Everything you need to know before going to study in Ireland – education system, visa requirement and process, Indians living in Ireland, post-study options and more.
1. About the country
Education in Ireland is free at all levels for Irish nationals and resident of the European Union. This includes university education as well. However, this benefit is not applicable for international students.
Entry into undergraduate courses (ordinary and honours degree courses) is generally done through the Central Applications Office (CAO). This way, prospective students to university apply through the CAO rather than applying at individual universities. The autumn intake in Ireland starts from September and the spring intake begins from February. Some universities may have enrollments throughout the year as well.
Popular student destinations: The top universities in Ireland are Trinity College, National College of Ireland, University College Dublin, Griffith College, National University of Ireland Galway, Waterford Institute of Technology, IBAT College Dublin, Maynooth University, Cork Institute of Technology, Dublin City University in no particular order. Most of the best colleges in the country are situated in cities like Dublin, Limerick and Galway. The estimated number of Indian students in Ireland right now is about 5000. Language and Literature, Business Studies, Medical courses, Nursing, and Social sciences are the popular courses Indian students pursue in Ireland.
Safety in Ireland: Travelling through Ireland is not dangerous at all. The greatest danger you may face could be pickpockets who might simply snatch your bag, which is a risk anywhere in the world. Other than that the country is safe for people of Indian origin, as racist hate crimes are uncommon.
Weather: Ireland’s climate is heavily influenced by the Atlantic Ocean, so the warm ocean currents keep temperatures mild. Average temperature in winters is 2°C to 7°C. In summers it is 17°C to 20°C. Apart from a few cold weeks, snow is scarce in Ireland.
Indians living in Ireland
There are around 60,000 – 100,000 Indians residing in Ireland currently. Cities like Galway, Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Athlone are the regions where most Indians reside.
2. Student life
Firstly, you need to decide whether you want to live in university managed accommodation, or with a private landlord. Choosing university managed accommodation can also give you a catered or self-catered option. Catered accommodation offers the benefits of your meals being cooked for you and a degree of certainty with meal costs.
If you have an idea about what you prefer, the accommodation office at your university will be able to tell you what accommodation they have available, so that’s the place to start. If you are thinking of renting from a private landlord or if your chosen university can’t offer you anything in its own residential premises, the accommodation office should be able to provide you with a list of private properties and landlords in the area.
Wherever you choose to live, you should make sure that you know your contractual rights and responsibilities. In most cases you will be asked to enter into a tenancy agreement, which you should read thoroughly before you sign.
Orientation week is mandatory for international students so ensure that you arrive before it starts. This is the time where you will be introduced to the university and its services, as well as enroll in your classes. It is essential that you read your guidebook, which is provided by the college. The guide explains each part of the admission process.
Along with sports, colleges offer extra-curricular activities offering students a wide range of experiences. Music, drama, science and literary societies are offered in all colleges, and there will be opportunities for outdoor education and other leisure activities. Visits to theatres and concerts, to places relevant to the courses of study such as art galleries and museums, religious centers or historical sites, scientific companies and projects are all part of college life.
3. Admission process
For each course, a minimum academic record of 60% and above in Standard XII will be required. Foundations and Diploma programs are available for students who have secured around 50%. The student should have completed 18 years of age before joining a degree program. It is important to remember that even though entry requirements are lower at Irish universities, the standards are not. So you need to think carefully beforehand whether you will be able to cope with the high standard of education through the course of next few years or not.
The following documents also need to be submitted:
- Mark sheets of Standard X, XII, and the bachelor’s degree (if applicable)
- Internet-based TOEFL or IELTS scores
- If you have work experience then two letters of recommendation (LOR) from the employer/manager who knows you well and can comment on your professional abilities
- Statement of Purpose
- Portfolio (in case of students applying for art and design courses or architecture programs)
- Others (Certificates / achievements at the state and national level and extracurricular activities)
- Proof of funds
- Health insurance
- A copy of your passport
Photocopies of these documents should be translated in English and certified by the educational institution or by notary.
Admission process: For undergraduate courses, Irish universities accept applications through Central Applications Office (CAO) an online enrolment system.
You will have to make an account on the CAO website to provide your basic information, submit the scanned version of your documents, score of TOEFL/IELTS and pay application fees. You will be informed about the application process and its stages through this account.
Application fee: All colleges require that you pay an application fee while applying. The fee amount will differ depending upon the college and course being applied to, so check with individual colleges about their application fee.
Steps: The common steps to applying for admission are as follows:
- Search for colleges and courses
- Contact schools and visit websites for information
- Narrow down your list of schools
- Take the language exams like TOEFL or IELTS
- Write Statement of Purpose, and ask for Letters of Recommendation
- Register at Central Applications Office
- Apply to the colleges which fit your interests
- Appear for video interviews of the colleges that shortlisted you (if applicable)
- If accepted, apply for Study Visa
Statement of Purpose: A Statement of Purpose is your introduction to the college and admission officers. It is always written in first person and describes the reason for applying to a particular college. It needs to highlight why you are a perfect fit for the college and why the college should accept you. The style of writing could differ from formal to casual, but it is important to remember that it should reflect your personality as well.
Essay: Essays are also required to be submitted by a prospective student. Essays are an important part of the university admissions process. Students may be required to write one or two essays, along with a few optional essays too. Common topics include career aspirations, strengths and weaknesses, skills, experiences, and reasons for considering a particular school.
LoR: A letter of recommendation (LoR) is a reference letter written by a third party describing the qualities, characteristics, and capabilities of the prospective student to recommend him to the college in terms of that individual’s ability to perform a particular task or function. The third party could be a professor, direct manager etc.
Irish universities have one major enrolment season, which is the autumn intake in September. Some universities admit students for January sessions as well.
International English Language Testing System (IELTS), Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) are standardized language tests, which are required to be taken for the purpose of getting admission to colleges. These follow different formats, structure and result bands. These tests are all different in various ways but many colleges ask for any one of the results. So it’s up to the student to decide which exam to appear for.
Repetition of exams: IELTS can be taken unlimited number of times. TOEFL can be retaken as many times as wished, but cannot be taken more than once in a 12-day period. You must wait to receive your scores before you can book your next test.
Fee: The fee for these exams is Rs. 11,100 for IELTS and Rs. 12,000 for TOEFL.
5. Cost of living
The cost of living depends heavily on what part of Ireland you will be living in along with how much you will socialize. The currency of Ireland is Euro. Some of the basic elements for living as an international student in Ireland are:
- Accommodation rent (on-campus or off-campus)
- Groceries and food
- Utilities like power, water, internet etc.
- Phone bills
- Text and reference books
- Airfare for traveling back to India
Other elements which may differ from person to person would be:
- Dinning out
- Travel and vacation
- Car rent and car insurance
- Cable TV connection
The average tuition costs for attending a college in Ireland will vary according to the school, the course and the city your school is located in. The average rates for tuition vary from about €10,500 and €30,000 per year. This amount varies and is based on a number of factors. There is no tuition fee for EU residents and the complete education is free, however international students are supposed to bear their course costs.
On an average, an international student needs approximately €600 to €1000 per month in Ireland. Prices differ a lot in the big cities and small towns all across Ireland, with Dublin being the most expensive city to live in.
|Meal, inexpensive café||€15|
|Milk (one liter)||€1|
|Coca Cola can||€1.4|
|Lunch from campus cafe||€7.5|
|Meal at a restaurant||€55|
|One minute cell phone call||€0.26|
|Taxi 1 km||€1.25|
|Petrol 1 liter||€1.3|
|1 room apartment in city center||€1,029|
|1 room apartment in suburbs||€863|
The Irish immigration service requires that all international students have at least a basic policy covering emergency medical expenses. Proof of insurance is required at the time of applying for study visa. Medical insurance meeting the requirements laid down by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) will most likely be available through your college. Many colleges have group medical insurance scheme to offer which costs a lot less. The premium for this policy is likely to cost between €100 and €150.
Student Eligibility criteria: The first thing is to be aware of whether you are eligible to apply for the loan or not. The general eligibility criteria that are followed by all the banks are:
- You should be an Indian national
- You must have a strong academic record
- You must be seeking admission to a professional, technical or other course of study. Most banks maintain that the selected course should be job oriented
- You must have secured admission to a foreign university/institution
- You must be above the age of 18 years or else your parents can avail the loan
Eligibility of course: You may not get a loan on every course. Here are the kinds of courses that qualify for the education loan.
For Graduation: Job oriented professional or technical courses offered by reputed universities
For Post-Graduation: MCA, MBA, MS or even diplomas
These courses could be from foreign universities or institutes approved by the state and central government
Loan amount: If your total fee is Rs.10 lakh, the bank may offer to give a loan of 80% of the amount and you will have to put in the balance 20%. This is called the margin amount. The maximum loan amount for studies abroad is generally around Rs.20 lakh by the bank. If your tuition fees amount is Rs.30 lakh, you’ll have to manage the rest of the funds by yourself. Some banks charge a processing fee, while others don’t. It may be a fixed amount or a percentage of the total loan amount. So if the bank charges you one per cent as processing fee, that will be an additional cost you’ll have to cover.
Documentation required: You will have to provide the acceptance letter sent by the university reflecting that you have been selected for the course and the schedule of fees. You will also need to show the mark sheet of the last qualifying examination to show your academic record.
All banks have different requirement for documentation, so you need to confirm with the bank first.
Repayment: Repayment starts only after the course period. If the student gets employed within one year after completion of the course, the repayment should start immediately after expiry of one month from the date of employment.
If you do not secure a job within a year of completing the course, then repayment starts irrespective of whether or not you are employed. The loan is generally to be repaid in 5-7 years after commencement of repayment. If the student is not able to complete the course within the scheduled time extension for completion of course, he may be permitted for a maximum period of two years. Generally, you will get up to a maximum number of 10 years to repay the loan.
You will need a study visa to be able to study in Ireland. Remember before applying that you need to show funds of at least €7000 in your bank account at the time of applying for the study visa. This amount equals the cost of living in Ireland for an international student for one academic year. Also you need to be able to prove that you or your parents/sponsor will be able to provide at least €7000 for each year of your studies, in addition to the course fee.
To apply for a study visa, you’ll need to:
- Pay your first tuition fee instalment to the University
- Prepare your documents and their copies. (See below for list of required documents for the visa)
- Submit the online application
- Pay the application fee of €300
You should provide the following documents for the study visa:
- A recent passport sized photograph
- Letter of acceptance from a recognized Irish university confirming that you have been accepted for a full-time course.
- Scores of either IELTS or TOEFL
- Proof of payment of tuition fees
- Bank statement as proof of enough funds (€7000) required to cover the cost of living for the first year of stay in Ireland.
- Evidence that you or your parents/sponsor have access to at least €7000 for following years of study as living costs.
- Private medical insurance papers
Students who are pursuing full-time course and are in possession of the GNIB (Garda National Immigration Bureau) registration card can work for 20 hours part-time per week. There are two standardized periods when international students are allowed to work full-time, which is for up to 40 hours per week. The periods are 15th December to 15th January and 1st May to 31st August. These dates correspond to the traditional summer and winter holidays. Note that these dates are fixed for all international students, regardless of the actual teaching calendar for their course.
Visa for spouse
As a general rule non-EU international students studying in Ireland have no right to bring their family with them. Spouses and children of international students can apply to live in Ireland separately, but not on the basis of their relationship to a student.
The Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Authority (INIS) might consider exemption for certain cases from this policy. For example if a student is pursuing PhD studies (Level 10) and will be required to complete their doctorate within four years might be allowed to be joined by their partners and children.
7. Checklist before departure
- Book airline tickets
- Buy travel and health insurance
- Arrange accommodation in Ireland
- Arrange transportation to/from the airport to home in Ireland
- Check baggage and customs limitations
- Clear all paperwork with your home educational institution
Get your documents in order and make photocopies to store in your baggage and keep at home, including:
- Airline tickets
- Travel insurance certificate
- Letter of Acceptance by the educational institution
- Key addresses and phone numbers
- A bank statement showing proof of funds
- Prescriptions for any medication you are carrying
- Traveler’s cheques—if applicable
- Medical and immunization records
- Academic history and university transcripts
8. Once you land
Homesickness: Homesickness is a predictable problem faced by most students at one point or another. It may occur at the beginning or even well into your year. Homesickness will pass. Be patient. Give it at least two weeks. If you are feeling sad, explain what is happening to your friends. Do not hide in your room; if you do, the feeling will only worsen. Find your counselor staff with whom you can talk about homesickness or other problems. Homesickness might be made worse by frequent, long telephone calls home. Most homesick students feel more homesick after a call home than they did before they picked up the phone. Try to limit yourself to one call home every week. The sooner you integrate into the university experience, the sooner your homesickness will pass.
Learning basic cooking: Cooking for yourself will save you money. Indian food is expensive in Ireland. It will also satisfy your urge to eat “your food” during moments of cultural shock. Indian spices are not commonly available in smaller cities, but there are often shops on campus where you can get ingredients used in most Indian food. The most popular and easily accessible supermarkets in Ireland are Dunnes Stores, Tesco, Supervalu, Aldi and Lidl etc.
Transportation: Public transport is very expensive in big cities like Dublin. On average one month student pass for the public buses will cost you around €105. That is why most people travel on cycles, and that includes senior professors as well. A decent bike will cost €120-160 or you can choose to rent one on monthly basis.
9. Post Studies options
Most universities have career advisors and workshops meant to improve your soft skills and assist in your job search. Irish universities don’t follow that concept of ‘campus placements’ as it is understood in India. Students find jobs on their own; the college only helps you prepare for the job. Most Irish study programs include a trainee-ship or an internship.
A person who qualifies for ‘Third Level Graduate Scheme’ scheme (level 8 or upwards qualification) will be granted a 12 month extension, starting from the day they receive their exam results.
After that you will have to apply for a work visa under the ‘Work Permit Scheme’. This scheme is for non-EU citizens in situations where there may be labor shortages. A work visa is initially issued for up to two years and is renewable after that.