Barry O'Driscoll, Regional Manager, India, Sri Lanka and Mexico, Colombia markets, Education in Ireland under Irish state agency Enterprise Ireland, talked with the Free Press Journal about Ireland as a study abroad destination, options and opportunities for Indian students and much more. Here are the excerpts of the interview :
1. How does Ireland as a study destination differentiate itself from other popular countries for students such as the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, etc.?
Ireland is a leader when it comes to the ‘employability rate’ for graduates, both Irish and international compared to other countries. The Irish higher education system is very closely aligned to the skills needs of industry, so graduates in Ireland are renowned for being very much ‘employment ready’. The fact that Ireland produces highly skilled graduates, coupled with the country’s geographic location, as a stepping stone between Europe and the US means that a significant number of multinational corporations operate their Europe headquarters out of Ireland. This creates a very strong ‘post-study work’ ecosystem for graduates in Ireland.
Ireland is ranked in the top 10 for education according to IMD World Competitiveness Ranking 2019. As per Times Higher Education, universities in Ireland rank amongst the top 5% world-wide. In addition to this, the Irish government offers a valuable, 2-years stay-back option for international graduates and masters’ level. The country is ranked number-1 for attracting and retaining international talent, setting Ireland apart from other countries.
2. Are Ireland-bound Indian students coming from bigger cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore are you also seeing a trend of individuals from smaller cities applying to universities in the country?
The number of Indian students choosing to pursue their higher education in Ireland has been steadily increasing in the last 10 years. Ireland is firmly now on the radar of Indian students when it comes to study abroad options, and in 2021 around 5,000 students all over India chose Ireland for undergraduate and postgraduate study.
Currently, the students applying to Ireland are based out of cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Chennai, Kochi, Coimbatore, Hyderabad, Ahmadabad, Lucknow, Chandigarh.
Furthermore, we are currently seeing an increase in the number of Indian students applying to Ireland at the rate of about 10% per year
3. What have been some of the positives and challenges that Education in Ireland has witnessed over the past decade in facilitating more Indian students to the country?
Ireland has progressively emerged as a desirable study destination for Indian students. It is a nation that has traditionally excelled at changing direction when confronted by challenges. Similarly, with the pandemic, the country chose to willingly embrace the opportunities that change offers. It has responded COVID-19 challenges and supported Indian students with healthcare aid and even provided a weekly compensation for students who lost their part-time job due to the pandemic.
Barry O' Driscoll
4. How is Ireland planning to encourage more international and Indian students in the next 10-15 years? Does it have plans to surpass the intake achieved by other countries in the Anglo-sphere?
The aim is not to attract international students in numbers beyond that of other English-speaking countries. Ireland is, after all, a small country with a population of just five million. What Ireland’s higher education institutions are aiming to do, however, is to build and grow a diverse international student community. Ireland's education system consistently ranks top 10 globally, attracting international students towards the quality of education it provides. The international students who come to study in Ireland come from EU member states such as France, Spain, Italy, Germany as well as non-European countries such as US, Canada, India, China, Malaysia, Nigeria and Mexico. Ireland currently has the fastest growing economy in the EU and there is an increased need for skilled graduates in sectors such as ICT, medical devices, pharma, finance, and agri-food. Highly skilled graduates play an important role in filling the critical skills needed in the Irish economy. That is the wider context in which Ireland is seeking more international students to choose Ireland. Irelands provides the benefits of pursuing education in an English-speaking country at the heart and the cultural, economic and technological leading edge of Europe that opens doors with a life changing experience. Besides, one of the primary reasons why Indian and international students are heading to Ireland is because of the ROI it offers – which in simple terms means the chances of a career boost following their graduation.
5. There used to be a two-year stay-back opportunity for students who studied in Ireland. Is that opportunity still available to students? If yes, have there been any changes in the same?
Yes, all international students seeking employment in Ireland, can stay-back with the help of the Irish Third Level Graduate Scheme. Ireland offers a two-year stay-back option for non-EU students graduating at a Masters level.
6. Can we say the degrees sought in Ireland have total international acceptance with regards to jobs across the world?
Yes, all degrees from Irish higher education institutions are fully certified and internationally recognised. Industry led and practical programmes in Ireland make international graduates’ career-ready and highly employable in Ireland and beyond. Irish higher education institutions have an employability rate of 80-96% for students across sectors. In fact, Ireland is a hub for tech giants such as Google, Microsoft, TikTok, Facebook, Slack, LinkedIn and the likes of it. As per a report by “The Irish Times Top 1000” a number of Fortune 500 companies are headquartered in Ireland. There are also wide-ranging industries including Financial Services, Life Sciences, Engineering, Pharmaceutical, Technology, and Business Global leaders such as Intel, HP, IBM, and Apple have long-established operations in Ireland. According to the OECD report Ireland will be the least affected economy in Europe.
7. Any additional SOPs for students who want to come to Ireland to study?
For international students, a number of factors compel them to apply to study abroad, Ireland in particular has proved to be an enticing prospect for international students. To provide a sum up insight as to how students can easily and practically plan to study in Ireland, one must consider their discipline of preference and look at the course options. Students are encouraged to use the to identify and compare different qualifications before making an informed decision. One of the best ways to gather information about the preferred programme, tuition fee, as well as funding and accommodation is by attending virtual or in-person fairs, especially official events run by the government of Ireland and Education in Ireland where top higher education institutions participate as well as the Visa Office, this information can be found on . A good grasp of the English language is an essential requirement for students whose first language is not English. An IELTS composite score of 6.0 - 6.5 with not less than 6.0 in any one component is a typical requirement.
8. What are some of the programmes that are popular among international students? Is there any study conducted on the same for students who want to study in Ireland
There is a steady demand for graduates of specialised disciplines in Ireland, and particularly those pursuing STEM subjects such as science, ICT, technology, finance and mechanical, software and electronic engineering. Job prospects are especially promising for those looking to grow in the IT sector which is the backbone of Ireland. It is anticipated that applications for courses in Design, Digital media, Hospitality, Animation, Cloud computing, and Aeronautics will see a surge in the coming years. However, Indian students usually gravitate towards popular courses like Engineering, Biotechnology, Computers, Marketing, Business, Pharmacy, Nursing, Law, and Communications. More recently, there has been an increased interest in courses that focus on emerging technologies such as AI, AgTech, Data Analytics and Science, and Cyber Security.
9. Since India is also looking at facilitating dual degree programmes with many universities abroad, are there any plans in the pipeline for collaborations between Indian and Irish universities?
Ireland’s higher education institutions are quite active when it comes to education partnerships with universities globally. There are certainly opportunities to develop this further when it comes to India. A number of Irish institutions currently have agreements with the likes of Delhi University, SRM, JNU and Vellore Institute of Technology. Furthermore, the implementation of NEP in India is a welcome move for both countries' dual degree collaborations. This will involve the introduction of new, innovative modules and courses. Programmes will also be more practical, which means that the curriculum will be more closely aligned with Ireland’s high education institutions. We are looking to renew and establish further partnerships with upcoming activities this year like familiarisation trips to Ireland and visits of Irish faculty to India.