Study Abroad

The Best Universities in Ireland for International Students

Ireland is home to a handful of world-class universities but with so many great choices, how do you decide? Check out our guide to the best universities in Ireland for international students to pick the perfect option for your adventure overseas.

Best Universities in Ireland - Josh S., Irish Gap Year

When I decided to pursue a Master of Public Health, I had no doubt I wanted to do it in Ireland. While teaching abroad in Spain in 2014, I spent the month-long Christmas break taking buses and hitchhiking all over Ireland, falling more and more in love with the country along the way. That month wasn't nearly enough and after I left, I began planning my more permanent return.

Compared to studying a master's in the US, Ireland was cheaper -- even when looking at paying in-state tuition! That along with the graduate scheme that would allow me to work for up to two years following the completion of my program made the decision to apply a no-brainer. I chose University College Dublin and couldn't have been happier with my experience.

Ireland has many world-class institutions that consistently rank in the top universities worldwide by QS World University Rankings. This list reflects high-ranking universities as well as those frequented by international students. Although the following universities have similar academic offerings, they're sprinkled across the island in cities and towns with their own unique flavor. It's not an exhaustive list of the colleges and universities in Ireland but it's a great place to start!

Ireland is open to students right now and as of March 6th, 2022 the country ceased all COVID-19 restrictions for entry. If you're looking for the best Irish university for your study abroad, compare the options below and find one that’s perfect for you.

Is Ireland good for international students?

Ireland is a top destination for international students. Each year, thousands of students from countries around the world come to the island for both short-term study and full degree programs. For US study abroad participants, in particular, Ireland ranked 6th among the most popular countries during the 2019-2020 school year. A student-friendly country, English speakers have an easy transition to life and studies abroad in Ireland.

Is Ireland affordable for international students?

It can be! Compared to other European destinations, Ireland isn't among the cheapest but you may find that a semester abroad is cheaper than a semester at your home university. Ways to keep study abroad in Ireland affordable include enrolling directly at the institution of your choice or participating in an exchange program through your university that charges home tuition and fees at the foreign university.

Read more: How Much Does it Cost to Study Abroad in Ireland?

In more expensive cities like Dublin, you may find that the cost of living combined with tuition and fees is comparable to the price of a third-party provider program. Housing will be a major part of your overall costs so even if direct enrollment saves you big money, the price might even out when you include rent.

Monthly cost of living in Ireland

  • Rent for room in shared apartment: $700-$1100
  • Utilities: $30-$55
  • Groceries: $280-$400
  • Cell phone plan: $20-$30
  • Transportation pass: $70-$95

Source: Education in Ireland and University College Cork

To get a better idea of how the two options shake out, try our cost comparison tool.

How easy is it to study abroad in Ireland?

For many students including those from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, a student visa isn't needed prior to coming to Ireland. This makes the process of getting abroad a lot easier. Once in Ireland, you'll need to register with immigration authorities within 90 days.

Read more: How to Study Abroad in Ireland

Great for academic reputation: Trinity College Dublin

A large building at Trinity College Dublin.

Average cost of undergraduate direct enrollment semester: $11,500-$15,500

Average cost of undergraduate semester with third-party provider: $23,000-$27,000

  • TCD is popular for: history, English language and literature, nursing, and pharmacy
  • International student population: 5,593
  • Total student population: 18,320
  • QS world ranking: 101

With a population of over 1.5 million people, Ireland's capital is the ideal place for students who want to experience a modern, cosmopolitan city with the charm of the old world. Dublin offers active nightlife, countless museums and movie theaters, sporting events, concerts, parks, and more for you to explore if you love to stay busy. Dublin is the central location for travel throughout the country and Europe, with plenty of public and private transportation options.

Boasting famous graduates like Samuel Beckett and Oscar Wilde, students interested in English literature will be right at home at Trinity College Dublin. Trinity College's library is a tourist attraction in and of itself but you'll be able to immerse yourself in its estimated 7 million books as a student.

TCD offers a number of scholarships for non-EU international students.

Program Details

Program:
Study Abroad at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
Provider:
Trinity College Dublin
Location:
Ireland
9.67 Rating
based on 9 reviews
  • Academics 8.3
  • Support 8.3
  • Fun 8.8
  • Housing 8.7
  • Safety 9.1

Great for diversity: University College Dublin

Buildings on a street in Dublin at dusk.

Average cost of undergraduate direct enrollment semester: $9,000-$10,500

Average cost of undergraduate semester with third-party provider: $22,000-$23,000

  • UCD ranks highly for: veterinary medicine, sports-related subjects, library and information science, petroleum engineering
  • International student population: 6,118
  • Total student population: 28,250
  • QS World Ranking: 177

University College Dublin is another top university in the capital. Located south of the city center in Belfield, UCD was established in 1854. It's a popular university for sports (both to study and play) and has successful teams across rugby, soccer, and hurling. If sports aren't quite your thing, there are over 60 student societies to join covering topics like politics, religion, art, economics, writing, and volunteering.

Academically, UCD has undergraduate and graduate programs in the arts, humanities, STEM, social sciences, business, and medicine. UCD is also home to one of seven American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) approved vet medicine programs in Europe. International students at UCD represent 139 countries.

UCD offers a number of global scholarships for students from a wide range of countries.

Program Details

Program:
University College Dublin - Study Abroad
Provider:
University College Dublin
Location:
Ireland
Starting Price:
$10,000.00 USD
9.18 Rating
based on 45 reviews
  • Academics 8
  • Support 8.7
  • Fun 9.2
  • Housing 8.8
  • Safety 9.7

Great for artsy, small town living: National University of Ireland, Galway

A building on campus at NUI Galway.

Average cost of undergraduate direct enrollment semester: $8,000-$10,000

Average cost of undergraduate semester with third-party provider: $18,000-$20,000

  • NUIG ranks highly for: English language and literature, modern languages, nursing, law, psychology, and education
  • International student population: 3,208
  • Total student population: 18,912
  • QS world ranking: 258

Located on the Wild Atlantic Way, Galway is one of Ireland's most charming and diverse cities. Designated as the 2020 European Capital of Culture, Galway is the perfect city for you if you want a bohemian arts feel without the hustle and bustle of Dublin. With access to stunning vistas along the west coast, being a student in Galway means you'll have no shortage of things to do and see both in the city and beyond.

The National University of Ireland, Galway was founded in 1845. Ranked in the top 30 most beautiful campuses in Europe NUIG is home to international students from over 100 countries. Volunteering is a big part of campus life and NUIG has over 4,000 registered volunteers making it the leading university for volunteerism in Ireland.

NUIG has scholarships for international students based on academic merit and country of origin.

Program Details

Program:
Study at National University of Ireland, Galway
Provider:
Arcadia Abroad
Location:
Ireland

Great for green campus: University College Cork

Outside of a building at University College Cork

Average cost of undergraduate direct enrollment semester: $8,000

Average cost of undergraduate semester with third-party provider: $19,000-$21,000

  • UCC is popular for: nursing, agriculture and foresty, law, English language and literature, and pharmacy
  • International student population: 3,002
  • Total student population: 22,717
  • QS world ranking: 298

The motto of Cork is "Statio Bene Fide Carinis," a safe harbor for ships. But the second-largest city in Ireland is also a safe harbor for international students interested in studying abroad in Ireland. Known as the Emerald Isle's culinary capital, Cork is ideal for students who can't wait to indulge in The English Market's foodie scene. Like Limerick, there’s only one university in Cork.

University College Cork, established in 1845, has a student population of over 22,000. UCC prides itself on being a Green Campus, being the first campus in the world to receive a "Green Flag" from the Foundation for Environmental Education. This designation means the university maintains a high level of sustainability across teaching, research, and campus operations. Aside from a progressive atmosphere, students at UCC can join over 100 clubs and societies and get involved in impactful research.

UCC offers scholarships to international students across several schools including business, social sciences, and STEM subjects.

Program Details

Program:
Direct Enrollment at University College Cork
Provider:
University College Cork
Location:
Ireland
Starting Price:
$10,000.00 USD
9.53 Rating
based on 49 reviews
  • Academics 7
  • Support 8.4
  • Fun 7.9
  • Housing 9.3
  • Safety 9.4

Great for value for money: Dublin City University

Dublin City University campus at night.

Average cost of undergraduate direct enrollment semester: $7,500-$8,500

Average cost of undergraduate semester with third-party provider: $18,000-$20,000

  • DCU is popular for: communications, journalism, business, politics, and education
  • International student population: 1,415
  • Total student population: 17,047
  • QS world ranking: 490

Rounding out the third top university in Dublin is Dublin City University. DCU prides itself on maintaining a friendly and accessible campus where students can easily form bonds with their professors. Around 20% of DCU's student population are from outside of Ireland making it a diverse place to study. Mainly located in Dublin's Glasnevin neighborhood, you'll study on a self-contained campus with its own cafes, restaurants, bars, and even a pharmacy.

DCU is a great choice for students studying communications and journalism as well as business. Outside of your studies, there are many different club sports teams and societies covering interests from Harry Potter and Dungeons and Dragons to jazz and DJing.

DCU has international merit scholarships for non-EU students as well master's scholarships for study abroad alumni (if you decide your semester wasn't enough!).

Program Details

Program:
Study Abroad Programme at DCU
Provider:
Dublin City University
Location:
Ireland
Starting Price:
$7,000.00 USD
9.62 Rating
based on 13 reviews
  • Academics 8.5
  • Support 9.6
  • Fun 8.8
  • Housing 9.3
  • Safety 9.8

Great for sporty campus: University of Limerick

Four women standing by a cliff in Ireland.

Average cost of undergraduate direct enrollment semester: $5,500-$7,000

Average cost of undergraduate semester with third-party provider: $17,000-$19,000

  • UL is popular for: sports-related subjects, education, English language and literature, law, and engineering
  • International student population: 1,857
  • Total student population: 16,253
  • QS world ranking: 501-510

Limerick, set on the River Shannon, is Ireland's third-largest city, just behind Cork. Vikings landed in this mid-western city in the 900s before the Normans took control in 1195. Today, many enjoy visiting the numerous archaeological and historical sites around Limerick city and county including King John's Castle and Lough Gur.

University of Limerick is one of the newer universities in Ireland that was founded in 1972. With a student satisfaction rating of 85%, it was voted Ireland's most popular university in a recent survey. UL is known as Ireland's sporting campus and has top-rated facilities available to students including a gym, Olympic-sized pool, and numerous outdoor fields. In terms of academics, it has strong links to business and industry and boasts a strong research record.

International students at UL can avail of scholarships across a range of academic areas. They also offer specialized scholarships for students from India.

Program Details

Program:
Study Abroad at University of Limerick, Ireland
Provider:
University of Limerick
Location:
Ireland
Starting Price:
$6,000.00 USD
9.53 Rating
based on 30 reviews
  • Academics 7.1
  • Support 8.7
  • Fun 9.2
  • Housing 9.1
  • Safety 9.3

Great for classic college town feel: Maynooth University

A walkway on the Maynooth campus.

Average cost of undergraduate direct enrollment semester: $7,500-$8,500

Average cost of undergraduate semester with third-party provider: $17,000-$18,000

  • Maynooth ranks highly for: sociology, geography, and computer science
  • International student population: 2,297
  • Total student population: 13,353
  • QS world ranking: 751-800

If you are looking for a classic college town, Maynooth is the best option for your time abroad. This quiet city, set in northwest Ireland, is quaint and cozy without sacrificing easy access to the lively side of Ireland. Maynooth is only a 30-minute train ride away from Dublin, so you can enjoy the perfect balance between a small town and a big city.

Maynooth University is part of the National University of Ireland system and was formally established in 1997. Despite its young age, Times Higher Education ranked Maynooth 106th in the world in its young universities list for 2022. It boasts particularly strong programs in the social sciences, humanities, and STEM. Despite its small size, it's home to over 2,000 international students from 95 countries.

Undergraduate scholarships for €2000 ($2,200) per year are available for internationals students at UCC.

Program Details

Program:
Study Abroad at Maynooth - Ireland
Provider:
Maynooth University
Location:
Ireland
Starting Price:
$5,000.00 USD
9.61 Rating
based on 18 reviews
  • Academics 7.9
  • Support 8.6
  • Fun 9.5
  • Housing 9.1
  • Safety 10
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Pick your ideal study abroad destination

Ultimately, choosing a university comes down to your ideal location, school size, and field of study. The above universities give you a bunch of options from big city living to small-town environs, a large student population to a more intimate campus setting. Despite the differences between universities though, you're guaranteed to be surrounded by a diverse international student body in addition to your Irish classmates. No matter where you choose to study in Ireland, you will have the opportunity to learn from and engage with these individuals which will no doubt be the highlight of your time abroad. Make new friends, network, and travel this beautiful island during your study abroad in Ireland!