The Higher Education System in Ireland

The Higher Education System in Ireland

The higher education or third level sector in Ireland is comprised of universities, institutes of technology and teacher training colleges (colleges of education), together with some non-state-aided private/independent colleges.


There are 7 universities in the Republic of Ireland

Trinity College Dublin 

University College Dublin

Dublin City University

Maynooth University

University College Cork

University of Limerick

National University of Ireland Galway


Each of the universities offer degree programmes at Bachelor, Postgraduate Diploma, Masters, and Doctorate level in a range of disciplines.

The universities undertake research at many levels and are also involved in continuing and distance education.

More information on higher education institutions in Ireland is available from The Higher Education Authority.

Institutes of Technology

There are 14 Institutes of Technology (IoTs) in the Republic of Ireland, represented by the Technological Higher Education Association


Athlone Institute of Technology  (AIT) 

Cork Institute of Technology (CIT)

Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT)

Dundalk Institute of Technology ( DKIT)

Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology (IADT)

Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT)

Letterkenny Institute of Technology (LYIT)

Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT)

Institute of Technology, Blanchardstown (ITB)

Institute of Technology, Carlow  ( IT Carlow)

Institute of Technology, Sligo (IT Sligo)

Institute of Technology, Tallaght (IT Tallaght)

Institute of Technology, Tralee (ITT)

Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT)


The Institutes of Technology provide courses in a wide range of disciplines including science, engineering, technology, business, humanities, languages, healthcare, art and design, tourism, agriculture and horticulture at both undergraduate and postgraduate level.

The Institutes of Technology operate a unique system which allows students to progress from two year Higher Certificate programmes (NFQ Level 6 /Associate Degree equivalent programmes) to Ordinary degree (NFQ Level 7 ) and Honours degree ( NFQ Level 8 ) level.

The Institutes of Technology also offer courses at postgraduate level, including Postgraduate Diploma, Masters and PhD programmes.

Note: Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) is the only Institute of Technology that has statutory authority to award its own degrees at all levels.  It is one of the largest third level institutes in Ireland.  Faculties include Applied Arts, Built Environment, Business, Engineering, Science, Tourism and Food

For more information on Institutes of Technology see:

Independent / Private Colleges

There are a number of independent private institutions in Ireland which offer a range of programmes in areas such as accountancy, art, business studies, hotel and catering, humanities, law, medicine, primary teaching etc. Many of the programmes offered by these colleges are validated by QQI (

For a list of independent colleges accredited by QQI, see the International Education of Ireland website.;

Some colleges have links to universities in Ireland and overseas through which accreditation is awarded.

Remember that tuition fees must be paid by EU citizens in all independent / private colleges. Tuition fees vary from college to college.

Post-Graduate Courses

There is a large range of post-graduate courses and research opportunities available in the third level sector in Ireland. Courses are offered on a full and part-time basis with options for distance learning being offered by some institutions.

Graduate Diplomas can be taught or research based, full or part time, or delivered through distance learning. The time requirements will depend on which option you choose. A taught graduate diploma undertaken on a full time basis normally takes one year.

  • A Master’s Degree can be taught or research based, full or part time or distance learning.
  • A taught master’s degree undertaken on a full time basis normally takes 1 to 2 years.
  • A Doctorate Degree is research based and normally requires a full time commitment of at least three years.

Most postgraduate courses require the applicant holds a primary degree. Entry is competitive and applicants will need to provide evidence of academic achievement if they are to secure a place.

Some programmes will require direct application to the college, others will require application through a centralised application system to the Postgraduate Applications Centre –

Please check with your chosen college to determine means of application.

As a postgraduate student you can expect to pay fees, unless you are eligible for a grant. The fees vary between courses and between institutions. For information regarding costs intending candidates should contact the relevant third level institutions.

For more information and lists of courses available see:

Teacher Training in Ireland

In Ireland the system of teacher training differs between primary and post primary school teachers. (Primary School children are generally aged 4 -12 and Post Primary are 12-18)

Primary school teachers in Ireland receive training at one of the colleges of education. The Bachelor of Education degree (B.Ed.) is awarded on successful completion of an undergraduate degree lasting 4 years. Courses leading to undergraduate degrees in education are provided by the following colleges:

Mary Immaculate College, Limerick (A College of the University of Limerick)

Maynooth University Froebel Department of Primary and Early Childhood Education

Mary Immaculate College of Education, Limerick

St Patrick’s College of Education, Dublin (A College of Dublin City University)

The Marino Institute of Education (an associated college of Trinity College, the University of Dublin)

Church of Ireland College of Education, Co. Dublin (A College of Dublin City University)

Note: there is an Irish Language requirement in some of the courses leading to teaching qualifications in Ireland. Please check with individual colleges.

Teachers at post-primary level generally follow an undergraduate degree programme in various disciplines followed by a postgraduate qualification in Education. In order to register with the teaching Council in Ireland it is essential that, from September 2014, all postgraduate programmes of initial teacher education be of 2 years duration (120 ECTS credits).

If you intend to teach at post-primary level you must ensure that the subjects you have chosen at undergraduate level are recognised for teaching purposes. Teaching Council regulations stipulate that, with effect from September 2012, undergraduate programmes must be of 4 years duration (240 ECTS credits)  

All teachers in Ireland must register their qualifications with the Teaching Council.

The Teaching Council is the professional standards body for the teaching profession, which promotes and regulates professional standards in teaching.

Postgraduate programmes in Education for post-primary teaching are available in:

Maynooth University

National University of Ireland, Galway,

University College Cork,

University College Dublin, Dublin,

University of Dublin, Trinity College, University of  Dublin.

Dublin City University

Other specialised courses in education

A small number of undergraduate courses are offered which lead to a post-primary teaching qualification on graduation.

The list below offers some examples:


Dublin City University

B Sc in Science education

B Sc in Physical Education with Biology

B Sc in Physical Education with Maths


Mater Dei Institute of Education (A College of Dublin City University)

Training of religious educators for post-primary level.


St. Angela’s College, Sligo ( A College of the National University of Ireland , Galway)

Degree and post graduate courses available in Home Economics with Religious Education, Economics or Irish


University of Limerick

The university provides a number of undergraduate programmes with concurrent teacher education including:

B Sc in Physical Education with

B Sc with concurrent teacher education

Bachelor of Technology (Education) in Materials and Architectural Technology

Bachelor of Technology (Education) in Materials and Engineering Technology


Mary Immaculate College (A College of University of Limerick)

Education, Business Studies and Accounting (Thurles Campus)

Education, Irish and Religious Studies (Thurles Campus)

Education, Irish and Business studies (Thurles Campus)


Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology

B Sc in Education (Design Graphics and Construction)


To ensure your chosen course has teaching council recognition or for further information on requirements to teach in Ireland, contact:

The Teaching Council of Ireland