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Should you study in Ireland or the UK?

By Edvoy• Last updated: Mar 14, 2024
Should you study in Ireland or the UK?
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Choosing the right destination for your higher education is crucial to shaping your academic and professional future. Ireland and the United Kingdom (UK) are two popular options as both offer excellent study programmes for international students. There are several benefits, as well as differences, to studying in each country.

In this article, we will take you through some of the main talking points of each country to help you decide Ireland or UK which is better.

Study in Ireland vs UK: Highlights

AspectStudy in IrelandStudy in UK
Average Cost of Living (Monthly)€1,700 to €2,000£1,900 to £2,200
Top Universities
  • Trinity College Dublin
  • University College Dublin
  • University of Galway
  • University College Cork
  • University of Cambridge
  • University of Oxford
  • Imperial College London
  • University College London
Cost of undergraduate program€12,800 to €27,720£24,000 to £48,000
Cost of postgraduate program€13,000 to €23,000£22,000 to £38,000
Types of Student Visa
  • Stamp 2 (Student) Visa
  • Stamp 2A (Study Abroad) Visa
  • Tier 4 (General) Student Visa
  • Tier 4 (Child) Student Visa
Post-Graduate Work Visa
  • Stay Back Option
  • Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP)
  • Immigration Pathways
  • Graduate Route
  • Skilled Worker Visa
  • Innovator and Startup Visas
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Study in Ireland vs UK: Top universities

Ireland and the United Kingdom (UK) have a rich tradition of academic excellence and are home to some of the world's most prestigious institutions.

1. Top universities in Ireland

Irish universities have garnered international recognition for their high education standards, cutting-edge research, and commitment to fostering innovation.

The best universities in Ireland, according to the QS rankings 2024, are:

UniversityQS Ranking
Trinity College Dublin81
University College Dublin171
University of Galway289
University College Cork292
University of Limerick426
Dublin City University436

Also Read: The top universities in Ireland for international students

2. Top universities in the UK

The prospect of studying in the UK presents an opportunity for international students to engage with some of the world's most prestigious and academically rigorous universities. The best universities in the UK, according to the QS rankings 2024, are:

UniversityQS Ranking
University of Cambridge2
University of Oxford3
Imperial College London6
University College London9
The University of Edinburgh22
The University of Manchester32

While Ireland has excellent universities, the UK has a larger number of world-class institutions, making it the preferred choice for those seeking academic prestige.

Also Read: What Are The Most Popular Degree Courses in The UK?

Each country offers a wide array of popular courses across various disciplines.

Popular Courses in IrelandPopular Courses in UK
Computer Science and I.T.Business and Finance
Business and ManagementLaw
EngineeringEngineering
Medicine and Health SciencesSocial Sciences
Pharmaceutical SciencesCreative Arts and Design
Arts and HumanitiesMedicine and Life Sciences

Ireland vs UK for Masters 

Both Ireland and UK are ideal destinations to pursue a Master's degree, but they differ in several ways Ireland’s universities, known for its smaller class sizes and strong emphasis on research, offer a more personalised and immersive learning experience. Ireland is particularly strong in STEM fields, technology, and life sciences. It's an attractive destination for those pursuing degrees in areas like computer science, engineering, and biotechnology.

Additionally, it offers several post-study work opportunities for international graduates. The UK is home to some of the world's most prestigious universities, including the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge. It offers a broad spectrum of programs, making it an excellent choice for almost any field of study. Whether you're interested in arts and humanities, business, law, or science, you will likely find a suitable program. The UK also has a robust internship and job market for international students.

Choose Ireland if you value smaller class sizes and your academic interests lie in STEM disciplines, technology, or life sciences. Choose the UK if you want access to a wide array of programs and aim to study at some of the world's most renowned universities, such as Oxford and Cambridge.

Also read: Cost of living in Ireland for International Students

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UK vs Ireland: Admission requirements

Admission requirements for universities in Ireland and the UK can vary depending on the institution, the level of study (undergraduate or postgraduate), and the specific program you are interested in.

1. Admission requirements in Ireland

1. Undergraduate admission

  • Qualifications: Typically, Irish universities require applicants to have completed their secondary education and obtained a Leaving Certificate. International students might need to provide equivalent qualifications, such as A-levels or the International Baccalaureate.
  • Language Proficiency: If your primary language is not English, you will need to demonstrate English language proficiency by providing IELTS or TOEFL scores. The minimum score requirements can vary between institutions but are usually around IELTS 6.0-6.5 or TOEFL iBT 80-90.
  • Specific Program Requirements: Some programs, like medicine, dentistry, and veterinary science, may have additional entry exams or interviews.

2. Postgraduate admission

  • Qualifications: You'll typically need a bachelor's degree or equivalent, relevant to the program you're applying for. Some master's programs may require a specific grade or GPA.
  • Language Proficiency: As with undergraduate programs, you'll need to prove your English language proficiency through IELTS or TOEFL.
  • Reference Letters and Statement of Purpose: Many postgraduate programs require letters of recommendation from professors and a statement of purpose outlining your research interests and goals.
  • Entrance Exams: Some postgraduate programs, especially in highly competitive fields, may require GRE or GMAT scores.

2. Admission requirements in UK

1. Undergraduate admission

  • Qualifications: UK universities typically require A-levels or equivalent qualifications for undergraduate programs. International students may also be asked to provide proof of the equivalence of their qualifications.
  • Language Proficiency: You'll need to demonstrate English language proficiency through IELTS or TOEFL. The required score can vary but is often around IELTS 6.0-6.5 or TOEFL iBT 80-90.
  • UCAS Application: Most undergraduate applications for UK universities are processed through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). You can apply for multiple universities and courses through a single UCAS application.

2. Postgraduate admission

  • Qualifications: You'll need a relevant bachelor's degree or equivalent, and some programs may have specific grade requirements.
  • Language Proficiency: As with undergraduate programs, English language proficiency is required, often demonstrated through IELTS or TOEFL.
  • Reference Letters and Personal Statement: Postgraduate applications often require reference letters and a personal statement detailing your academic and research interests.
  • Research Proposal: For research-based master's and Ph.D. programs, you may need to submit a research proposal outlining your proposed project.
  • Entrance Exams: Some postgraduate programs may require GRE or GMAT scores, especially in competitive fields.

Study in Ireland vs. UK: Cost of studying a undergraduate program

Ireland and the UK are popular destinations for undergraduate studies for international students due to their prestigious universities and diverse academic offerings, but they differ in tuition fees, living expenses, and available financial support.

The tuition fees for undergraduate programs at popular universities in Ireland are:

UniversityTuition fee
University College Dublin€17,640.00 to €27,720
University of Galway€17,360 to €24,640
University College Cork€16,700 to €23,000
University of Limerick€12,800 to €17,200
Dublin City University€14,500 to €15,500

The tuition fees for undergraduate programs at popular universities in the UK are:

UniversityTuition fee
University of Cambridge£24,507 to £32,064
University of Oxford£33,050 and £48,620
Imperial College London£36,700.00 to £39,100
UCL£24,000 to £32,100
The University of Edinburgh£24,500 to £32,200

Also Read: How much does it cost to study in Ireland?

Study in Ireland vs UK: Cost of studying a postgraduate program

The tuition fees for postgraduate programs in Ireland can vary significantly. For EU/EEA students, fees tend to be lower than those for international students. On average, international students may pay higher fees, ranging from €9,000 to €30,000 or more annually.

The tuition fees for postgraduate programs at popular universities in Ireland are:

UniversityTuition fee
University College Dublin€13,080 to €14,700
University of Galway€14,890 to €25,090
University College Cork€16,700 to €18,800
University of Limerick€15,800 to €23,300
Dublin City University€15,500 to €19,500

Like Ireland, the tuition fees in the UK for postgraduate programs vary widely, with universities setting their fee structures. On average, international students might expect to pay between £10,000 to £25,000 or more for a one-year postgraduate program, depending on the subject and university.

The tuition fees for postgraduate programs at popular universities in UK are:

UniversityTuition fee
University of Cambridge£29,826 to £ 37,458
University of Oxford£28,020 to £30,910
Imperial College London£25,700 to £ 35,700
UCL£22,900 to £27,480
The University of Edinburgh£27,100 to £38,500

Also Read

Ireland vs UK for international students: Student visa

The student visas for Ireland and UK serve as vital gateways for individuals seeking to embark on educational journeys, immersing themselves in top-notch academic institutions while experiencing unique cultures. 

1. Student Visa for the UK

1. Tier 4 (General) Student Visa

The Tier 4 (General) Student Visa is the primary student visa category for international students coming to the UK for higher education. This visa allows students to study full-time and work part-time during term-time (typically up to 20 hours per week) and full-time during vacations.

2. Tier 4 (Child) Student Visa

This visa category is for children aged 4 to 17 who wish to study at independent schools in the UK. It requires a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) from a licensed Tier 4 sponsor and proof of parental consent.

Also Read: Guide to UK Student visa

Looking to study in UK?
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2. Student Visa for Ireland

1. Stamp 2 (Student) Visa

International students planning to study in Ireland for more than 90 days (3 months) must apply for a Stamp 2 Student Visa. Stamp 2 visas are typically issued for the duration of the course.

2. Stamp 2A (Study Abroad) Visa

This visa is for non-European Economic Area (EEA) students who plan to study in Ireland for less than 90 days, typically for short-term programs or exchange programs.

Also Read: Which Irish student visa you need?

Ireland vs UK for international students: Post-graduate work visa

Both Ireland and the UK offer post-graduate work opportunities, but the specific schemes and eligibility criteria vary.

1. Postgraduate work visa in Ireland

1. Stay Back Option

Ireland offers a "Stay Back" option for international students who have completed their degrees in Ireland. This scheme allows students to stay and work in Ireland for a specific duration after graduation.

2. Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP)

Students who graduate from a recognized Irish higher education institution can apply for a Post-Graduate Work Permit, which allows them to work in Ireland for up to two years. If you complete a master's or Ph.D. program in Ireland, you can extend the Post-Graduate Work Permit for an additional year.

3. Immigration Pathways

Ireland has various immigration pathways for skilled workers, including the Critical Skills Employment Permit and the General Employment Permit. Graduates can transition to these permits if they secure a job offer in Ireland.

Ireland's "Stay Back" option and Post-Graduate Work Permit allow graduates to work in Ireland for up to two years (or three years for Ph.D. graduates) after completing their studies.

2. Postgraduate work visa in the UK

1. Graduate Route (formerly Post-Study Work Visa)

In the UK, the Graduate Route is a popular work visa option for international students who have completed a degree at a recognized UK higher education institution. The Graduate Route allows graduates to work, seek employment, or start their own business in the UK for a period of two years (or three years for Ph.D. graduates). There is no requirement for a job offer or sponsorship from an employer, making it a flexible option for recent graduates to explore career opportunities.

2. Skilled Worker Visa

After the Graduate Route, many international graduates transition to the Skilled Worker Visa, which is the UK's main immigration route for skilled workers. To be eligible, you must secure a job offer from a UK employer that holds a Skilled Worker Sponsorship License and meets specific skill and salary requirements.

3. Innovator and Startup Visas

Graduates interested in entrepreneurship can apply for the Innovator or Startup Visa, allowing them to establish and run their own businesses in the UK.

The UK's Graduate Route offers a longer initial post-graduate work period (two years) without requiring a job offer, providing graduates with flexibility.

Cost of living in Ireland vs UK

Expense CategoryCost of Living in Ireland (Monthly)Cost of Living in the UK (Monthly)
Accommodation(one-bedroom apartment)€900 to €1,200£1,100 to £1,500
Groceries€200 to €300£150 to £250
Transportation€100 (Monthly pass)£70 to £150 (Monthly pass)
Healthcare€500 to €1,000Provided through the National Health Service
Utilities€100 to €150£100 to £150

1. Cost of Living in Ireland

1. Accommodation

The cost of housing in Ireland can be relatively high, particularly in major cities like Dublin and Cork. Rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre can range from €1,200 to €2,500 per month, while suburban areas may offer slightly more affordable options.

2. Food

Grocery prices in Ireland are generally on par with other Western European countries. A typical monthly grocery bill for a student might amount to €200 to €300, depending on lifestyle and dietary choices.

3. Transportation

Public transportation is well-developed in Irish cities, with Dublin's public transport system, including buses and trams, being widely used. A monthly transportation pass in Dublin can cost around €100.

4. Healthcare

Healthcare in Ireland is provided through a mix of public and private services. International students usually require private health insurance, which can cost approximately €500 to €1,000 per year.

5. Utilities

Utility bills, including electricity, heating, cooling, water, and garbage, typically amount to around €100 to €150 per month.

Also Read

2. Cost of Living in the UK

1. Accommodation

The cost of housing in the UK also varies significantly by location. London is known for its high rent prices, with a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre costing around £1,500 to £2,500 per month. In other UK cities, such as Manchester or Birmingham, accommodation tends to be more affordable.

2. Food

Similar to Ireland, grocery prices in the UK are in line with Western European standards. A monthly grocery bill for a student may range from £150 to £250. 

3. Transportation

The UK has an extensive public transportation network, especially in cities like London and Manchester. Monthly transportation passes can range from £70 to £150

4. Healthcare

Healthcare in the UK is primarily provided through the National Health Service (NHS), which is funded through taxation and generally accessible to students. 

5. Utilities

Utility costs in the UK, including electricity, heating, water, and internet, may amount to around £100 to £150 per month

The cost of living in Ireland is slightly cheaper than the UK but only by a little.

Conclusion

Both countries offer excellent educational opportunities, world-renowned universities, and unique advantages. The decision of whether to study in Ireland or the UK ultimately depends on individual preferences, goals, and circumstances. 

Frequently asked questions

Is Ireland better than UK for education?

It varies by program and institution. Ireland is known for its friendly education environment and English-language instruction, while the UK boasts prestigious universities and a wider variety of academic disciplines. Choosing between them depends on your specific academic goals and preferences.

Is it cheaper to study in Ireland than in the UK? 

Some Irish universities generally have lower tuition fees than their UK counterparts. Still, it's essential to research specific programs and scholarships to determine the overall cost of your chosen course.

Can I get permanent residency in Ireland?

Ireland offers pathways to permanent residency and citizenship, but eligibility criteria vary based on your visa category, duration of stay, and other factors. For the most accurate and up-to-date information on Irish immigration policies, consult the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) or an immigration lawyer.

How many hours can a student work in Ireland?

International students with valid study visas in Ireland are typically allowed to work part-time (up to 20 hours per week) during term time and full-time during holidays. 

Is it easier to immigrate to the UK or Ireland?

The UK and Ireland have specific immigration pathways and requirements, so research and consult official government sources for the most accurate information.

Is getting permanent residency (PR) in Ireland easy?

The ease of obtaining PR depends on the specific immigration pathway and your eligibility. Achieving permanent residency in Ireland can be possible through various routes, such as employment, family reunification, or long-term residence.

Can I get PR in the UK after completing my studies? 

Yes, you can get PR in the UK after completing your studies. The UK offers post-study work options, such as the Graduate Route, which allows international students to stay and work in the UK for a certain period after completing their studies. 

What is the best university for international students in Northern Ireland?

Queen's University Belfast and Ulster University are among the prominent universities in Northern Ireland that welcome international students.

The next step

Choosing where to study in Ireland or the UK will depend on your degree speciality and your budget. Whether you decide to study in Ireland or the UK, Edvoy can help you with your application.

Contact us today to start the application process.

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