Ireland’s traditional reputation for educational excellence is
recognised the world over. Dating back to the Middle Ages, Ireland
– known as the Island of Saints and Scholars -provided education to
much of the western world: more recently, Irish writers such as
James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, WB Yeats, George Bernard Shaw and
Oscar Wilde, are studied around the world, while ongoing investment
in research and development has placed modern Ireland at the
cutting edge of science and technology.
Successive modern governments in Ireland have regarded education as
a key priority and today Ireland has one of the highest education
participation rates in the world, with almost half of young people
entering third-level education. Irish Universities, Colleges and
Institutes of Technology are acclaimed internationally for their
high academic standards, while the many established English
language schools have a well-founded reputation for quality.
Ireland is also a uniquely attractive place to live, with friendly
people and a wide range of cultural and sporting activities. In
2007, students from 142 countries pursued courses in Higher
Education in Ireland, with another 140,000 studying English here.
This international experience, together with its cultural links to
the English-speaking world, its intensive investment in research
and development, and its strong connections to industry, has been
central to Ireland’s development as a knowledge society in the new
Education Ireland was formally established to provide information
about Ireland as a centre for international education. Its website
as a central contact point for information about programmes
available in Irish Universities, Institutes of Technology and
private Colleges, and provides comprehensive links to other Irish
The Irish Education System
Education in Ireland is compulsory from age 6 to 16, or until
students have completed three years of secondary education.
However, most children start in primary education at the age of 4.
There are over 3,200 primary schools in Ireland, most of which
receive capital funding from the State, supplemented by local
contributions. The second-level sector comprises over 750
secondary, vocational, community and comprehensive schools.
Almost 60% of students attend secondary schools; 26% attend
vocational schools; and 14% attend community and comprehensive
schools. Second-level education consists of a three-year Junior
Cycle followed by a two or three-year Senior Cycle. In the Senior
Cycle, there is an optional Transition Year Programme. During the
final two years of Senior Cycle, students take either the
established Leaving Certificate; the Leaving Certificate Vocational
Programme or the Leaving Certificate Applied.
Third Level Education
The higher education system in Ireland is broad in scope and
encompasses the university sector, the technological sector, the
colleges of education and private independent colleges. The
institutions within the first three groupings are autonomous and
self-governing, but are substantially state funded.
The seven Universities in the Republic of Ireland offer
state-of-the-art training through a broad range of Bachelors,
Masters and PhD programmes. These Universities are attractive
destinations for Irish, European and international students,
reflecting the unique combination of a quality education and an
exciting cultural experience. Irish Universities are fully
integrated into the life of their cities and regions, with vibrant
student communities and social life.
Significant government investment in research and development makes
the Irish Universities an especially attractive destination for
young researchers and scholars. The Universities play a central
role in ensuring that Ireland continues to advance and becomes a
fully-fledged knowledge society. The receipt of significant funding
through the Government's Strategic Innovation Fund underpins their
performance in research and the output of highly-skilled graduates
with doctoral qualifications and post-doctoral experience. The
Universities have rigorous quality assurance procedures which
adhere to the highest international standards.
Institutes of Technology in Ireland
The 14 Institutes of Technology (IoTs) in the Republic of Ireland
offer programmes at levels 6 to 10 of the National Framework of
Qualifications. These include undergraduate programmes
leading to higher certificate awards, Ordinary Bachelors degrees,
Honours Bachelors degrees and post-graduate awards, both taught and
by research, leading to Masters and Doctoral degrees, in a wide
variety of subjects. Most have schools of Science, Engineering
& Technology, and Business. In addition, many of the Institutes
have developed special programmes in areas such as Humanities &
Languages; Paramedical Studies and Healthcare; Art & Design;
and Tourism. The quality assurance procedures of each Institute are
approved by the Higher Education and Training Award Council (HETAC).
The qualifications awarded by HETAC are internationally
recognised by academic; professional; trade; and craft bodies.
Private Higher Education Colleges
The various private independent colleges are mainly involved in
providing business and professional educational training. Courses
on offer include: Accountancy and Business Studies; Law;
Humanities; Hotel and Catering; Tourism Studies; and Art. Many of
the programmes offered by these colleges are validated by the
Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC) and some have
links with Universities and/or professional associations through
which the offered courses are accredited.
Fourth Level Education
Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) have a critical role to play
in ‘Fourth Level' or post-graduate education in Ireland.
Significant funding is provided for research being carried out in
the HEIs, much of it coming through the Higher Education
Authority’s Programme for Research in Third Level
Institutions (PRTLI), and major research initiatives funded by
Ireland. The Government’s 2006 Strategy for Science, Technology
and Innovation sets out a vision and roadmap for the coherent
development of research, technological development and innovation.
Government research support continues to increase under the
National Development Plan, 2007-2013.
English Language Sector
Ireland has a well-founded reputation for the excellent quality of
its English language services. The quality assurance body for the
sector in Ireland is the Advisory Council for English Language
Schools (ACELS) which administers an inspection scheme, leading to
recognition by the Department of Education and Science . A full list of
the over 110 quality-assured and recognised schools and
organisations (ELTOS) is available on the ACELS website.
These offer a wide variety of courses, and generally provide a full
package of tuition, accommodation and extra-curricular activities.
English language training can also be combined with sporting
activities such as angling, golf or tennis. The English language
sector is supported in its promotional activities by Fáilte Ireland.
The Education Ireland website acts as a central point of
contact for information on Irish education and on programmes
available in Irish Universities and colleges. It provides
up-to-date comprehensive information on courses; scholarships;
coming to Ireland; and learning English in Ireland (www.educationireland.ie).
Qualifications of Ireland (NQAI) is the Irish centre for the
recognition of international qualifications. If you have completed
a qualification outside Ireland, you may wish to have it assessed
in order to gain employment or undertake further studies in Ireland
Ireland's National Learners' Database. It is the "one stop shop"
for learners. Qualifax provides the most comprehensive information
on further and higher education and training courses in Ireland
The National Framework
of Qualifications (NFQ) provides a way to compare
qualifications, and to ensure that they are quality-assured and
recognised at home and abroad. Students are encouraged to use the
NFQ to identify the qualification they will achieve before making
decisions. Qualifications recognised through the NFQ are
quality-assured: this means that your course, and the institution
at which you study, are reviewed on an ongoing basis www.nfq.ie).
The Higher Education
and Training Awards Council (HETAC) develops, promotes and
maintains higher education and training awards to the highest
international standards and quality (www.hetac.ie).
Council for International Students (ICOS) promotes the general
welfare of international students (www.icosirl.ie).
The Irish Universities
Assocation (IUA) is the representative body for the seven Irish
The Institutes of
Technology of Ireland (IOTI) is the representative body for the
thirteen Irish institutes of technology (www.ioti.ie).
The Higher Education Colleges Association (HECA) is a
self-regulating association of independent third level colleges
formed in 1991 to represent the interests of its member colleges
and their students (www.heca.ie).
The Advisory Council
for English Language Schools (ACELS) is the quality assurance
body for English language teaching in Ireland. ACELS administers an
inspection/recognition scheme leading to recognition by the
Department of Education and Science (www.acels.ie).
Fáilte Ireland promotes the English language
Finance website is a convenient and user-friendly source of
information on financial support for further and higher education
in Ireland (www.studentfinance.ie).