

This webpage is for general information purposes only and while we endeavour to keep it up-to-date, errors may occur.  It is very important that you check with the relevant body to ensure the information is current and is applicable to your situation.

If you would like to suggest amendments or highlight new information that could be useful to others please don’t hesitate to get in touch.