What statistics are available concerning the number of International Students in Ireland?
Substantial data is released on an annual basis by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) and, normally, by the Department of Education and Skills (DES). Summary visa data is published by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS). What were previously annual reports from Education in Ireland and UNESCO were both last published in 2012.
Sadly, there is no single, comprehensive dataset covering all international students in Ireland. Details of the main datasets - and some of their strengths and weaknesses - are given below.
Language school enrolments, which are often short-term, are the most limited area for statistics. Some data was historically collated by Fáilte Ireland, although no data release has been identified by ICOS since 2011. In early 2016, Marketing English in Ireland announced an increase in English language student numbers at their member schools, including some outline data. It should be noted that figures for adults may not be disaggregated from those for school pupils in any release of English language statistics.
Higher Education Authority data
The HEA is the funding authority for the universities, institutes of technology and a number of designated higher education institutions in Ireland and provides student statistics for these institutions. The latest data (released in early 2016 and covering the 2014-15 academic year) includes a table on the domiciliary of origin of full-time students, by gender. Data from preceding years is also available. It is important to note that this data provides only a partial picture of Irish higher education, as there are several significant providers outside the state sector that do not figure in the data. It should also be remembered that this is 'snapshot' data from the spring of the academic year and will therefore not fully capture part-year students (e.g. semester 1 study abroad students).
DES Participation in Education data
The richest data-source specific to Ireland, though the most complicated to access, has been provided by annual DES Participation in Education data and specifically a table entitled 'Domiciliary Origin of Students Enrolled in Full-time Third Level Institutions (Number) by Year, Domiciliary Origin and Type of Institution'.
This compilation of registration data from higher education institutions provides a more comprehensive record of third level international students than HEA data alone, but obviously does not take in international students enrolled in the further education and language sectors.
This data was previously available for the 2013/14 academic year but this has now been removed and ICOS has not been able to locate a comparable dataset for 2014/15.
INIS Visa Statistics
The Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) maintain statistics on the issue of visas and residence permissions to non-EEA students and release limited data in the form of an annual Immigration in Ireland Review.
Other immigration data releases tend to be made in response to questions in the Irish parliament. These tend to provide general snapshots, lacking in significant detail (e.g. countries/regions) and potentially with comparability issues between different datasets. It is important to understand that what is being measured by immigration service data is only non-EEA students registered with Irish immigration authorities. The figures exclude international students who are EU nationals and others not required to register because of their short-length of studies. However, INIS data can provide a useful guide to the number of long term English language and Further Education students in Ireland who are non-EEA nationals. Planned releases are often supplemented by useful data in response to parliamentary questions (see links above).
Education in Ireland Higher Education report (discontinued)
Historically, Education in Ireland produced a report entitled 'International Students in Irish Higher Education', with the most recent being the 2012 release. Those for previous years can be accessed under the Education in Ireland publications tab. Unlike the HEA data, this report includes data from independent/private colleges and seeks to capture the entire number of students at an institution during the academic year, rather than a census style snapshot. These figures include students registered in Irish HEIs but studying overseas e.g. on branch campuses or on joint degree programmes.
Additional data considerations
In 2012, Education in Ireland noted that some confusion remained in recording between domicile (country of residence) and nationality such that the available figures from institutions might not home in with complete accuracy on those students who have crossed a national border to study. Efforts were ongoing to improve data quality in this regard.
As international branch campuses become more common for Irish higher education institutions, it will be increasingly important that users of data are clear whether or not this cohort is included in a particular dataset.
Occasionally, statistical information accompanies a particular government report, proposal or answer to a parliamentary question and these may provide more up-to-date student figures than the above sources.
HEA data on domiciliary of full time students 2014/15 (January 2016)
Non-EEA student registrations and country of origin at February 2015 (released April 2015*)
* Data released in response to a written question in the Irish parliament.
Last Updated: April 2016