Question: I live in Singapore and am planning to send my daughter to study a business degree through English in a European university. Are Irish universities set up to cater to international students?
Answer: Until recently, Ireland was a homogenous society with less than 1 per cent of foreign nationals living or studying within its borders. In the past couple of decades the demographic profile has been transformed through large inflows of fellow European Union citizens, alongside people from Africa, Asia and elsewhere.
The non-Irish component of our society has now reached 12 per cent. This process has occurred without any significant societal resistance. The vast majority who have been offered the right to live and work in our country are welcomed without resentment. Unlike some fellow EU countries, we are actively resettling refugees from Syria.
Therefore, I can assure you that if you choose an Irish university for your daughter she will experience a friendly, warm welcome from both students and staff within her college, and from the society and community where she will be living. Integrating can be a challenge, though colleges are doing much more these days to make sure international students don’t feel isolated.
Nobody is ever assured of not having a bad experience, and any parent considering sending a daughter halfway around the world will naturally worry about how they will be received. If it is any consolation, Irish people – who have travelled in huge numbers themselves for centuries to seek their fortunes abroad – understand the vulnerability of those far from home and treat them with respect, if not a little curiosity.
These are the good aspects. Ireland, however, is not a cheap place in which to live and study.
From figures compiled by both universities and student representative organisations it costs about €680 to live and a further €400-€800 at a minimum for shared accommodation per month.
These figures vary depending on which city a student chooses to study in. Dublin is by far the most expensive city for accommodation but hosts four of our seven universities. Cork, Galway and Limerick each have excellent universities and would be somewhat cheaper than Dublin from an accommodation point of view.
International students can purchase medical protection insurance for €100 per year, which is very cheap. There is a case due before our courts shortly which may require international students studying in Ireland for more than a year to take out full private medical insurance to retain their student visa, which would increase this cost to more than €1,000 per year, but this issue is still in flux.
Finally, the cost of tuition for every programme is available online on each university’s website. The fees for international non-EU students are expensive – though still cheaper than in several other jurisdictions. A four-year international business degree can cost up to €18,700 per year. Ireland doesn’t have a loan system for degrees, and doesn’t look like it will have one soon. Individual colleges, however, may often collect fees in instalments, if this is an issue for you.