Studying in the UK including Northern Ireland
If you are currently living in Ireland and thinking of doing a third-level course in Northern Ireland (NI) or elsewhere in the United Kingdom (UK) there is a very wide range of courses available. Many people choose to study in the UK because a particular course is not available in Ireland or because the entry requirements are easier. Others want to have the experience of studying outside Ireland. Before you apply, you should find out about the different structures and costs for third-level education in the UK (pdf), in particular fees and living costs. For example, there are different fee arrangements within the UK. The United Kingdom (UK) includes England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Most UK undergraduate courses last 3 years but in Scotland they last 4 years. In addition, the application process starts earlier than in Ireland. This means you should begin looking at courses at least 12 months before you plan to start studying. The application procedure for all UK undergraduate courses is the same (see below for further details).
Finding a course
If you do not know the course you wish to study or if you want to find out about different courses or colleges there are useful online resources to guide you. The British Council website Education UK allows you to search for undergraduate and postgraduate courses on a particular subject, in a particular university or in a specific area such as Northern Ireland. It contains a summary of information about each college or university with contact details and you can make online request for brochures about the courses. It also has general information about living in the UK including accommodation and working while studying. You can find information about UK higher education institutions and courses on the GOV.UK website.
Brexit and studying in the UK
On 31 January 2020, the UK exited the EU. However, the Irish and UK governments have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (pdf) reaffirming the Common Travel Area (CTA) and identifying the rights and privileges of Irish and UK citizens within the CTA.
The CTA gives Irish and UK citizens the right to access all levels of education and training, and associated student support, in each other’s state, on terms no less favourable than those for the citizens of that state. However, to access certain rights you may also need to meet residency criteria.
For example, you must be resident in Ireland or the UK for 3 years before the start of your course to be eligible under the CTA. You can find more information in New Eligibility Rules for Home Fee Status and Student Finance for the 2021/2022 Academic Year (pdf).
If you are an Irish citizen students and meet the residency criteria, you can study in the UK for the same rate of fees as British students in the UK and may be eligible for a maintenance grant under the Irish Student Grant Scheme - see below.
Applying for an undergraduate course
You may be eligible for a maintenance grant if you meet the criteria for the Student Grant Scheme - see 'How to apply' below.
UCAS (University and Colleges Admissions Service) is the central applications body for full-time undergraduate courses at UK universities and colleges. Its website contains all the information you need to apply to college including: how to apply, fees and information about the colleges. Applications must be made online through the UCAS website. You can apply through your school or as an individual.
Use the UCAS tariff calculator which is a points system used for entry to higher education. It allows you to compare Leaving Certificate and GCSE A level grades. A Leaving Certificate subject at honours level is approximately equivalent to two-thirds of an A level.
There are 2 types of postgraduate study: taught courses and research. Taught courses often last just 1 year while research can continue for 3 years or more. You need to consider what kind of postgraduate study you wish to do, what are the most suitable courses for you and your career and what costs are involved. Prospects is the official graduate prospects website for the UK. It has information on postgraduate study, jobs and career advice. It has information on full-time and part-time courses and you can search by geographical area and by subject. For postgraduate courses in the UK you apply directly to the university or college. Most of them have the application forms available online.
As an Irish Citizen within the Common Travel Area you will be treated in the same way as regards fees as UK students. Tuition fees are not the only expense when studying in the UK you also need to consider accommodation and living costs.
England, Wales and Northern Ireland: Since 2012-2013
universities and colleges can charge new students up to £9,000 sterling a year
for undergraduate courses. You can apply for a tuition fee loan which you only
have to repay after you have graduated and are earning over £21,000 sterling a
year. However, you are not entitled to maintenance support in the same way as
home students. If you are an EU national who has been settled in the UK for
over 3 years you will be classed as a home student and will be able to apply
for financial support for living costs.
Scotland: Scottish students and EU students who start their first full-time degree course in Scotland do not pay fees as long as they meet the relevant residence criteria (pdf).
The tuition fees for postgraduate study vary from institution to institution and course to course, but usually run to several thousand pounds. Postgraduate prospectuses give up-to-date fees.
There are different sources of funding for postgraduate students. Some courses are advertised in the newspapers and include funding. Sometimes financial support is available from the university that is running the postgraduate course; sometimes you need to apply to an external body. Awards are available for a range of subjects, both for taught courses and research programmes. They vary as to amount, duration and whether they only cover fees or include maintenance as well. There are strict eligibility rules and deadlines for application and you should be aware that there are a large number of postgraduates competing for limited funding.
A number of scholarships and fellowships for study abroad are awarded annually by foreign governments to Irish students who are engaged in, or have completed a course of third-level education. Further information may be obtained from the International Section of the Department of Education and Skills - see 'Where to apply' below. The North-South Masters Bursaries fund a small number of Irish students to study in Northern Ireland together with some Northern Irish students studying in Ireland.
How to apply
If you need help or advice on your UCAS application contact the Customer Service Unit and remember to quote your UCAS Personal ID/application number.
If you are an EU student, and applying through UCAS, they will send you an application form for a tuition fee loan when you are offered a place on a course.
You may be eligible for a maintenance grant if you meet the criteria for the Irish Student Grant Scheme but this does not include funding for tuition fees. You may claim tax relief on third-level fees. There is detailed information on the range of Irish grants and funds for students in further and higher education at studentfinance.ie.
The GOV.UK website has information on the financial supports available for EU students studying in the UK including Northern Ireland.
Funding is available under the Student Grant Scheme for postgraduate study in Northern Ireland but not for postgraduate study in Britain. You may claim tax relief on third-level fees.
Where to apply