Study System in Ireland

It is said that whoever catches a leprechaun will be rewarded with a pot of gold from the little nature spirit. However, the green-clad goblins are particularly tricky and escape quickly before they reveal the location of the gold at the end of the rainbow.

For studying in Ireland, however, the search for the pot of gold is unnecessary. The clearly structured study system in Ireland is affordable and easily accessible for EU citizens. Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to keep on the lookout for the red-bearded lucky charm during the academic year. The Celtic Tiger, as Ireland is also known, is happy about long and short-term investments on the Emerald Isle. However, no savings are made in the education sector. The university landscape in Ireland is well equipped so that international students can look forward to an individual and practical course with familiar degrees.

Quality assurance in Ireland

The study system in Ireland is clearly structured and internationally comparable thanks to the National Framework of Qualifactions (NFQ). All qualifications are classified in a ten-level system. The qualifications in the tertiary education sector start at level 6 and end at level 10.

The main purpose of the system is to ensure quality in higher education in Ireland. In addition, it makes changing universities and the recognition of qualifications, especially within Europe, uncomplicated. Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) is responsible for compliance with the NFQ.

The structure of the study system in Ireland

The study system in Ireland is divided into undergraduate and postgraduate areas. The degrees build on each other and enable a degree up to a doctorate. Due to modules in the course and the possibility of credit transfer, a change of course or to another university is relatively easy to implement.

Universities in Ireland promote the idea of lifelong learning. The NFQ makes it possible to complete a degree or further training program in every phase of life. To gain access to the tertiary education system, applicants need the (technical) Abitur.

The application to study in Ireland is carried out according to the study program through the Central Applications Office (CAO), the Postgraduate Applications Center (PAC) or the Irish College. The admission decision rests with the autonomous universities in Ireland. To learn more about the country of Ireland and continent of Europe, please follow beautypically. For funding, research and compliance with central directives to universities and Institutes of Technology which is Higher Education Authority (HEA) responsible. At most Institutes of Technology, degrees up to Master’s level are possible. Unlike countries like New Zealand, some offer Institutes of Technology and also offer doctoral programs.

Applicants who are over 23 years old and would like to start their studies later have the opportunity to take preparatory courses (foundation courses).

The classic degrees

The universities in Ireland offer internationally recognized Bachelor, Master and Doctoral degrees.

Bachelor Degree

A bachelor’s degree in Ireland typically lasts three years. Compared to the four-year Bachelor of Honors, the lower bachelor’s degree is less research-oriented. Most undergraduate programs in Ireland are honors degrees. Bachelor graduates receive this degree with honors after a further year of study.

For some departments, students need more than three years. For example, the engineering, agricultural and natural sciences courses are designed for four years. Architecture, dentistry and veterinary medicine students take five years and medicine six years. Some departments are only offered by the longer-established Irish universities.

Master Degree

For a Masters degree in Ireland, students typically spend one to two years in college. There is a distinction between by Thesis and by Examination and Minor Thesis (Taught Master). The usual requirement is a Bachelor of Honors. Graduates with a bachelor’s degree from Germany can usually start a master’s degree in Ireland without any problems. In some cases, admission is also possible with relevant professional experience.

For a Master by Research, applicants need a Bachelor with First or Second Class Honors. In this master’s degree, the research work is much more extensive and includes individual support from the teaching staff. In the practice-oriented Taught Master, students also attend courses.

Part -time study is only possible with a few master’s programs. In rare cases, for example when changing subjects, students need an Irish certificate or diploma for admission, which they acquire with postgraduate studies.

Doctoral Degree (PhD)

Graduates of a Master by Research study for three to four years up to a doctorate. With a Bachelor of Honors, access is possible after one year in the research-oriented Master.

In accordance with the European Universities Association’s Salzburg Principles, PhD programs have been structured more and more in recent years. Currently, universities in Ireland offer structured PhDs, practice based PhDs and industrial PhDs.

The country-specific degrees

In addition to the traditional degrees, universities in Ireland offer country-specific degrees, which often correspond to continuing education programs or postgraduate studies. Higher certificates can be found primarily at the Institutes of Technology, which determine the length and content themselves. Most of the programs are based on the needs of the labor market or include company partnerships. Diplomas are also offered by universities in Ireland.

In Germany, certificates and diplomas tend not to be recognized as academic or professional qualifications. Nevertheless, they are interesting for future employers as a practice-oriented additional qualification.


Advanced and higher certificates are at level 6 of the NQF scale and usually last one to two years. Most certificates are job-related and practical. With a higher certificate, it is possible to switch to a bachelor’s program. After a further two years, students then receive a Bachelor of Honors.


With this degree, students usually complete a practical program lasting several months and up to a year. The Higher Diploma (level 8) or the higher Postgraduate Diploma (level 9) students occupy often by a BS program. With the Higher Diploma, this is usually a different subject area than in the previous degree.

Shorter study trips to Ireland

The study system in Ireland also offers the right options for shorter study trips. In addition to certificates and diplomas, many Irish universities offer a study abroad program, for example. A semester abroad in Ireland promises individual support and high-quality teaching with a wide range of courses. The prerequisite is usually the (technical) Abitur and sufficient knowledge of English. Students spend one or two semesters in Ireland and usually choose their schedule from the wide range of courses, as long as they meet the admission requirements. At many universities in Ireland, international students also take a specific package of courses.

After graduating from high school, there is also the option of completing an Academic Gap Year. During this time, the students get an insight into university life and subject areas that interest them. Under certain circumstances, the courses attended can be credited towards later studies.

The study system in Ireland compared to Germany

Academic degrees in Ireland have hardly differed from German degrees since the Bologna reform. With a bachelor’s, master’s and doctor’s degree, a change within the university systems is quite possible. However, the mutual recognition of examinations and degrees is not always guaranteed. For example, the Bachelor of Honors is unknown in Germany. In addition, the Irish grading system differs from the German one.

In contrast to the German dual training system, the study system in Ireland also places a practical focus on studies. In addition, the state’s own professional qualifications are generally not recognized in Germany.

Study System in Ireland

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