Interview: ‘Ireland’s education system has established a tradition of academic excellence’

From consistent global ranking to lower living expenses and better job opportunities and internships, the education system in Ireland offers the best to students looking to study in the country, said an official with Education in Ireland.

In the latest edition of QS World University Rankings 2022, Trinity College Dublin scored better on parameters of international student ratio than the USA’s Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which is the world’s top-ranked university. Trinity College Dublin achieved a score of 94.2, whereas MIT stood at 91.4. Besides, the top three universities in IrelandTrinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, and the National University of Ireland Galway, have an international faculty ratio score of 99.9, 99.2, and 90.6, respectively.

In an exclusive interview with indianexpress.com, Barry O’Driscoll, the regional manager (India, Sri Lanka, and Mexico, Colombia) at Education in Ireland—responsible for the promotion of higher education abroad—talked about the reasons behind the country’s growing popularity among international faculty and what’s on offer for students aspiring to come to there. Here are the excerpts from the interview over mail.

Q. Why international students should choose Ireland as their preferred study destination?

A. The Irish education system consistently ranks in the top 10 globally, with an established tradition of academic excellence that creates career-ready graduates with unique skills and qualifications. Moreover, we offer over 5000 diverse courses in Data Science, Big Data, Humanities, Computer Science, Cyber ​​Security, Cloud Computing, Digital Marketing, Software Engineering, and Artificial Intelligence that are globally recognized.

Ireland is known to have one of the most stable, competitive, secure, and pro-business producers, which presents a perfect backdrop for students looking to grow their careers. However, its cost and living expenses are lower when compared to other popular study destinations such as the United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States. Ireland also offers a range of merit-based scholarships for aspiring Indian students at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

Ireland‘s learning system is one that is uniquely comprehensive, with a practical approach to learning through opportunities for internships with local companies. The employability rate of most Irish institutions is 80-96 per cent and it is anticipated that there will be a continuing need for graduates of various disciplines across sectors, especially in engineering, computing, science, and business.

Ireland is the world’s second-largest exporter of computer and information technology services. Nine out of the top 10 global software companies have a strong foothold in Ireland. Global leaders such as Intel, HP, IBM, Microsoft, and Apple have long-established operations in Ireland. The newer leading-edge giants such as Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Amazon, PayPal, eBay, and Twitter are also in Ireland.

Q. How many Indian students choose Ireland for their foreign education every year?

A. The number of Indian students choosing to pursue their higher education in Ireland has been steadily increasing in the last 10 years. Starting from 100 students over a decade ago, by 2019 this number had shot up to 5,000 students. While the pandemic brought this number down marginally in 2020, there is definitely a recovery with numbers touching 5000 for 2021. We anticipate that the number of students traveling to Ireland will increase by 10 per cent every year.

Q. What are the top choices of courses for Indians coming to Ireland and which sectors are expected to be most promising in the next few years?

A. There is a steady and strong demand for graduates of specialized disciplines in Ireland, particularly for those pursuing STEM subjects such as science, ICT, technology, finance, mechanical, software, and electrical engineering. Job prospects are promising for those looking to grow in the IT sector, which is the backbone of Ireland. Indian students usually gravitate towards popular courses like engineering, biotechnology, computers, marketing, business, pharmacy, nursing, law, and communications. More recently, there has been an increased interest in courses that focus on emerging technologies such as AI, AgTech, data analytics, science, and cyber security. It is anticipating that applications for courses in design, digital media, hospitality, animation, cloud computing, and aeronautics will see a surge in the coming years.

Q. How does the presence of global conglomerates in Ireland impact the employability prospects for students? How do collaborations with academic institutions prepare them for global job markets?

A. With the in-country presence of 8 of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies, 15 of the top 25 medical device manufacturers, and more than 50 per cent of the world’s leading financial services firms, Ireland offers great employment opportunities for international students. All the major players in ICT and technology are also present in Ireland. Those graduating from Ireland‘s universities and colleges are then well placed to seek opportunities in these industries. Companies like Facebook and Google employ thousands of people in the country. Incidentally, a large percentage of their workforce is international. Valuable tie-ups with companies like Erikson, Microsoft, and Lufthansa ensure students derive in-depth industry knowledge and exposure in their fields of study.

Q. How has Covid-19 impacted higher education plans for international students, especially Indian students, in Ireland?

A. Ireland‘s government quickly and efficiently responded to Covid-19 challenges and supported international students with healthcare aid and even provided a weekly compensation for students who lost their part-time job due to the pandemic. Educational intuitions switched to online classes to prioritise student health and well-being, which continued until the September 2021 intake. All pandemic related restrictions have also been lifted since earlier this year.

Q. What are the travel guidelines and restrictions for international students moving in or out of Ireland? What kind of university support can these students expect?

A. Many Irish universities are providing guidance and support to incoming international students in relation to airport arrival, immigration procedures, transport, accommodation, and accessing student support services if required. Currently, pre-departure testing is no longer needed, except for travelers that are not vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19. If a student is not fully vaccinated or recovered, they must show a negative or undetected RT-PCR test taken within 72 hours of arrival. Even international students arriving in Ireland do not need to be quarantined anymore. International students requiring a Covid vaccination can get this free of charge in Irelandvia the national vaccination programme.

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