About UK Colleges

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Each year a growing number of students decide to take the short trip across the water and enter the UK third level system. Currently, there are approximately 8, 000 Irish students studying in the UK and Northern Ireland. Some of these are students who have completed a Higher Certificate course at an Irish college and have decided to go to the UK to gain a degree, and others who have decided to enrol directly in the first year of a university or college course. As the population of the UK is about 15 times larger than that of Ireland’s, their education system is considerably more vast, and there is a huge variety of options available to Irish students.

There are more than 3, 000 educational institutions that welcome international students to the UK, and together they offer access to over 50, 000 different courses at undergraduate level; a figure that makes it ten times the size of the Irish third level system. Many students decide to apply to the UK system as a back-up, to cover the possibility that they may not get enough points for their chosen subject at an Irish university.

Popular choices include medicine, nursing, engineering and teaching, plus many other subjects. Furthermore, students sometimes want to study a subject or specialisation that is not available in Ireland as a distinct undergraduate course, such as footwear design or oceanography. Entry to UK universities and colleges, including those in Northern Ireland, is through UCAS (the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service), the UK equivalent to our CAO. Entrance requirements are a little different, however, since you have to get a certain number of grades instead of just adding your CAO points together. There is also the possibility of applying to a UK college after you get your results, with their ‘Clearing’ process. All the info on the UCAS system is available on the UCAS page of this section of the daycourses. com site.

Possibly the biggest consideration you will have when you are applying to a UK College is the fees you will have to pay. From September 2006, universities and colleges in England and Northern Ireland can charge new students up to £3, 000 (approx. E4, 500) per year for their courses. Separate universities and colleges in different parts of the UK charge varied amounts and the fee rates also change depending on the subject. Students can pay the fees up front, or they can decide to take out a student loan, which can be repaid after graduation. Either way, this expense is a very significant factor for many students.

Maintenance grants are available in some cases to cover certain costs, but don’t forget there is also the cost of living, and travel expenses etc. to bear in mind. If they do decide to move to the UK, most students don’t find it too hard to settle down. For one thing, the same channels are on the telly. Besides, the university and college system is very similar to the Irish system, with a corresponding mix of lectures, seminars, exams and continuous assessment. Students come to UK universities from all corners of the world, so the college authorities are well used to helping people who are new to the city or country settle in.

Research is just as important when applying to a UK college as it is when you’re applying to one at home. If you can, visit any college you are applying to. Check the reputation of the college and the course: there are several printed guides to UK third-level universities and colleges that are available in good bookshops here.

Check out the links section of this site to browse around other websites, which offer good advice and useful information about studying in the UK. It doesn’t suit everybody, but for many people the advantages of moving to the UK to study far outweigh any bad elements. The university system is well recognised throughout the world; there is a wealth of educational, cultural and social opportunities to explore, and with cheaper flights available, it is almost as handy to get home as it is from Dublin, Galway or Cork. So, applying to a UK course is definitely an option worth considering for many Irish school leavers.


Whichcollege.ie is a national database of universities, colleges, institutes and providers of third level and PLC courses in Ireland. We operate a national search database of courses at certificate, diploma and degree level as well as providing information about career paths and directions.
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