What does Ireland offer international students?

Find out and explore what makes Ireland such a unique destination for international students. We explore the institutions, lifestyle and culture.

12 AUG 2020


A distinctive culture, world-class universities and unrivaled natural beauty, Ireland has heaps to offer international students. While rightly gaining its reputation as ‘the emerald isle’ for green rolling hills and dramatic coastal views, there is so much more to Ireland. Take your pick of the lively cities, each with their own charm and appeal. From the modern architecture of Dublin to the traditional music of Galway, there are many types of experiences to be had in Ireland.


Top institutions

While there are just eight universities in Ireland, many rank highly in global league tables. Therefore, a qualification from an Irish institution will be recognised and respected in many parts of the world. There are different types of institutions, from universities to small private colleges and larger student communities such as Dublin Business School which enrolls roughly 9,000 students. Many of the universities are steeped in history, offering both traditional architecture and close proximity to a buzzing city life.

Find out more about the Irish higher education system.


Three Irish institutions were ranked as the top three universities in Ireland (QS World University Rankings 2020). Check out their profiles for more information on popular degree programmes, graduate outcomes, scholarships, facilities and more.



For more inspiration and advice, check out our guide on three fields to study in Ireland.


Tuition and funding in Ireland


EU/EEA students

In general, students from countries within the EU are not required to pay tuition fees at Irish universities. This is part of Ireland’s free fees initiative where the Higher Education Authority pays the fees for eligible students. However, it does depend on the institution so make sure you check their website first.


Contribution fee

While tuition may be free for these students, both international and EU/EEA students must pay an annual contribution fee of up to EUR 3,000 to cover the costs of student services like clubs and societies, examinations and the library. Yet, this cost per year is far lower than typical tuition fees in other popular study destinations. This makes Ireland very appealing to students who would be paying much higher fees in other countries.


Non-EU/EEA students

If you live outside the EU/EEA, you will have to pay tuition fees. Average costs are:

Undergraduate courses: EUR 9,850 to EUR 55,000 per year

Postgraduate and PhD courses: EUR 9,950 to EUR 35,000 per year

As you can see, the fees can vary considerably depending on the course, university and location. So we recommend you use our course matcher tool to find a programme and university in Ireland to see more specific fees and what may match your budget.


Member of the EU

Unlike the UK, Ireland remains part of the EU. This means that students in Ireland still have access to Erasmus+ schemes which offer work and study placements in EU countries. Universities in Ireland therefore benefit from EU investment in addition to free movement of people, encouraging lecturers from the EU to share their expertise at different Irish universities. As the UK has now left the EU, Ireland is becoming more and more attractive to international students.

Ireland’s unique culture


Ireland has its own set of unique traditions and customs which sets it apart from other countries. Firstly, sport plays a major role in Irish culture which feeds into much of life in Ireland. Rugby is particularly popular, with competitions like the Six Nations gaining international recognition. Other common sports include football and cricket which can be enjoyed in the many famous stadiums, such as the Aviva stadium in Dublin.



Traditional music in Ireland may be quite different to anything you’ve ever heard before. The country is known for the sounds of the harp, Bodhran (Irish drum) and the fiddle. Folk music is also very much part of Irish culture, telling stories through music. Similarly, Irish dance is an important part of Irish heritage and children are often taught at an early age. It is likely that you’d get to see some river dancing on St Patrick’s Day, a celebration and commemoration of the patron saint St Patrick. This day typically involves parades in the street and wearing green clothing.



It wouldn’t be right to exclude pubs from this list as eating hearty food, watching sport and listening to music are all core to life in Ireland. Known for their authenticity, pubs in Ireland are unique places where people can come together. This reputation has spread around the world as you can come across Irish pubs in other countries, maintaining a feel of Ireland even as far away as Australia. If you don’t drink, you can still enjoy the pubs, soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying a conversation with local people.



Irish people are known for being friendly, polite and welcoming. We spoke to Paola Cioppi, an international student at University College Cork who said, “The people here are extremely nice, they smile at you, they say hi, they’re very courteous and I feel at home”. While studying in Ireland you might hear people say ‘craic’ which can refer to having an enjoyable conversation, gossip or can mean how are you. This reflects the importance of talking to others in Ireland and having a good time.    



Dublin, the capital city of the Republic of Ireland, is considered to be the most expensive city in Ireland overall. This includes accommodation (EUR 2,044 per month on average) and everyday living costs compared to other areas. Somewhere like Donegal for example is far more affordable with rent setting you back an average cost of EUR 509 per month. So, in terms of living costs, it really depends on where you want to be in Ireland and what sort of lifestyle you want.

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