The higher education system in Ireland is based largely on the British system. As in the UK (and USA), Ireland has traditionally had a two-cycle system of higher education: Undergraduate (Bachelor degree) and Graduate (Masters and PhD).


Bachelor degrees are usually of three or four years duration, though specialised professional programmes such as Medicine take longer. Yes, that’s correct, in Ireland you can study Medicine as an undergraduate student.

Undergraduate students enter university on a specific Bachelor degree programme. For example, the programmes such as the Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Commerce, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Engineering etc., are all commonly offered by the various Irish universities.

Different Bachelor degree programmes may have different entry requirements . It’s important to remember this when applying, because if you are not accepted for a specific programme at your chosen university,  the same university may accept you on to a another programme with different requirements.

Graduate Studies

After completing a Bachelor degree,  a student may decide to go on to pursue a Master’s degree. Master’s degrees are highly specialised and usually take one or two years to complete. There are two general types of Master’s degrees:

  • taught Master’s, which consists of classes, seminars, coursework and a minor research dissertation. A taught Master’s usually takes 1 year but some take 2 years to complete.
  • research Master’s, which consist of working on a research project under faculty supervision usually for 2 years.As in the UK and the USA, a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree requires working on an original research project, usually over 4 years, before producing a thesis.

Admission Requirements

As mentioned above, entry requirements for Bachelor degree programmes can vary. Certain programmes may have particular pre-requisites from your high school studies. For example, a student applying for Engineering would need excellent grades in Mathematics, whereas a student wishing to study Business or a Humanities degree may be required to have a modern European language.

Entry to a Master’s degree programme usually requires a Bachelor degree in a cognate discipline with good grades. Similarly, a student with excellent grades in their Bachelor degree may be considered for direct entry to a PhD programme.


There are 7 universities in Ireland. These include the four constituent universities of the National University of Ireland (1-4 below) and three others.

  1. NUI Galway
  2. UCD
  3. NUI Maynooth
  4. UCC
  5. Trinity College (University of Dublin)
  6. DCU
  7. University of Limerick.

The 7 Irish universities are largely publicly funded, though they each retain a high level of autonomy in matters such as matriculation, curriculum and the awarding of academic degrees under the Irish Universities Act, 1997.

As well as the 7 universities, there are also fourteen Institutes of Technology (IOTs) in Ireland. With the exception of DIT, the IOTs don’t have degree awarding powers and generally offer more vocational focused programmes in the  science and technology subjects.