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The Irish Higher Education System, Simplified

The Irish Higher Education System, Simplified

The Irish Higher Education System, Simplified
The Irish higher education system is known as one of the best in the world. One of the reasons is the country’s effort to deliver quality education among its people. In fact, education is free and compulsory in Ireland from primary to second-level, or for children, ages 6 to 16 years old in public institutions. No wonder, Ireland has a 100% literacy rate among its men and women population ages 15 and over. 

When it comes to higher education, Irish institutions are some of the best in the world. For example, in the recent Times Higher Education World Ranking, nine of its higher education institutions (HEI) ranked there—eight among them are Irish universities. This is even more amazing when you realize that Ireland has only eight public universities

If you want to learn more about Ireland’s education system, read below. 

Types of Institutions in Ireland 

Ireland’s higher education system is mainly made up of the following: universities, institutions of technology, and colleges of education.



Universities are institutions that are usually autonomous and self-governing. As of the moment, Ireland only has eight universities, which are all top-notched when it comes to a world-class education. Universities usually offer both undergraduate and degree programs from a wide variety of study areas. 

Institute of Technology 

According to the Irish government, the Irish have around 14 institutes of technology around the country. These institutions provide programs and training in study areas such as science, business, engineering, linguistics, and even music. Those programs are offered in certificate, diploma, and degree forms. 

Colleges of Education 

Colleges of education are institutions that specialize in training primary school teachers. In some colleges, the training of primary teachers includes specializing in specific subjects such as physical education, religion, or home economics. 

Qualifications and Degrees

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After completing a program, students get a degree or qualification. In Ireland, you can qualify when you finish your undergraduate, postgraduate, and further education program.  


Finishing an undergraduate program will usually lead to an ordinary bachelor’s degree or an honors bachelor’s degree. These degrees usually take around three to four years to finish and include a wide range of fields of study. 


Postgraduate degree qualifications in Ireland consist of the following:

  • Higher diploma – is a higher diploma can be taken after the student got their honors bachelor degree or ordinary bachelor degree. Higher diploma programs usually take one year to finish. 
  • Master’s degree – is usually given to students after finishing a one or two-year study programme taken by students who are already holders of an honour or ordinary bachelor degree. 
  • Post-graduate diploma – like a master’s degree is awarded to students after finishing a one year study program. 
  • Doctoral degree – is only applicable to those who already have an honours bachelor’s degree or master’s degree. Also,they usually take around three to four years to finish.  
  • Higher doctorate – unlike other qualifications, is not based on specific programs. Instead, awarding bodies assess them. To get a higher doctorate qualification, students must have a doctorate or equivalent degree first. 

Further Education 

For students who don’t want to take on degrees and study for three to four years, Ireland also offers other alternative qualifications. The Irish higher education system also offers advanced and higher certificates given to students after finishing one to two-year programs or training for vocations and general education. 

Do you want to start your international education journey as an international student in Ireland? To begin, check out MSM Unify’s article on Best Colleges and Universities for International Students in Ireland.


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