Third-level education in the Republic of Ireland
Third-level education in the Republic of Ireland includes all education after second-level, encompassing higher education in universities and colleges and further education on Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) and other courses. The degree-awarding authorities approved by the Government of Ireland, which can grant awards at all academic levels, are University of Dublin, National University of Ireland (Cork, Dublin, Galway and Maynooth), Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Dublin City University, Technological University Dublin, Quality and Qualifications Ireland, St. Patrick's College, Maynooth (Pontifical University), and University of Limerick. The King's Inns of Dublin has a limited role in education specialising in the preparation of candidates for the degree of barrister-at-law to practice as barristers. Medical schools in Ireland also have particular regulation. There were seven establishments of higher education within the Republic of Ireland ranked among the top 500 universities worldwide by the Times Higher Education Supplement in 2008.
|EQF level||EHEA cycle||NFQ level||Major award types|
|1||1||Level 1 Certificate|
|2||Level 2 Certificate|
|2||3||Level 3 Certificate|
|3||4||Level 4 Certificate|
|4||5||Level 5 Certificate|
|Short cycle within 1st||Higher Certificate|
|6||1st||7||Ordinary Bachelor's degree|
|8||Honours bachelor's degree|
Some colleges are constituent colleges of universities, while others are designated institutions of the Higher Education and Training Awards Council. The latter include the Institutes of Technology, Colleges of Education, and other independent colleges. Some colleges have "delegated authority" from the Higher Education and Training Awards Council, this allows them to confer and validate awards in their own name.
Some institutions such as the University of Limerick, Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), and Dublin City University (DCU) have completed a process of modularising their courses (others are still in a transition phase), mostly using the ECTS. The Bologna process and applied research are the current concerns of national educational policy, additional concerns include the structures of the National University of Ireland and Trinity College Dublin. Since the mid-2000s, a number of Institutes of Technology have or are in the process of applying for university designation, including IT Sligo, GMIT and LYIT, (known as the Connacht Ulster Alliance) DIT, Cork, and Waterford.
The Marks & Standards document, offered by most institutions, can be consulted for information on the range and criteria set down for awards, while programme specifications offer additional information. In contrast to practice in the rest of the education system, entry tends to be highly competitive for school leavers; the so-called "Points Race" administered by the Central Applications Office (CAO). In 2001 the percentage of school leavers transferring to third level exceeded 50% for the first time, as of 2005 it is in excess of 55% and expected to grow at approximately 1% per annum for the next decade.
There are over 25 third-level courses at graduate and postgraduate level offered through the Irish language. Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge is the Irish language Department of the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUI Galway) and it has different off-campus centres throughout the Gaeltacht regions. Dublin City University has an Irish language department called Fiontar. University College Dublin (UCD), DIT, and Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) also offer similar courses.
All but two of the seven universities in the Republic of Ireland offer "open" (omnibus entry) Bachelor of Arts degrees through the CAO where the student can choose their specialisation after their first year of study. The two universities that do not offer "open" (omnibus entry) arts degrees, Trinity College Dublin and DCU, do still offer Bachelor of Arts degrees in specific areas of study such as Drama Studies, Journalism, Latin, History, Japanese, and International Relations.
In one, Trinity College Dublin, the applicants wishing to read an Arts degree may apply to the college to read a combination of two subjects, such as French and Philosophy - which the student may continue to read jointly or with focus on one. DCU's de facto omnibus entry arts degree is offered by St. Patrick's College of Education (a college of DCU) and is titled "BA in Humanities". All Hallows College (a college of DCU) offer BA in Humanities, Theology Pastoral Care, and English.
Entry into higher education institutions is normally done through the CAO. In this way, students wishing to enter university apply to the CAO rather than the individual university. Places in courses are usually awarded based on results in the Leaving Certificate Examination or any international equivalent. Each university has a minimum entry requirement, usually requiring a pass grade in either English or Irish, as well as maths. Some also require a pass grade in a modern continental European language (French, German, Spanish or Italian). Each individual course has further entry requirements, for example, science courses usually require a certain grade in one or two sciences. The student must also achieve the number of points required for the course under the points system. However, universities also have systems in place for accepting mature students, and students who have successfully completed a Post Leaving Certificate or Further Education course.
Entry into third-level is generally very high in the Republic of Ireland (as it also is in Northern Ireland), and among young adults (those aged 25 to 34), 41.6% of them have attained third-level degrees—the second highest level in the EU after Cyprus, and substantially ahead of the average of 29.1%. Broken down by gender, approximately 43% of women and 40% of men Ireland attend third level education.
Under the "Free Fees Initiative" the Government will pay the tuition fees of students who meet relevant course, nationality and residence requirements as set down under the initiative. These requirements include:
- Holding EU nationality, or are a national of member country of the European Economic Area or Switzerland, or those who have been granted official refugee status.
- Having been a resident in an EU Member State for at least three of the five years preceding entry to the course.
- Are not undertaking a second undergraduate course.
Students are required to pay a "registration fee" on entry to their courses. These charges cover costs such as equipment usage, administration fees and exam fees. Charges for 2008/09 were on average €850 per student, but was raised to €1,500 per student for the 2009/10 school year. These charges have been labelled as "unofficial fees", and University Heads have admitted that "student registration charges are fees by any other name". In 2011, after large annual increases, the Registration Fee was abolished and replaced with a Student Contribution. For the school year 2019/2020 this fee stands at €3,000.
Further education is vocational and technical education and training in post-compulsory education. Awards are offered by a multitude of bodies, both ad-hoc and statutory. Typical areas included apprenticeships, childcare, farming, retail, and tourism. These are typical areas of the economy that do not depend on multinational investment and recognition. There are many different types of further education awards, known as Post Leaving Certificates.
The Further Education and Training Awards Council conferred awards in the extra-university system. Further education has expanded immensely in recent years helped by the institutions, and because of this the type and range of these awards have been formalized to restore confidence. There are two separate schemes enabling progression for holders of FETAC awards to universities and institutes of technology. FETAC awards carried points that can be used to access higher education. FETAC was dissolved and its functions were passed to Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) on 6 November 2012.
Increase in third-level degrees
Ireland has a higher proportion of third-level graduates than any other EU country, although many college students are better suited to further education and training, including PLC, apprenticeship and traineeship courses. At the same time, the proportion of graduates with first-class honours has reached record levels, particularly in institutes of technology. It is unclear whether this increase is due to improved methods of instructing increasingly motivated students, or simple grade inflation. Whatever the reason might be, employers increasingly examine graduates' extracurricular activities and work experiences as they search for the most able applicants.
List of higher education establishments
- Dublin City University
- Munster Technological University
- National University of Ireland
- Technological University Dublin
- University of Limerick
- University of Dublin
Institutes of technology
- Athlone Institute of Technology
- Institute of Technology, Carlow
- Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology
- Dundalk Institute of Technology
- Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology
- Letterkenny Institute of Technology
- Limerick Institute of Technology
- Institute of Technology, Sligo
- Waterford Institute of Technology
- Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies
- Garda Síochána College 
- Military College, Curragh Camp 
- National Ambulance Service College
Colleges of education
- St Angela's College of Education, Sligo NUIG 
- Marino Institute of EducationDU 
- Mary Immaculate College, LimerickUL 
- St. Patrick's College, Thurles UL
Recognised, associated or constituent colleges of Irish universities
- Institute of Public Administration NUI 
- Irish School of Ecumenics DU 
- National College of Art and Design UCD 
- Shannon College of Hotel Management NUIG 
- Abbey School of Theatre
- American College Dublin 
- Burren College of Art
- Cavan Institute
- Cenit College
- Church of Ireland Theological Institute
- City Colleges
- Coláiste na hÉireann
- Coláiste Stiofáin Naofa
- College of Computer Training 
- College of Progressive Education
- Cork College of Commerce
- Digital Marketing Institute
- Digital Skills Academy (validated by Dublin Institute of Technology)
- Dorset College
- Dublin Business School 
- Dublin Institute of Design
- Edgewater College
- Gaiety School of Acting
- Galway Business School
- The Grafton Academy of Fashion Design
- Griffith College Cork 
- Griffith College Dublin 
- Griffith College Limerick 
- Hibernia College 
- Honorable Society of King's Inns 
- IBAT College Dublin 
- ICD Business School 
- Independent College Dublin 
- Irish Bible Institute (a component of the University of Wales)
- Irish Management InstituteUCC
- Kimmage Development Studies Centre (merged into Maynooth University)
- Mallow College of Further Education
- National College of Ireland  (formerly National College of Industrial Relations)
- Newman College Ireland
- Pitman Training Ireland 
- Portobello Institute 
- The Priory Institute (validated by Institute of Technology, Tallaght)
- Royal Irish Academy of Music 
- Royal College of Physicians of Ireland (postgraduate medical qualifications)
- Spirituality Institute for Research and Education (Masters validated by Waterford Institute of Technology)
- St. John's Central College, Cork
- St Michael's House
- St Nicholas Montessori College 
- St Patrick's College, Maynooth (also known as Maynooth College or Pontifical University, Maynooth) 
- St. Patrick's, Carlow College 
- Sallynoggin College of Further Education, Pearse Street, Sallynoggin 
- Setanta College 
- Turning Point
Foreign institutions with a presence in Ireland
As well as Study Abroad programmes from US universities, a number of US universities have a presence in Ireland.
- Boston College Ireland – delivers study abroad and summer programmes in St. Stephens Green, Dublin
- Duquesne University – students study in UCD and stay at Duquesne University's St. Michael's House facility
- École de management de Normandie - Dublin campus opened in 2017
- University of Notre Dame – have two centres in Ireland, the new Notre Dame Center at Kylemore Abbey in Connemara and O'Connell House in Dublin with students studying at Trinity or UCD.
- Sacred Heart University – has an Irish studies base in Dingle, Co. Kerry
- Open University – the UK based Open University has an Irish office in Dublin
The following are defunct institutions, due to closure or merger. This list does not include institutions that were renamed.
- Albert Agricultural College (1838–1979), NIHE Dublin (now DCU) was built on Albert College
- All Hallows College (1842–2016), now part of Dublin City University 
- Apothecaries' Hall, Dublin (1791–1971)
- Bandon University, Bandon, Co. Cork (? - Reformation of King Henry VIII) Considered a University by the Papacy
- Catholic University of Ireland (1854–1908)
- Church of Ireland College of Education (1816-2016), previously linked to University of Dublin, now part of DCU
- Cork Institute of Technology, merged with IT Tralee in 2021 to form Munster Technological University
- Froebel College of Education (1943–2013), now part of Maynooth University 
- HSI College 
- IT Tralee, merged with CIT in 2021 to form Munster Technological University
- Irish Academy for the Performing Arts (2002–2004)
- Kimmage Mission Institute (1991-2005) moved to Milltown and merged with Milltown Institute
- Mater Dei Institute of Education (1966–2016), now part of Dublin City University 
- Media Lab Europe (2000–05)
- Mid West Business Institute, now part of Griffith College Limerick 
- Milltown Institute of Theology and Philosophy (1968–2015) 
- Newman College, Dublin, merged into Griffith College
- Our Lady of Mercy College, Carysfort (1877–1988)
- Portobello College Dublin, acquired by Dublin Business School in 2007 
- Queen's University of Ireland (1850–82)
- Royal University of Ireland (1880–1909)
- St Catherine's College of Education for Home Economics
- St Patrick's College of Education (1875–2016), now part of Dublin City University 
- Tipperary Institute (1999-2011), now part of Limerick Institute of Technology 
- Thomond College of Education, Limerick (1973–1991), became part of University of Limerick
- Tourism College Killybegs (? - 2001), now part of Letterkenny Institute of Technology
- University of Dublin (medieval) (operated intermittently 1320–1534)
- Chartered Accountants Ireland - Accounting professional body
- Institution of Engineers of Ireland (Engineers Ireland) - Engineers professional body
- Law Society of Ireland - Solicitor professional body
- The Honorable Society of King's Inns - Barrister professional body
- Association of Chartered Certified Accountants - Accounting professional body
- Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland - the professional body for Architects in Ireland
- ^NUI College is linked to National University of Ireland.
- ^NUIG College is linked to National University of Ireland, Galway.
- ^DU College is linked to University of Dublin.
- ^UCC College is linked to University College Cork.
- ^UL College is linked to University of Limerick.
- List of Ireland-related topics
- Education in the Republic of Ireland
- List of schools in the Republic of Ireland
- Central Applications Office
- HEAnet - Ireland's National Education & Research Network
- Higher Education Authority
- Higher Education and Training Awards Council
- Further Education and Training Awards Council
- ITnet - Institute of Technology Network
- National Qualifications Authority of Ireland
- Postgraduate Applications Centre
- State Examinations Commission
- Education in the Republic of Ireland
- List of colleges and universities
- Open access in the Republic of Ireland
- Final report on alignment of St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth awards made in Ireland to the National Framework of Qualifications www.nqai.ie, September 2011.
- Times Higher Education Supplement Top 500 Universities Worldwide 2008 Archived 20 July 2009 at the Wayback Machine
- Ireland faces a university challenge Archived 4 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine
- Measuring Ireland's Progress - 2007
- "Census of Population 2016 – Profile 10 Education, Skills and the Irish Language - CSO - Central Statistics Office". Retrieved 11 February 2018.
- "Undergraduate courses of not less than two years duration in colleges in List 1". Archived from the original on 25 January 2010. Retrieved 24 February 2010. Student Finance.ie, information for Undergraduate students
- "Fees FAQ". Retrieved 24 February 2010. University College Dublin, Administrative Services - Fees & Grants
- "Universities admit student charge is an unofficial fee". Irish Independent. 29 January 2010. Retrieved 24 February 2010. Independent.ie - Universities admit student charge is an unofficial fee
- Mooney, Brian (17 August 2019). "Alternative career routes boost options for school-leavers". Irish Times. Retrieved 17 August 2019.
Practical, hands-on courses offer career progression and skills enhancement outside the traditional CAO system.
- "Minister Quinn merges educational agencies to establish QQI". Retrieved 15 November 2012.
- McGuire, Peter (13 August 2019). "Grade inflation is soaring: Are degrees losing all meaning?". TheJournal.ie. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
Third-level degrees are becoming ubiquitous, with employers struggling to differentiate one first-class honours or 2.1 degree from another in their search for top talent.
- "Providers of Higher Education in Ireland". Minister of Education and Skills, Republic of Ireland. Retrieved 27 May 2012.
- "Providers of Higher Education in Ireland". Minister of Education and Skills, Republic of Ireland. Retrieved 27 May 2012.
- Royal College of Surgeons becomes States ninth university by Carl O'Brien, Irish Times, December 9, 2019.
- "HETAC Registered Providers". Higher Education Training and Awards Council. Retrieved 27 May 2012.
- "Irish School of Ecumenics". Trinity College Dublin. Retrieved 27 May 2012.
- "Institutions and Courses: Irish Bible Institute, Dublin" Archived 21 May 2012 at the Wayback Machine, University of Wales
- "Search for FETAC Service Providers". Further Education Training and Awards Council. Archived from the original on 19 June 2012. Retrieved 27 May 2012.
- "Higher Education Outcomes - Graduation Years 2010-2016". Central Statistics Office. July 2019.
- "An Analysis of Labour Market Earnings for Higher Education Graduates in their Early Careers" (PDF). Higher Education Authority. December 2019.
- Department of Education and Science list of higher education providers in Ireland, updated regularly