Going To College

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Going to college can be a life-altering experience and in recent years it has become increasingly more common for school-leavers to go on to college or university. As your child gears towards leaving his/her school days behind, s/he will have to decide whether or not to go on to third level education. For those who are fully set on the idea of going to college or university it is essential that they give plenty of thought to the subject and course of study they wish to pursue as well as the college or university they would like to attend. Your job is to go through all the options with them and be there to offer support and encouragement.

Firstly, your child will need to decide where to study. There are three main options available for students wishing to undertake a full-time degree in Ireland: they can either study at a university, an Institute of Technology, or at a private college. Universities traditionally sit at the top of the education system. They are third level educational institutions granting academic degrees in a variety of subjects.

There are seven Universities in Ireland, three in Dublin and one each in Cork, Galway, Limerick and Maynooth. A university degree is still highly regarded amongst employers with graduates tending to earn higher salaries and having a wider range of career prospects than those without degrees. There are also fourteen Institutes of Technology (ITs) in Ireland which offer qualifications including certificates, ordinary and honours degrees, and the educational component of many apprenticeship and craft programmes.

There is a huge range of subjects available at the Institutes of Technology. Traditionally, the IT sector has offered courses in practical subjects such as technology, engineering and science. There is still a definite focus on these areas, but there is also a new concentration on other subjects such as business studies, humanities, languages, media studies, healthcare, art & design, tourism and leisure. Students aspiring for a career in these areas might decide to aim for the more practical focus at ITs over the more academic focus of a university. While the standard of an IT education has improved immensely in recent years, some careers, such as law and medicine, still require the applicant to hold a university degree.

Also, less career-focused subjects, such as classics or history of art, may not be available for study at an IT. Generally, however, there has been a convergence between the universities and ITs and in many areas they offer quite similar programmes of study. ITs are spread throughout the country, meaning that there is one within commuting distance of most people’s homes. This can be a huge advantage to students who lack the financial funds to move out, or who prefer to stay at home for other reasons.

Irish citizens do not need to pay tuition fees at ITs and universities in Ireland. Private colleges in Ireland differ from universities and ITs in two main ways: the government does not pay for student tuition fees, and not all of the courses are validated by the Irish authorities. Students who choose to attend a private college in Ireland have to pay their own tuition fees which usually cost between €3, 000 and €5, 000 per annum with most courses lasting three years in total. Most of the courses in private colleges in Ireland are accredited by UK universities, professional associations and some are accredited by HETAC.

It is a good idea for all students wishing to apply for entry onto a course at a private college to check beforehand that the course is fully accredited and recognised. Entry onto courses at private colleges is generally easier than ITs and universities because they require fewer points and often only a pass at Leaving Cert is needed. It is also possible to gain direct entry onto the courses without going through the CAO (Central Applications Office). Private colleges tend to offer courses specialising in business, law and media studies.


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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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