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Studying at Top Irish Universities

Ireland’s educational system is among the best in the world, with five prestigious universities that focus on research and international cooperation. Higher education in Ireland consists of universities, specialist colleges (offering courses in a single subject area), and institutes of technology. The latter don’t just offer courses in technology subjects, but also cover a wide range of vocational programs, in subjects including hospitality, healthcare, pharmacy, media, textiles, marketing and many more.

The world’s top 1% of research universities include Irish universities. International students can participate in research programmes that are driving innovation and changing lives all over the world at some of the largest companies in the world’s key strategic research facilities. Ireland is home to seven public universities, seven private colleges, and the sizable Dublin Business School, which enrolls about 9,000 students. The top five colleges in Ireland are:

  • Trinity College Dublin
  • University College Dublin
  • National University of Ireland,
  • Galway University College Cork
  • Dublin City University



Entry into undergraduate courses is done through the Central Applications Office (CAO). Instead of submitting separate applications to each university, prospective students submit them all through the CAO. Through the aforementioned portal, students may apply to a maximum of five colleges or programmes. But there are some institutions which accept direct applications also, for e.g. Trinity College Dublin.

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Autumn Intake (September)

Oct to 1st Feb through CAO (late application by end of April), non CAO applications may have different deadlines.

Spring Intake (January/February)

April to mid June through CAO, non CAO applications may have different deadlines.

There may be year-round enrollments at some institutions. There is fierce competition for the popular programmes, and entry requirements for courses may change from year to year depending on the number of openings and the number of applicants. The International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma is accepted as meeting the minimum entry requirement for higher education programmes. Specific programme and faculty requirements must be met at all institutions.

All applications are assessed individually and the submitted scores and other prerequisites do not guarantee admission. For each course, a minimum academic score of 60% and above in Standard XII is required. Foundations and Diploma programmes are available for students who have secured around 50%.

  1. Academic Transcripts – marksheets from grade IX to XI are required, along with predicted score & first term marks of grade XII are also needed to submit your application.
  2. English Proficiency – A good grasp of the English language is essential for students whose first language is not English. The accepted tests are:



Irish Leaving Certificate in English

Ordinary Level Grade D

GCE O – Level English

Grade C


Composite of a min 6 – 6.5, with no less than 6 in each section.

Cambridge Proficiency

Grade C

Cambridge Advanced

Grade A


A minimum of 63

  1. Letter(s) of Recommendation (LOR) – Irish universities require one compulsory LOR and one professional LOR (if a student has work experience). Each university may have their own standard numbers of LORs to be submitted.
  2. Statement of Purpose (SOP) – It is a crucial part of the application in which students describe their interest in the chosen field of study, their activities and their future plans, especially in competitive courses where the SOP provides valuable insights into the students’ thought process and motivations. Universities in Ireland require its applicants to submit one SOP describing the activities they have participated in, interest in the subject, extraordinary achievements, etc.
  3. Academic Resume – It is another requirement as part of the application process. This resume is a summary of your academic and professional qualifications, achievements, contributions, extracurricular activities, projects, and skills that you have acquired during your high school years.
  4. Portfolios & Entrance Tests – If a student is applying to a design program or architecture course, they need to submit a portfolio as guided by the university. If a student is applying for medical studies, they need to appear for the Health Professions Admission Test (HPAT). Students will be eligible to compete for undergraduate medicine places provided they achieve at least 220 (subject to change each year) out of 300 in the test and meet the matriculation requirements of the Medical School. HPAT is conducted each year in the month of February. The test score is valid for only one year – students appear for it in the year of their high school (class XII) graduation. It is an aptitude test assessing similar qualities to the UKCAT (UK Clinical Aptitude Test). The HPAT-Ireland test is a 2½ hour multiple choice paper-based test, consisting of three modules:
    1. Logical Reasoning and Problem Solving
    2. Interpersonal Understanding (much like the situational judgment test, this assesses your responses to a number of scenarios)
    3. Non-Verbal Reasoning (alike to abstract reasoning of the UKCAT, you will have to find patterns in shapes)
    Other than studying Medicine, there are no other entrance exams at an undergraduate level. Students willing to submit ACT or SAT scores can do so, but it is not a mandatory requirement by the universities.



The lowest tuition fee for studying in Ireland is €9,850 per annum, and it can go as high as €55,000 per annum for courses like medicine. The cost of living for international students can vary between €7,000 – €12,000 per annum. All international students (both EU/EEA and non-EU/EEA citizens) have to pay a student contribution fee of maximum €3,000 per year for student services, like examination entries and support for clubs and societies. The fee varies from one university to another, and it can change every year.

Irish citizens and students from Europe (EU/EEA) are entitled to free education at an Undergraduate level in some institutions. For e.g. University College Dublin, Ireland’s National University of Galway. (Kindly note that not all the undergraduate courses are free of cost). To avail this benefit students are advised to check which programmes are government funded and provide proof that they are eligible for the benefit.

The Irish government and some universities provide financial assistance and scholarships to international students on the basis of merit, need, student or course-specific grants, etc. The most popular scholarship is the Government of Ireland International Education Scholarship. It offers 60 types of scholarships to international students pursuing bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs. The scholarship amount includes a €10,000 stipend and covers the tuition and registration fees. University specific scholarships can be verified at their respective websites for detailed information.

Ireland offers international students with quality education, expert faculty, and a wide array of courses to huge research and career opportunities. Whether you want to study humanities or engineering, there’s an Irish institution that can match your curriculum to perfection. And by following the above-mentioned steps you can get admitted to a top university in Ireland.

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About the Author: 

Ankita is an Admissions Specialist & Editor at Scholarly, and has 4 years of experience in study abroad. She has a Masters degree in English Literature from University of Delhi. Ankita is an ardent reader who enjoys fiction and composes personal poetry. Her interests lie in learning more about the ancient history of the world and how she can pen down the experiences she gains in her life as articles.

Scholarly helps ambitious international students locate the right universities and courses to pursue their education. We provide college credit courses and research papers to students that want to learn more and differentiate themselves. We help students develop and present their best version to their dream university. Our recommendations are based on the student’s field of interest, academic performance, financial resources and career plans. We provide test preparation classes from the best teachers to help improve scores and thus the prospects for admission. We also assist students with their visa and loan applications to reduce the anxiety associated with international education.

For additional questions about international education, choice of majors, university selection or admission strategies please visit the Questions section of our website.

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