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Ireland's Opening its Doors to International Education

9th February 2017 Posted by: Jennifer Parker

BOASTING an international student population of 139,000, Irish higher education institutions are currently host to students from 161 countries worldwide. Irish universities, including the famous Trinity College, University College Dublin and University College Cork (UCC) – which has won the Sunday Times University of the Year 5 times – are thought to be amongst the best in the world.

Over the past decade or so, the Irish government has been devising and implementing plans to increase the global reputation of Ireland as a hub for international study. In 2010, the Irish government disclosed an International Education Strategy with the tagline: “Investing in Global Relationships”.

Ireland's stunning scenery has always been a draw for international students

The plan outlined a number of goals. By 2015, it was stated that Ireland would be world leading in the delivery of international education. The document detailed that the country would offer a unique experience to students that would have great value for graduates in the long term.

Targets were set for increasing the number of international students registering with Irish educational institutions and for boosting the economic impact of international students. Overall the plan seems to have been a success and the targets were achieved by the agreed deadlines, helping to put Ireland on the map for offering a valuable international student experience.

The 2016 Education Strategy

Motivated by the successes of the 2010 plan, at the end of last year, a second International Education Strategy was announced by the Irish Department of Education and Skills. This plan forms part of the country’s growth strategy laid out for five years, beginning in 2016.

The Irish Department of Education and Skills states that strategy will provide funding for marketing campaigns in countries such as the US, China, India, Brazil, Malaysia, and the Gulf States.

Should the targets be met, the Ministry has said that the number of International Higher Education and English Language Training students in Ireland will be bolstered to more than 176,000 – an increase of around 37,000 students. By increasing the number of students studying in the country, it is hoped that the value of the international education sector will rise notably, to 2.1 billion euros per annum (an increase of 33%).

Ireland is hoping to increase its global connections and share its culture

Moreover, Ireland is aiming to attract some of the best international student talent and to increase Ireland’s global connections with the aim of improving social and economic outcomes. The strategy outlines plans to attract world-class researchers to the country’s universities and to increase the commercialisation of research.

The United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union might have a beneficial impact on Ireland’s education plans. Minister Bruton said at the launch “There will be strong opportunities for Ireland in the area of international education when Ireland becomes the only English speaking member of the EU.”

The Stay Back Visa Extensions

In a more recent development, the Irish Government has announced that international postgraduate students will now be allowed to reside in the country for a further two years after completing their course of study. The Stay Back Option for masters and PhD students has therefore been doubled from 12 to 24 months.

The country has declared this extension of post-study visas as part of the International Education Strategy. Those who have graduated from eligible courses at higher education institutions in Ireland will have the right to seek employment in the country during this time. Once the two years is up, the graduates will be permitted to apply for a Work Permit or Green Card.

A statement on the Education in Ireland website, ran under the Minister for Education and Skills, notes that the Third Level Graduate Scheme has been extended for European and non-European students alike at level nine or higher in the National Framework of Qualifications.

The Government hopes that the move will reinforce the view of Ireland as a welcoming destination for international students. It is not yet clear when the visa extension will be in operation.

Blackrock Castle observatory is one of the stunning buildings in the city of Cork,
where UCC and Cork Institute of Technology are based.

Could this Change Benefit You?

The 24-month stay back option is open to all post-graduate students studying at a university or other Irish higher education institution. Students must be at level nine or 10 of the Irish National Framework of Qualifications – this includes those studying for a masters, PhD, postgraduate diploma, or higher doctorate.

No matter whether you are an EU citizen or you have travelled from further afield, you will be eligible to receive the 2-year visa extension. If you are taking advantage of the option to stay in the country past graduation, you should be seeking employment.

The scheme could be particularly beneficial if you have made industry contacts during your degree or have a job offer from a company you underwent work experience with. Perhaps you have simply fallen in love with the country and aren’t ready to return home yet. Whatever your situation, the stay back extension means that the option will be available to you.

If you are successful in your job hunt and find yourself on the career ladder in Ireland, graduates have the opportunity to apply for a Green Card or Work Permit once the two years is up.

Interested in Studying in Ireland? VIsit our Ireland section or check out some Irish universities for some inspiration.


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