Applying to College in Ireland

This page gives a brief overview of the process of applying to college in \Ireland- as an EU/non EU candidate- including details relating to researching courses, costs etc.

Applying to study at Third Level / Higher Education in Ireland:

Access to third level education in Ireland is competitive. Obtaining a place on a particular course depends on the subjects undertaken in the Irish Leaving Certificate and the grades achieved (or equivalent qualifications obtained by overseas students). Application for full-time under graduate courses are made through the Central Applications Office (CAO). The CAO provides a handbook listing all the courses available and how to apply. You can access this information, and complete your application on line, by visiting


Video uploaded in October 2017

The closing date for all EU applicants is February 1st of the year of admission.

Non EU applicants are advised to apply well in advance of the closing date of February 1st, preferably not later than 15th December of the previous year.

If the Higher Education Institution (HEI) you have chosen is not part of the CAO system, make direct enquiries to the institution.

Some HEIs require non-EU applicants to apply direct to the institution. Applicants should contact the admissions office of the Higher Education Institution they wish to attend to enquire whether they need to apply to the institution or through the CAO system.

Applicants presenting qualifications other than Irish school leaving examination should also make enquiries to the admissions office of their chosen third level institution.

Students presenting with a European Baccalaureate should consult:

Researching Third Level Course Options:

In researching undergraduate course options in your chosen area of study you may find the following websites useful:

Qualifax is hosted and managed by The Qualifications and Quality Authority of Ireland (QQI). The site provides a national database of 17,100 further and higher education courses at all levels of the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ). It provides summary information on courses - entry requirements, course content, opportunities for progression etc.

CareersPortal is national guidance resource designed to provide a gateway to career information for guidance counsellors and members of the general public seeking guidance. The site includes information on careers, labour market data, further and higher education courses and a number of online self-assessment guidance tools.

Costs for students attending third level:

Please see: for a detailed overview.

Also, if helpful, please see below responses from 2 x HEIs, for further clarity-

NUI Galway:

You are eligible for free tuition if:

  • You (the student) are attending a full-time undergraduate course and

  • The course is a minimum of two years duration and

  • You have never been to third level before September 2020 either in Ireland or the EU.

  • You must also be an Irish / EU national who has lived here for 3 of the last 5 years or

  • You have official Irish Refugee status and have lived in the EU for 3 of the last 5 years.

University College Dublin (UCD)

Eligibility for EU fees depends on residency. If the person in question is under the age of 23 then there are two questions to be answered:

  • Has the person lived in the EU/EEA/ Swiss Confederation/UK for at least 3 of the 5 years prior to starting a programme? If yes, then..

  • Has the parent/s been resident as tax-payer(s) in the EU/EEA/ Swiss Confederation/UK for at least 3 of the 5 years prior to starting a programme? If yes, then the person will be charged EU fees.

HEA Free Fees can be thought of as a grant rather than a fee rate. HEA Free Fees is funding from the Irish Government. If the person in question has EU citizenship, also has lived in EU for 3 of the 5 years prior to starting a programme and has never attended a third level course then they will be entitled to free fees. 

HEA Free Fees contribute towards the undergraduate tuition charge. Which would mean the student is liable for the payment of student contribution and the student centre levy charge.

You can check eligibility for free fees online at

You can check eligibilty for EU fees at

More information about fees and grants can be found at

For more information on fees relating to higher education contact:

Free Fees Initiative                                         .

Higher Education Section

Department of Education

Marlborough St., Dublin 1

Tel:  +353 1  8892220



A small number of scholarships for overseas students are available from the universities and colleges. Details of scholarships and bursaries are available from higher education institutions (HEIs).

Many overseas students studying in Ireland are sponsored by their own governments or through other international scholarship programmes. Applications should be made through the Ministry of Education in the student’s own country.

The Department of Education and Science has a limited number of scholarships

For more details contact:

International Section – Department of Education

Marlborough Street, Dublin 1.

Tel :  +353 1  8896400


Mature Students:

Generally, an applicant who is at least 23 years of age on 1st January of the year of entry or re-entry to an approved third level course may be considered a mature student. Mature EU candidates in most cases apply for third level undergraduate education through the CAO system, paying special attention to the section for mature applicants.

In all cases, EU and non- EU intending mature candidates must contact the admissions officer or the mature student officer in the HEI of their choice, well in advance of the February 1st deadline as regulations can vary.

It is worth noting that some HEIs have different definitions of mature applicants. Some institutions have different age requirements and some will consider applications received after 1st February.

Some HEIs require mature applicants to apply direct to the institution, in addition to applying through CAO. EU and non-EUmature applicants should contact the information office of the HEI they wish to attend for details of fees and examination costs

For further information or to obtain a copy of The Mature Student Handbook contact: 

Department of Education

Marlborough St., Dublin 1

Tel:  +353 1  8892220


For mature students attending approved third level undergraduate courses in Ireland the payment of fees will be governed by the same criteria as outlined above for EU and non EU candidates.

For information on grants available to EU Candidates contact:

Department of Education

Student Support Unit

Marlborough St., Dublin 1

T+353 1 8896400


Tips for Studying in Ireland:

Please be advised that this resource leaftlet is currently under review.