Mumbai: With Irish universities offering courses, scholarships, and other educational facilities to Indian students, Ireland’s no longer a country that only figures among the ones having a lively culture but also as a possible option for higher education.
Irish Consul General in Mumbai, Anita Kelly, who was present at the Mumbai leg of the Ireland education fair organised by Education in Ireland talks to the Free Press Journal about the opportunities for Indian students, student visas, accommodation crisis, and much more. Excerpts from the interview:
1. How integral is education to the relationship between Ireland and India?
Education plays a significant role in the relationship between India and Ireland. I have been here for the past three months and I'm amazed by the parallels that both countries share with each other.
For example, an Irish teacher, Margaret Cousins, composed the music of India’s national anthem Jana Gana Mana which signifies our long history of sending Irish teachers around the world and the importance of learning in the relationship shared by India and Ireland.
Ireland is also the only English-speaking country in the EU which can benefit Indian students, as every course is delivered in the language and is used in most other sectors in the country.
India and Ireland also share family values, the idea of respecting each other, so parents in India and other Asian countries know that they are sending their kids to a country which shares their teachings.
2. How is Ireland planning to help Indian students avail jobs in the country?
With thousands of its companies figuring among the top in tech and 50% of the world’s top financial service companies also being from the country, Indian students benefit from Ireland’s stay-back visa.
Indian students can avail of Ireland’s stay-back visa schemes in key sectors such as ICT, Pharma, medical devices, and financial services. These students are a vital source of talent for Ireland and we are really glad to see many of the graduates working with Irish companies and prospering.
3. With student visa issues being a concern in the US, Canada, etc how does Ireland fare with regard to the same for Indian students?
The first thing to know is that the Ireland visa process is efficient, with it taking five working days to process student visas once the documents are in order. People can send their applications through VFS and we process the same through our Delhi Embassy. At the same time, it is important that students read the information on the website beforehand and be clear on what’s required if they get that right, they are helping themselves. I would suggest that students don’t get too hung up on what went wrong with their friends and see the process as a college project instead.
4. How can the current accommodation crisis in Ireland be addressed, according to you?
I will acknowledge that there’s a problem with accommodation in the country right now which is similar to constraints in many other countries. I think the best option for students is to liaise with the university office regarding any concerns. Fifty thousand people of Indian origin comprise 1% of Ireland’s population, so if you have any family members in the country, see if you are able to stay with them for a while before things get figured out. Everybody wants to help Indian and international students in Ireland, and we are working on the same.
5. How does Ireland see its growth among Indian and international students in the coming years?
We would very much like to break into one of the top choices for Indian students and increase their number in the coming years. Though Ireland is a small country with a 5 million population, 4-5k students per annum, and 40,000 students in total is a lot, so it’s not realistic to beat the numbers of the US or Canada but we are focused on quality offerings rather than a huge quantity of students. We already get a good number of Indian students from Mumbai, Delhi, and Bangalore, where the fairs have also been conducted.
6. What is the key aspect that Ireland is banking on to attract Indian students?
We are very much focused on using postgraduate education as the main factor for Indian students. I myself taught in a third-level institution and law to students at the Technological University of the Shannon. Indian students in my class were one of the best and brought up the level of the classroom. They thrived in Ireland and even though there are cultural differences, they harnessed Ireland’s focus on innovation and enterprise.
7. International students in Ireland have also expressed concerns about racial incidents in the country. How would you address that?
I am sorry to hear that students have faced this in Ireland and some work is underway in this regard in the country at the moment. While it is not something that I have seen with my own experience, I can tell you that Irish society has been subject to a lot of change with new communities coming and settling in Ireland. Immigrants provide critical services and talents to the country, for example, so many nurses from Kerala are there throughout health centers across Ireland and take care of the elderly and I can tell you that they are cherished immensely. The issue of racism is rare and Ireland is working on eliminating it and I can assure the students that such a thing is not mainstream in Irish society at all.
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