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Masters in Ireland

by Mark Bennett

Ireland's reputation as a friendly and welcoming country, together with its incredibly rich cultural heritage and dynamic history make it an excellent place to look for a Masters in all subject areas.

Prospective Masters students in humanities subjects such as literature or philosophy will be able to conduct their research in the homeland of figures as famous as Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift or George Berkeley. Meanwhile, those in science and technology fields will benefit from Ireland's investment in academic enterprise and partnerships between its educational institutions and high-tech industries.

On this page you can read all about studying a Masters abroad in Ireland, with advice on postgraduate study in the Irish university system, tuition fees, applications processes and visa requirements for foreign students.

For information on living in Ireland as a postgraduate student (including accommodation and expenses) see our separate guide. Or, to view and compare specific Irish Masters degrees, simply use our course search.

The Irish higher education-system: an introduction for postgraduates

Though a relatively small country, the Republic of Ireland still boasts several internationally renowned higher education institutions, including one of Britain's 'Ancient Universities' (Trinity College Dublin).

Higher education in Ireland today follows two broad pathways, with most students opting to study at a University or an Institute of Technology. As a Masters student in Ireland you will be able to study at either type of institution, depending on the type of course and subject area you are interested in.

Irish Universities

Irish universities are academic research and teaching institutions with broad coverage across various fields and subject areas. They offer a wide range of Masters programs and around 25% of their students are usually postgraduates.

There are seven Irish universities in total, though four (University College Dublin, University College Cork, NUI Galway and NUI Maynooth) are constituent colleges of the National University of Ireland.

This federated status does not restrict the autonomy of individual institutions. All are free to follow their own research agendas and develop their own programs. You can therefore treat them as separate institutions whilst searching and comparing their Masters programs.

A Masters degree at an Irish University can suit all students' needs, but will be particularly attractive to students seeking to develop academic knowledge and take advantage of excellent research facilities.

Irish Institutes of Technology

Ireland's Institutes of Technology were originally established in the 1960s as a means of offering professional education and training for highly skilled industries and enhancing academic and enterprise partnerships.

Since then they have developed to cover a range of fields, including arts, humanities and media subjects in addition to science and technology areas.

The majority of students at IoTs are undergraduates, but some specialised postgraduate programs are also available. You can read more about the options available at IoTs at the website of their representative body, Institutes of Technology Ireland.

A Masters degree at an Irish Institute of Technology can be a good choice for students wishing to focus on applied professional and vocational areas, with less emphasis on more abstract academic theory and research.

Irish university rankings

Based purely on the number of its universities and research institutions, the Irish higher education system is one of the smallest in the British Isles. When it comes to academic prestige, however, universities in the Republic of Ireland are some of Europe's most respected.

This is reflected in global university rankings: universities from the Republic of Ireland place in the upper regions of each of the main international academic league tables.

What are the top-ranked universities in Ireland?

The best placed Irish university is also the country's most historic. Trinity College Dublin is ranked within the top 200 of the QS, Times Higher Education and ARWU rankings. University College Dublin also places within the QS and THE top 200.

Other universities in the Republic of Ireland also rank within each of these individual tables.

Irish Universities in the QS World University Rankings

Four Irish universities are ranked amongst the best 300 in the world by the 2015-16 QS World University Rankings:

Irish Unis in the QS Rankings
University Ranking Place
Trinity College Dublin 78
University College Dublin 154
University College Cork 233
National University of Ireland, Galway 271

To read more about the QS World University Rankings system and learn about its merits from the perspective of a Masters student, check out our detailed guide.

Irish universities in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings

There are four Irish universities in the top 300 of the 2015-16 Times Higher Education World University Rankings:

Irish Unis in the THE Rankings
University Ranking Place
Trinity College Dublin 160
University College Dublin =176
National University of Ireland, Galway 251-300
Royal College of Surgeons, Ireland 251-300

For advice on using the Times Higher Education World University Rankings when looking for a Masters degree, see our guide.

Dutch universities in the Academic Ranking of World Universities

One Irish university is featured in the top 300 of the 2015 Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) (which uses a different methodology to other rankings systems):

Irish Unis in the ARWU
University Ranking Place
Trinity College Dublin 151-200

For more information on the ARWU rankings see our dedicated postgraduate guide.

Irish Masters degrees: program types and course structure

The Republic of Ireland is part of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) and its qualifications follow an internationally recognised format. As is common elsewhere in Europe, Irish Masters degrees are postgraduate (or 'second-cycle') programs, completed after an undergraduate degree.

Masters degree length in Ireland

Most courses take at least one year of full-time study to complete, but some can last for two (this is likely for research-focussed programs).

In most cases you will spend the two teaching semesters completing modular units of study and associated assessments, before commencing work on an independent research project and dissertation in the third semester and continuing with it over the summer.

This dissertation will account for a significant proportion of your overall grade and will usually be read by an external examiner as well as markers at your institution.

Students seeking to eventually progress to a PhD often enrol on a Masters by Research (such as an MRes), and either continue onto a subsequent doctoral program in the same field or upgrade their status after reaching a certain point in their Masters studies.

In these cases the emphasis is on a long research project, though some taught units may take place in the opening stages of a research Masters program.

Academic year in Ireland

The academic year in Ireland follows a similar pattern to the UK. Teaching semesters usually run between September and December and between January and June, with holidays at Christmas and Easter and a longer summer vacation over July and August.

As a Masters student you will usually spend this latter period researching and writing your dissertation.

Applying for a Masters in Ireland

The minimum academic prerequisite for admission to a Masters program in Ireland will usually be a relevant undergraduate degree with second class honours or better.

Universities may also ask applicants to submit a personal statement describing their interest in the course and field as well as outlining their research aims (where appropriate).

In some cases you may be required to attend an interview; this is more likely for more competitive courses at particularly prestigious institutions.

The Postgraduate Applications Centre

Several Irish universities conduct their applications process through a separate organisation, known as the Postgraduate Applications Centre (PAC).

The PAC operates an online registration and applications portal that provides detailed information about the requirements for individual courses and conducts the process from initial application to the final decision. Multiple applications may be made in parallel, but the PAC charges a non-refundable processing fee of €50.

To find out more about the PAC and determine whether it operates the applications process for a given course you can visit the organisation's website.

Language requirements

Though the official language of the Republic of Ireland is Irish (and many citizens speak Irish to some degree) English is the first language for most of the population and used for teaching at all of the country's higher education institutions.

If English is not your first language (and you have not previously studied on a program delivered in English) you may be asked to submit a score from a recognised language test as part of your application.

Irish universities and IoTs accept various internationally recognised tests, including the TOEFL, IELTS and PTE Academic formats.

Test Score Requirement
Computer-Based TOEFL 220
Paper-Based TOEFL 550
IELTS 6.5 (minimum of 6.0 in each component)
PTE Academic Minimum score of 6.3

Of course, you can also use your time as a Masters student in the Republic of Ireland to learn a little Irish,. Irish is an ancient language with a unique cadence and is the medium for the oldest vernacular literature in Western Europe.

Employers may not regard a little Irish fluency as a key skill on your CV, but they'll certainly recognise the spirit of adventure and exploration it represents. Plus, the experience will, as they say, be 'good craic'.

Masters student visas in Ireland

As a member state of the EU, Ireland allows students from other EU and EEA countries (plus Switzerland) to enter for study without requiring a formal visa. So long as you possess student status you will also not need a resident's permit.

Citizens of non-EU and EEA countries will need to apply for a visa to enter Ireland and register with the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) upon arrival in the country. This will allow you to receive a GNIB card (residence permit) the fee for which is €300.

Some exceptions exist for nationals of particular countries, including a visa waiver program that allows citizens of countries such as China, India and Russia to enter Ireland on a UK visa.

To learn more about Irish visa requirements and possible exemptions for citizens of different countries you can check the website of the Irish Citizens Information Board.

Applying for a visa

You can apply for a visa to study in the Republic of Ireland through the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service, which also offers more information on the documentation required by different applicants according to their circumstances.

An Irish embassy or consulate in your home country will also be able to provide more information.

General application documents and requirements will include the following:

  • A valid passport.
  • Proof of enrolment at a recognised Irish university.
  • Proof of health insurance (if required).

You may also be asked to demonstrate that you possess sufficient finances to support yourself during your studies. Acceptable evidence will generally include confirmation of a scholarship, or proof of savings.

Health insurance

EU and EEA citizens will be covered for hospital treatment provided they carry a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Students from other countries will need to acquire their own private health insurance and proof of this will be required during applications for a visa and residence card.

Masters fees and funding in Ireland

The cost of Masters programs in Ireland varies, but many international students pay the same rate as domestic students. Funding is also available to help support postgraduate study.

Masters fees in the Republic of Ireland

Postgraduate fees at most Irish universities are calculated according to student nationality.

  • EU and EEA students can expect the cost for a year of full time study to be at least €4-6,000. Fees for more expensive programs in subjects such as business or medicine will be closer to €20-30,000.
  • Students from outside the EU and EEA can expect to pay around €9,000 per year as a minimum, with some courses costing up to €30,000 per year. Again, business and medicine subjects are likely to be at the more expensive end of this range.

Masters funding in the Republic of Ireland

Various funding options exist for international students looking to study for a Masters in the Republic of Ireland.

Individual universities often offer fee waivers to some Masters students or will provide scholarships out of charitable endowments. You can investigate these options by exploring your institution's website or by getting in touch with them directly.

Various funding bodies also provide general support for postgraduate study in Ireland.

The Irish Research Council functions similarly to its UK equivalents and provides three main funding schemes:

  • The Enterprise Partnership program supports high quality researchers seeking to develop key transferrable skills.
  • The Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarship supports academic research in all subject areas and is available to international students seeking to study in Ireland.
  • The Employment-Based Postgraduate program operates through employer partnerships at specific institutions.

You can find out more about these awards at the website of the Irish Research Council.

If you are interested in studying at an IoT, you may be able to receive support from Institutes of Technology Ireland. Currently their main funding scheme is the Ireland Homecoming Study program, aimed at students from the wider Irish diaspora. You can visit the IoTI website for more information.


Our own postgraduate funding website provides a comprehensive database of small grants and bursaries available to support postgraduate study around the world, including travel bursaries, living cost support, fee waivers and exchange programs. Click here to start searching for funding to study a Masters in the Republic of Ireland, or elsewhere.

After graduation: careers and opportunities with an Irish Masters degree

Graduate opportunities are a core principle in the design and organisation of higher education in Ireland, with extensive work being carried out to ensure that students possess the key skills desired by employers in addition to their subject knowledge and academic expertise.

It is not uncommon for Masters programs in Ireland to include in-company placements or for business and industry partnerships to play a role in funding and designing courses as well as working with universities to ensure they produce attractive and competitive graduates.

Can you remain in Ireland to seek work after a Masters degree?

Ireland's pride in the quality of its higher education employability is reflected in the country's welcoming approach to employment law for international graduates.

Students from the EU and EEA are automatically allowed to seek work after studying in Ireland as a condition of international law, but a versions of this right is also extended to citizens of other countries under Ireland's Third Level Graduate Scheme.

Post-study work in Ireland under the Third Level Graduate Scheme

The Third Level Graduate Scheme allows international (non EU or EEA) students to work in Ireland for up to one year (12 months) after graduating from an Irish university. During this period you can work full time (up to 40 hours per week) without needing any additional permit.

In order to participate in this scheme you will need to renew your GNIB card (the residence permit supplied as part of your student visa and immigration arrangements) for a further year. this will normally cost another €300.

You will also need a letter from your university, confirming that you have graduated successfully from your Masters degree.

Once the 12 month period of your Third Level Graduate Scheme is complete you may be able to apply for a more permanent permit to work in Ireland (such as an Irish Green Card). This will be subject to having found suitable graduate employment and is not automatically guaranteed in all cases.

Can you remain in Ireland for further study after a Masters degree?

Yes - In addition to preparing you well for a professional career, an Irish Masters degree will also provide and excellent platform for further study at PhD level. Visit FindAPhD.com to learn more about studying a PhD in Ireland and to view PhD opportunities at Irish universities.

Last updated - 23/10/2015

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