Facts About the Republic of Ireland
- Dynamic, modern country with a young population
- Internationally recognised for being safe and friendly
- Huge emphasis on education
- Technologically oriented economy
- Despite modern direction of recent years, respect for tradition continues
Location and Geography
The Republic of Ireland includes 26 counties, and represents five-sixths of the total area (84,421 square kilometres) of Ireland (the other sixth is Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom and covered in that destination section of the IATC). The capital city is Dublin. The Republic of Ireland consists of a mostly level to rolling interior plain surrounded by rugged hills and low mountains, with sea cliffs on the west coast. The River Shannon separates the midlands from the west. To the northeast is Northern Ireland (U.K.); otherwise the Republic of Ireland is surrounded by water.
The climate is “oceanic” or “maritime temperate” – mild, moist, and changeable with abundant rainfall and lack of temperature extremes due to the warming influence of the Gulf Stream. In general, the climate is similar to the U.K. except that it has higher rainfall and more cloud cover.
History and Population
Ireland has been populated for around 9,000 years. Irish ancestry includes a mix of many peoples such as the Celts, Normans, Vikings, and Scots. Once part of the U.K., the Republic of Ireland became increasingly sovereign over the course of the 20th century, with the Republic of Ireland officially declared in 1949. Historically, emigration was caused by politics, religious oppression, and economic issues. Over 80 million Irish people and their descendants currently live in other countries. Since the 1990s, thanks to an agreement in 1998 ending civil strife as well as to economic expansion, this trend has been changing: more people are now moving to Ireland than leaving the country. The total population of the Republic of Ireland is around 4.5 million. English is the main language, with a minority using Irish as their mother tongue.
Society and Culture
The Lonely Planet travel guide named Ireland as the friendliest country in the world (2008 and 2010), and the 2009 Global Peace Index ranked it the 12th most safe and welcoming country to live in. Ireland is predominantly Christian, and mainly Roman Catholic. English and Irish (Gaelic) are the official languages, although Gaelic is a minority language. Myths and legends are an integral part of Irish culture. Traditions such as music, Irish dancing, social outings at the Irish pub, and wearing something green on St Patrick’s Day are a very important part of the culture. The Irish are well recognised for their love of storytelling, their wit and humour, and for a distinctive musical rhythm or lilt in their voice in conversation. At the same time, they have embraced modern culture, and international students will see both traditional and modern culture side by side in Ireland.
Living Conditions and Cost of Living
The ICOS website provides up-to-date information on the cost of living expenses. Accommodation can range from around !90–!140 a week. On-campus student accommodation is highly sought after, and can be more expensive than sharing a house or flat. The cheapest alternative is usually staying with a family. Students should allow around !70–!100 a week for food. Entertainment budgets can vary considerably. Tuition fees for international students vary depending on the institution, the study programme, and the level of study, with the average around !12,000 per year (!9,000–!18,000 range except for medicallevel of study, with the average around !12,000 per year (!9,000–!18,000 range except for medicalrelated courses). These average costs refer only to third-level course fees. The fee for a general standard English-language programme tends to be lower, seldom reaching the 10,000-euro mark for a full-year course. Where the annual course fee is less than !6,000 pa, the full fee must be paid in advance.
It may be beneficial for students to apply for an International Student Identity Card (ISIC) as this can assist in reduced costs in several areas such as transport. Train and bus transport are generally readily available in the major towns. In major cities, there should be dedicated bike lanes for those who choose this form of local transport. While a waterproof jacket is a must (it rains twice as much in the west as in the east), a range of outdoor activities is available including hill walking, biking, pony-trekking, and even surfing.
Since joining the European Union (EU) in 1973, the Republic of Ireland has transformed itself from a largely agricultural society into a modern, technologically advanced economy which is now ranked eighth in the world in terms of purchasing parity. Notably, the Republic of Ireland is ranked fifth in the world on the Human Development Index, which basically registers the overall wellbeing and progress of a population. The economy is increasingly a “knowledge” economy with a focus on services and high tech. The Euro is the Republic of Ireland’s currency.
The Republic of Ireland is a parliamentary democracy with two houses of parliament: the upper house, Senate (Seanad) and the lower house, House of Representatives (Dail). The popularly elected president is the head of state and the prime minister is the leader of the national parliament. Local government takes place through elected county councils for each of the 26 counties.
Ireland has one of the best education systems in the world according to the independent IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook 2009 (Ireland ranks eighth). Many believe the education system is a major reason for the country’s rapid economic growth in the last few decades. Responsibility for education lies within the Department of Education and Science, which administers all aspects of education policy.
There are three main sectors of formal education: primary (eight years), secondary (six years) and tertiary/higher education (universities, institutes of technology, colleges of education, NUI colleges, and independent colleges). In recent years a fourth sector, called further education, has been added to promote the concept of lifelong learning throughout a person’s career and life. Education is free at all levels, but only to those applying from EU countries In terms of higher education, there are seven universities in the Republic of Ireland, 14 institutes of technology, as well as many independent (privately funded) colleges. All government-approved academic awards in these institutions are internationally recognised. There is a wide range of technical and vocational training programmes available in Ireland. English-language programmes attract around 200,000 students a year of all ages and nationalities.
Information Specific to International Students
With a relatively young population (36% are under the age of 40), an internationally acclaimed emphasis on education, and a reputation for being a safe place to live, the Republic of Ireland can be a very exciting place to be a student. Citizens of the European Economic Area (EEA) generally do not have any special requirements to study in the Republic of Ireland. For some countries outside the EEA, a visa is not required. It is important to check country requirements via the Department of Foreign Affairs website
If a visa is required, the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) website provides detailed information of how to apply and the essential documents that must accompany an application. Some of these requirements include a letter of acceptance for enrolment in a recognised course, immediate access to a specific amount of funds, proof of private medical insurance, proof of English-language level sufficient to meet entry (e.g., IELTS 5) and ability to complete the course, mainly for students who intend to enrol for third-level institutions.
International students studying in a full-time recognised course of at least one year’s duration may be eligible to obtain casual employment of up to 20 hours a week.
www.i-studentadvisor.com – I-Student Advisor website – international interactive education guides
www.discoverireland.com – Tourism Ireland: covers society and culture, places to see, accommodation
www.usit.ie/travel/travelcards_isic_student_card.html – International Student Identity Card application
www.educationireland.ie – Provides information on all universities in the Republic and Northern Ireland
www.ioti.ie – Directory of all Institutes of Technologies (IUT) in the Republic and Northern Ireland
www.icosirl.ie/eng – Irish Council for International Students: visas, work permits, health insurance
www.gov.ie/en/ – Irish Government: links to state organisations and government departments
www.dfa.ie – Department of Foreign Affairs official website
www.dfa.ie – DFA entry visa requirements for specific countries
www.inis.gov.ie – Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service – student visa guidelines
www.educationireland.ie – Department of Education and Science official website
www.i-studentadvisor.com/studying-in-ireland.html – Information for students
www.usi.ie – Union of Students in Ireland
www.acels.ie – Advisory Council for English Language Schools in Ireland
www.learning.ie – Learning Ireland Network: online resource for all learning in the Republic
www.nfq.ie – National Framework for Qualifications, Republic of Ireland
www.cso.ie – Central Statistics Office Ireland
www.met.ie – Irish Meteorological Service Online