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Choosing a Course - A guide for international students

What courses are available to study?

EU/EEA nationals have no restrictions in choosing courses and can study English language, further education and higher education programmes and a range of professional qualifications. Non-EEA nationals who require a study visa are limited to courses recognised on the Interim List of Eligible Programmes (ILEP) - read more.

It is important to ensure that you choose a course with a reputable provider and which has secure learner protection. Over recent years, a small number of unscrupulous operators have attempted to exploit international students. You are therefore advised to research any course and college thoroughly.


Where can I get more information about English language courses in Ireland?

English language courses are provided by both large higher education colleges and smaller private English language schools. It is important to understand that not all providers that advertise English courses are quality assured and accredited in Ireland. You should check with the organisations below for further information and also research the course and college independently.

QQI - Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) is responsible for promoting high standards in English Language teaching and ensuring that these are maintained. QQI continues the work of the Accreditation and Co-ordination of English Language Services (ACELS). View the ACELS list of recognised schools. (Note: The ACELS scheme is being replaced with a 'quality mark' system. New English language schools cannot be recognised by ACELS but those established before 2014 had chance to prove quality through ACELS).

MEI - the largest grouping of recognised English as a Foreign Language (EFL) schools in Ireland. All MEI members are on the ACELS register and collectively provide a form of learner protection.

Please note that the inclusion of a private college on the ACELS list does not, in itself, imply any judgement on its financial status or viability.

Anyone requiring an English language study visa, which is valid for 8 months, can apply to renew for two further English courses (i.e. study for non-EEA students is limited to a total of three English courses). Further renewal will require progression to higher studies.

» More on English language schools


Where can I get more information about higher education courses in Ireland?

Education in Ireland is the official site promoting Ireland as a destination for students and is the best starting point for researching higher education options. As well as a directory of courses and information on how to apply, it provides an overview of the Irish education system, study advice and some useful pointers about living and studying in Ireland. It also explains the system of recognition of qualifications and outlines details of a number of scholarship schemes.


What are some of the main issues in applying for higher education?

You should make sure that you read the information given for each course carefully and that you can meet all of the requirements set out.

In particular, you should make sure that you find out:

If you are booking studies with a college that is run as a private business, you should also check whether Learner Protection arrangements exist for your programme in the event of the college closing.

In addition, it is important to check the qualification you will receive on completing the course and what its value will be. For example, only a recognised nursing course will allow you to work in the Irish health system after your studies.


What else do I need to consider ?

Before you apply and especially before paying any fees, there are a number of important issues you need to consider. These may include...

In all cases, you should carefully read the 'Terms and Conditions' document and 'Refund Policy' of any provider you are considering studying with before making an application. This information should be clearly available on all provider websites. Save a copy of these documents in case you need to refer to them at a later time. Remember that booking a course means making a legal contract with a college.


Are there visa limits or issues that I should keep in mind in planning my studies?

Yes. Non-EU/EEA/Swiss nationals can renew an immigration permission to study English on two occasions only (i.e. a maximum of 3 English courses). The overall maximum period for all studies is 7 years.

Many students plan to study English then move on to higher education. To do so without needing to leave Ireland between immigration permissions it is important to remember that permissions for English language courses are issued for 8 months and that most higher education courses in Ireland begin around September.


Last updated: July 2017