Ireland higher education system

Ireland is a popular choice for a study abroad experience with an exciting student life, and high-quality learning awaiting those who wish to study here. UCD is the most popular choice for international students studying in Ireland. You can find out why international students choose Ireland on our blog here.

How does the higher education system in Ireland work? 


In Ireland, undergraduate degrees are called Bachelors degrees. These are mostly three and four years long. Students will complete their studies in a certain subject area, for example Business. The subject area will change the type of Bachelors award a student receives. At UCD, students that studied a degree in Business would receive a Bachelor of Science (BSc) award, while studying Civil Engineering would result in a Bachelor of Engineering (BE).


Postgraduate degrees are often in the form of a Master's degree. These are typically one or two years in length. Postgraduate studies are usually more intensive and focused than an undergraduate degree. A successful Master's student would be awarded with, for example, a Master's of Arts (MA) or a Master's of Science (MSc). You may also find postgraduate qualifications in the form of a Postgraduate Diploma, or a PhD. 

Progressing to an Irish university

Adjusting to the Irish education system can be challenging, so many international students opt to study a foundation year to help settle in to life at an Irish university before beginning their degree. At UCD, you can study a foundation programme with the support of the International Study Centre. Our International Foundation Year is available in three different subject options, and can help you to gain the academic subject and English language skills to succeed on an undergraduate degree in Ireland.

Teaching and learning

Teaching and learning styles at Irish universities varies on the course you choose. Typically this includes a combination of lectures, seminars and tutorials. Some degrees also require you to spend time in a laboratory, doing studio-based work or doing fieldwork. 

Independent study will also make up a big part of your degree. Managing your own workload and time effectively will be valuable to you in your future career or further studies. 


The type of assessments you do will depend on your chosen degree. Assessments may include:

  • Coursework
  • Presentations
  • Group work
  • Participation in seminars
  • Exams 
  • Written assignments/essays
  • Practical assessments
  • Final dissertation. 

Work placements and internships

Many of UCD’s degree programmes include work placements or internships. Participating companies have included KPMG, L’Oréal, IBM, eBay, Skype, Deloitte, and Microsoft. International graduates can stay in Ireland after completing their degree with a post-study work visa.

Hear from some of our progressed students about their experiences applying for a placement year at UCD

Career development

UCD’s Career Development Centre is well connected with top employers in Ireland and abroad, and can help you with everything from preparing a CV to starting your first job.