(The Free Press Journal publishes articles by study abroad consultants, Consulates, foreign universities, international students, and much more every Saturday to give its readers a glimpse of the world of overseas education.)
Mumbai: With more than 6,000 Indian students going to Ireland annually, the country has recognised India as one of its biggest markets for educational and professional ambitions. Recently, authorities from Ireland’s National College of Ireland (NCI), which has an office in India to cater to students in the country, visited Mumbai to interact with prospective students. In an interview with the Free Press Journal, the President of NCI, Prof Gina Quin, and Director, Marketing and Student Recruitment, Mr. Robert Ward delved into the opportunities for Indian students in Ireland, financial aid, the significance of India as a market to them, and more. Excerpts from the interview:
1. How important will India be for you in the coming years?
Gina- We have just launched a new five-year strategy for the college, where we see ourselves growing our student body by 30%. So we would like to see all of our student bodies grow by that amount and we would like to see that type of growth in our Indian student cohort. Our goal is for students to be multicultural and make them listen and act on the needs of every part of the world. That’s the real benefit of international education. As we have discussed with our Indian partners before, we believe we have shared values with India about education as both nations believe it’s an avenue to move the countries forward, economically. Both countries are also strongly embedded in family values and we as a nation would put a lot of investment and time into education. 56% of children in Ireland go on to attain a degree-level qualification. We have used that educational mindset to promote Ireland as an investment centre internationally. Google, Facebook, and so many other platforms build their headquarters here mainly because of this very reason. Ireland is great to build one’s personal skills and talent while attaining a high standard of living at the same time.
2. How many international students are currently studying at NCI?
Gina- In total we have 6,500 students at NCI with 17% of them being international students. Of that, 40-50% are Indians so they are a very significant part of our international body. There’s a very good alignment in our education and the primary degrees of Indian students because we have a strong school of computing with master’s programmes in cybersecurity, data analytics, and artificial intelligence.
Robert- We have seen huge success with Indian students winning European and National competitions for innovation in IT, especially from NCI. That's proof of the level of competence of Indian students coming to the programmes at the institute.
3. With Ireland providing a stay-back visa, how is NCI facilitating it for incoming students?
Gina- The stay back visa is an important part of our process for international students. Thus, education can help them focus on their career development. During the 15 months they spend with us, we want to make sure that they have access to potential employers in Ireland. We often bring senior people working across companies in our area to the classrooms to talk about their experiences in the industry or to engage with the students on case studies during their programmes. Our education is cutting-edge in terms of skills and knowledge that the students will require but it’s also about understanding how they will apply it while pursuing their careers. Students are in a much better position to hit the ground running in their chosen sectors due to these factors.
Robert - We have a very good team in India with a strong awareness of the programmes offered in Ireland. We also conduct a lot of events, webinars, sessions, and more. Hence, the students are very well informed about the programmes, stay back visas, and opportunities. Students thus get the awareness they need in India before they make the move to Ireland.
4. With international students needing financial aid to help with costs, what are NCI's policies on this front?
Robert - We do have scholarship programmes for all our courses. The scholarships are available in undergraduate as well as postgraduate programmes for students, which we make them aware of beforehand.
Gina - Also within the college, some students who come for graduation receive dean scholarships in their courses which can help them financially and continue with Masters at the institute.
5. What are the reasons behind building your campuses exclusively in Dublin?
Gina - We have both of our campuses in the capital city of Dublin as we are based out of the city. The two campuses are also close to each other in the international financial services area. The area is designated for high-rise commercial buildings, including educational institutions. It has also attracted many multinational companies to build their presence in and around the area.
6. How do you address growing accommodation issues for students in Ireland?
Gina - I believe accommodation is a problem everywhere across the world and Dublin is no different.
Robert - Accommodation is one of the primary concerns for any international student when going to any major European city. We would like to address it by providing awareness, information and helping students plan in advance. We have a very well established welcome programme that starts weeks before students come to Ireland or the institute which takes them. It includes all the aspects of being prepared, a key part of which is accommodation. We make sure that students can avail accommodation and get all the help in finding support. By and large, our students have been able to be successful in it, but it’s definitely a challenge.
7. How does NCI help with community development across Ireland?
Gina- We want to change lives through education. In inner towns and cities across Ireland, many are still deprived of basic services. Our mission is to change their lives as we started the ‘early learning initiative’, as studies have proved that children born in lower-income families are at a learning disadvantage as compared to ones in middle-income households. We work with parents and students for two years. We regularly visit those children, providing them with reading material and toys with educational significance. This is a highly regarded programme, supported by philanthropy and corporations, as we work with more than 14,000 individuals annually. We want to make sure that children are ready to join schools before the age of five while having skills and access to learning.
Robert - Our programme has made a tangible difference in school preparedness among children in those communities. There are lots of other ways in which the college interacts with students and parents. In another example, if individuals are unemployed, they can learn new skills in the field of IT, Business, etc to reskill themselves. We were founded on these ideals of community outreach in 1951 and they continue to this day.
8. Do you have plans to build campuses in other cities apart from Dublin?
Gina - Not at this moment. Dublin is the most significant city in Ireland, as it’s also the seat of government. It is probably five or seven times larger than the other cities such as Cork and Limerick. Dublin also has the main international airport and seaport, apart from being the main centre of commerce in the country. Our connection to international students is best served by being in Dublin and we are also aware that it's significant from the perspective of finding employment.
9. What should Indian students keep in mind before moving to Ireland?
Robert - I think there are a couple of things that students should keep in mind. For one, preparation is key. At the institute, we run a 12-week programme that students who have got in can access to prepare themselves. We would suggest they talk to the right agents, universities, and institutions. Look at the websites and make sure the programmes are right for you. In terms of the visa process, students should understand that clearing it would take time, especially during peak months, which is why they should plan ahead and early. Students can acquaint themselves with what’s going on through the internet. Students should be clear about what they want to know and not follow their friends' lead in choosing a course or college. Once the student arrives, they should focus on their study, even though circumstances can be challenging. If you have any problems, talk to the support services, your peers, and the international office who will always be there.
Gina - Do consider Ireland as it’s a friendly, family-oriented country. We, as a college, have a very student-centric approach as we want them to take that experience to achieve the next big step in their career. We have thousands of Indian alumni and wish to develop our relationship in this beautiful country.
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