Ireland Plan your studies

Higher education

Institutions of higher education

The higher education system in Ireland consists of the university sector, institutes of technology and private independent colleges.  

  • Universities
  • Institutes of technology
  • Other colleges

University sector

Universities in Ireland are state-funded, but they are generally autonomous:

Technological sector

The technological sector includes institutes of technology which provide programmes of education and training in areas such as business, science, engineering, linguistics and music to certificate, diploma and degree levels.

Other colleges

In addition to state-funded colleges, a number of fee-paying third-level educational institutions offer courses, mainly in professional vocational training and business. Some of these colleges are linked to universities or professional associations and their qualifications may be accredited accordingly.



The State-supported universities all award their own degrees and other awards. University students qualify with:

  • Ordinary bachelor degrees (NFQ Level 7)
  • Honours bachelor degrees (NFQ Level 8)
  • Master degrees (NFQ Level 9)
  • Doctoral degrees (NFQ Level 10)

Technological universities (TUs)

  • Higher certificates (NFQ Level 6)
  • Ordinary bachelor degrees (NFQ Level 7)
  • Honours bachelor degrees (NFQ Level 8)
  • Postgraduate diplomas (NFQ Level 9)
  • Higher doctorate (NFQ Level 10) 

Find your study programme

Visit the following websites to find your study programme :


Entry Requirements

  • Secondary school leaving diploma
  • Good school results
  • Good English language skills

The entry requirements for international students to higher education are determined individually by each institution and are generally based on national examination performance and English language aptitude. Entry requirements may vary between different universities and degree programmes so it is best to contact the international office of your chosen university to find out what grades you will need for your course.

How to apply

Unless otherwise stated by the university, applications are submitted online to the CAO - Central Applications Office.

You choose by course code and are able to include a maximum of 10 choices (place your course choices in a genuine order of preference). Find out the course code using the CAO course search facility. If you do not receive an offer from the CAO, you can check out the list of vacant places on the CAO website under the heading “Available/Vacant Places”.


Please note, in most cases, you only can apply to a Master degree with a Bachelor of honours or you need to do one extra year after an ordinary Bachelor to continue with a Master.  


  • 1st February - standard application through CAO.
  • 1st May - late online application.
  • 1st July - change of mind.

Tuition fees

Please try to  submit your application as early as possible. Don't leave it too near the closing date as exceptions will not be allowed.

Application Fee Closing date
Normal application 40 € 1st February  
Online discounted rate 30 € 20th January
Late Online Application (online) 40 € 1st February
Late Paper Application (online) 80 € 1st May  
Change of Mind (online) 0 € 1st July  
All fees are Non-refundable

Free Fees Initiative

Under the Free Fees Initiative your tuition fees will be paid to your university by Ireland’s Higher Education Authority if you satisfy all the following criteria. Full criteria for eligibility can be found on the Student Finance Ireland site.

Student Contribution Fee

Most HEIs will require you to pay an annual Student Contribution Fee. The amount varies from one institution to another but is capped at a maximum of 3.000.-€

The fee covers the provision of student services such as libraries, computing, clubs, bars, and examination entry fees.

Want to apply for medecine?

If you are interested in applying to study medicine in Ireland, please note that you will have to do the HPAT assessment test, which was introduced for EU students applying for undergraduate medicine in the medical schools in Ireland. The score achieved in the HPAT-Ireland examination will be added to the Leaving Certificate points to create a total points score.

Registrations for HPAT

Registration for HPAT 2022 will open in November 2021 and will close on 21 January 2022 at 5.15pm GMT. Late registrations will be accepted up until 2 February 2022 5.15pm GMT on payment of a late fee.

Distance learning

You may choose to study part-time or by distance learning. Many universities and colleges have developed a range of online and blended-learning courses in a vast number of subject areas.
For further details regarding online and blended programmes, please contact the university directly.


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