universities-in-ireland- featured

Universities in Ireland

Universities in Ireland and the application process

If you want to study at one of the Universities in Ireland you must apply online via the CAO,  the Irish centralised admissions system, where you will upload documents such as your school reports, references, grades, transcripts and predicted scores. Online applications are normally accepted from 1 November in the year before you hope to start your course, until 1 February.


However, there are exceptions to this rule, with NUI Galway closing its slot on 1 February, UCD choosing different deadlines according to the course, and Trinity College Dublin, accepting applications until 31 July. In addition, some courses are highly oversubscribed and close once they have been filled, so you would be well advised to apply at the very beginning of the application window – and check course requirements, which differ slightly from course to course. For example, if you wish to study medicine then you will need to sit the HPAT.
This involves registering for the exam with your CAO number and preparing and revising for the exam ,which is normally scheduled for the end of February. As a general rule, EU student applicants should aim for the 1 February deadline. Remember that interviews and portfolios for restricted courses are  usually scheduled for March and April.

Video audition

When applying to artistic courses, you may be asked to do a video audition, a remote test interview or fill in a short questionnaire etc. If you are still not sure about the dates and  course requirements, call or email us here at Elab and we will give you a definitive  answer!

You will need to pay a fee of 45 euros to upload your application to CAO .

Remember, unlike UCAS, which allows you to choose five courses, CAO lets you choose ten courses.

Before you enter the application portal, make sure that you have all your documents ready. Since virtually every course in Ireland is taught in English, you will also have to supply proof of English language proficiency -namely, IELTS with an overall score of 6, or TOEFL of 90. Many science programs demand a specific grade; most universities expect you to have English and mathematics knowledge, and some specify that students must have a foreign language.

Once again, this depends entirely on the course for which you are applying, and if you cannot find all the information you need on the university website, then call Elab and we will guide you.

Do EU students pay tuition fees at universities?

The Irish government introduced the Free Fees Initiative, which covers both domestic and EU students. Under  its provisions, EU students will not pay tuition fees, which are covered by the Irish government as long as:

  • this is their first degree course
  • they have been a resident of a EU state for three of the five years before starting their course

Note, however, that every student has to pay an administration/exam fee, a student contribution charged annually, which currently stands at 3,000 euros

EU students are covered by their national health insurance cards when they study in Ireland and do not need to take out another insurance policy to access healthcare. Make sure you have your card on you before you leave home.

What are the rankings for universities?

UniversityGlobal Rankings (QS 2024)National Rankings
Trinity College, Dublin811
University College, Dublin1712
National University of Ireland, Galway2893
University College, Cork2924
University of Limerick4265
Dublin City University4366
National University of Ireland, Maynooth801-8507
Technological University of Dublin850-9008
Munster Technological UniversityN/A Only opened in January 20219

Technological Irish universities are a recent innovation in Ireland and have only  been open for a matter of a few years (Technological University of Dublin, established 2019), (Munster Technological University, established 2021) so the rankings are not indicative of the quality of education offered in these  young institutions of higher education.

Student numbers and location at Irish Universities

UniversityStudent numbersLocation
Trinity College, Dublin18,000In the heart of the capital, Dublin
University College, Dublin34,000North of Dublin City
National University of Ireland, Galway18,700West coast of Ireland
University College, Cork22,500South-western Ireland
Dublin City University17,400Close to city centre, Dublin
University of Limerick16,500West coast of Ireland, on the River Shannon
National University of Ireland, Maynooth13,00025 km from the centre of Dublin
Technological University of Dublin28,500In and around Dublin (Tallaght and Blanchardstown )
Munster Technological University18,000Six campuses across the southwest of Ireland , in Cork and Kerry

How should I choose between the Universities?

Undergraduate degrees at Universities in Ireland last for three to four years in Ireland, and wherever you decide to study will, of course, be your home for that time. One of the first things you need to consider, if you are torn between two or more locations that offer exactly the same course, is the environment you are looking to settle down in. Think about:

  • accessibility – is it close to an international airport which has regular flights home? Dublin, Cork and Shannon are all international airports.
  • tempo – do you want to be in the capital, with its bars and shows, its nightclubs, shopping, music venues and exhibitions , or would you rather live on the coast in a quieter natural setting? The University of Limerick or Maynooth University may be exactly what you are looking for if you enjoy stunning scenery and a slightly slower pace of life.
  • sports – do you like sport and want to take part in sports or attend major sporting events – if so, Limerick, Dublin and Cork may be ideal for you.
  • interests – foodies will gravitate to the University of Cork, the epicentre of Irish cuisine, while history buffs will be attracted to the 2020 European Capital of Culture, Galway, and the National University of Ireland Galway.
  • cost of living – remember that the cost of living varies according to where you study, with Dublin being the most expensive student city -as is normally the case in every country in the world. You will need to budget from 7,000-12 euros a year to cover your accommodation, food, books, travel, bills, leisure activities etc.
  • employment – as an EU student you are allowed to work while you are at university, and if this is a priority, then think about the size of the town or city to which you are applying – is it big or busy enough to offer part-time jobs? You will need to register with the Irish tax office and get a PPS number to work, BUT you cannot apply for the PPS number until you have been offered a job.

A brief overview of Universities in Ireland


Trinity College Dublin

Was modelled on Oxbridge and established in 1592, and produced world-renowned literary figures such as Samuel Beckett, Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde. Highly ranked globally and the leading university in Ireland, Trinity offers a huge range of courses from law to performing arts, engineering to social sciences and mathematics. You can also do a dual BA with Columbia University in New York if you choose to study history, English, European Studies, Middle Eastern and European languages and culture. Admission is competitive and teaching is interdisciplinary with an international focus. It has a strong reputation in the fields of Law, Humanities and Literature.


Dublin City University

Was founded in 1975 and focuses on entrepreneurship, innovation and global engagement. Its main focus is on technology, business, science, health and communications. Its highly popular electronic engineering and computer applications course is highly oversubscribed. DCU has a strong research record and the largest research income of any Irish university. Its partnership with Princess Noura bint Abdul Rahman University in Saudi Arabia offers degrees in International Finance and Marketing, Innovation and Technology – areas where DCU is building a global reputation for excellence. Dublin City University students can also go on to do an MBA in Poland, where DCU partners with Lodz University, or take advantage of many national and international collaborations established with countries as far away as Australia and Georgia, USA.


University College, Dublin

Some 20 percent of the student body at UCD come from abroad, making it the most international of Ireland’s universities. The university is rated extremely highly for its teaching quality .A research-intensive university , it has strong links with business and major global companies .Eight subjects – archaeology, agriculture and forestry, English language and literature, history, nursing, law, politics and international studies and philosophy -were ranked in the QS top 100 , 2024.


National University of Ireland, Galway

The NUI Galway was established in 1845, and offers courses which are not widely available, such as a BSc in podiatry and a BE in sport and exercise engineering. Its 17,000 students are taught in four colleges -Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences; Science and Engineering; Business, Public Policy and Law and Arts, Social Sciences and Celtic studies The university research work is concentrated in four areas: biomedical science, engineering, applied social sciences, and public policy. The university has been consistently rising through the QS rankings.


University College, Cork

Established in 1845, this was the first university in the world to get a Green Flag for environmental sustainability.UCC is ranked in the top 50 globally for the course it offers in nursing, and in the top 100 for agriculture and forestry and law. Medicine is ranked in the global top 200, while pharmacy and pharmacology and English language feature in the top 150. Research is central to UCC’s work, and it was the first institution in Ireland to undertake embryonic stem cell research. Other areas of research include nanoelectronics and environment science.


University of Limerick

Founded in 1972, the University of Limerick has an employment rate which is 18 per cent higher than the national average, and an excellent reputation for the quality of the programmes it provides . Its student community has 13 per cent international students who have consistently voted the university No 1 for Best Student Experience, Best Student Support and the best overall Living Experience in Ireland – and 5th in the world. Its programmes focus on industry needs and there is a strong link between the university and the community. The University of Limerick’s Cooperative Education initiative offers students paid and semi-paid work placements.


National University of Ireland, Maynooth

Maynooth University was founded in 1795 and provides a flexible curriculum across the arts, social sciences, communication and computation ,mathematics and accounting. Maynooth University prides itself on the number of international partnerships it has established in China, Mexico, Japan, Canada ,Brazil and the US, and students have the opportunity to take part of their degree in a partner university.BA students go abroad for one academic year and therefore add an extra year to their course, whereas students on a four-year BSc course can either study abroad for one term, or choose to do an optional extra year. The university has an international outlook and receives glowing reviews from its alumni for its outstanding teaching.


Technological Univer sity of Dublin

Established in 2019 across three campuses in the capital, the Technological University of Dublin has an approach which resembles that found in the Netherlands in the Universities of Applied Sciences: practical, hands-on ,practice-based learning. The university focuses on bio- and nano technologies , houses a state of the art laboratory space and is involved in a number of research centres such as the Centre for Research in Engineering Surface Technology, Radiation and Environmental Science, and Industrial and Engineering Optics. At undergraduate level, there is a broad choice of courses, from food technology and sports, to building the environment and creative arts, tourism marketing and human nutrition. Work placements and problem-focussed learning complement project and theory work in this go-ahead and creative environment.


Munster Technological University

Established on 1 January 2021, Munster Technological University is spread across the Cork and Kerry campuses and includes the Crawford College of Art and Design, the Cork School of Music, the National Maritime College of Ireland and the more traditional schools of business, computing, science, technology and engineering etc. It partners with industry , start-ups and leading national and global companies , runs six research centres and has established 120 links with leading educational institutions all across the globe. Research is industry-focussed and MTU works with stakeholders to drive enterprise and innovation and attract investment. Since the university has only been open for an extremely short period of time, it is in its infancy, but it arose from the merger between two well-respected institutions and promises to have a bright future, judging by the fact 18,000 students have already enrolled.

The next step

Ireland was traditionally referred to as “The Land of Saints and Scholars” and little has changed over the years. These days, Ireland is seen as the home of Guinness, rugby, U2, and leprechauns , and its spectacular scenery, warm welcome and lively sociability continue to attract students from all over the world. If you have decided to join them, to take advantage of the low costs and excellent teaching available in the Emerald Isle, then call us, or drop us an email, here at Elab, so we can work together and ensure you get a place on the course of your dreams at an Irish university.

Study in Ireland!

Leave your details and an Elab Education Consultant will contact you within 48 hours to turn your academic aspirations into reality.