For students in Ireland CAO points can put many courses out of reach. But throughout the rest of Europe — and beyond — it can be much easier to get into college. Photograph: iStock
For students in Ireland CAO points can put many courses out of reach.
But throughout the rest of Europe — and beyond — it can be much easier to get into college, and Irish students are heading abroad in their droves.
In Poland, Irish students who missed out on the highly competitive entry to Irish medical degrees are getting a chance to pursue their dream of being a doctor, with the course delivered in the English language. The Netherlands is a popular destination for Irish students who want to study abroad without being too far from home and still learn through English. Beyond that, some Irish students are finding that some of the best courses are overseas and that, if they meet some minimum entry requirements, they can get a place.
Guy Flouch is director of Eunicas, a wraparound service that helps students navigate their way into European third-level courses. He says that, while many applications for European universities have now closed, there are still options available to Irish students.
“We’re there to help support students and families in understanding the difference between the various systems and programmes,” Flouch says. “It is just €38 to register with us. We help with applications, navigate what is expected and connect applicants with Irish students who are already there.”
Data from Eunicas shows that the Netherlands is, by some distance, the most popular European destination for Irish students, with 80 per cent of their Irish students going there.
“Their programmes are mostly taught through English, they’re nearby and students can have a fantastic experience,” says Flouch. “It helps that 90 per cent of the programmes, by law, have to accept EU students who meet the minimum entry requirements of their programmes. The Netherlands has 10 universities that are higher-ranked than Trinity College, and it is a safe destination that also allows them to explore other parts of Europe.”
Flouch says CAO points are not relevant for most European countries, so students who may not be able to get into Ireland’s only veterinary medicine course, which is in UCD, can look to Warsaw for more options. There are more than 50 Irish students studying to be vets in the Polish capital and, again, all the learning is through English. Slovenia, Italy and Denmark are also popular options for some Irish students.
Students applying to European or international universities will, typically, be assessed on the minimum entry requirements — five passes, for example — and a letter of motivation. They may be required to attend a lecture and then complete a multi-choice test, and many will have interviews as well. These third-levels will typically issue conditional offers to applicants, who will be accepted provided that their results meet the minimum entry requirements.
As for the costs, they are generally cheaper than Ireland where third-level fees are among the highest in the European Union. For any EU applicant applying to a third-level in the EU, they will be treated the same as a local applicant to the same college. They even make it easier to secure student accommodation than if they were looking in Cork, Dublin, Galway or Limerick.
While it may be too late for some European and international college courses this year — a situation that hasn’t been helped by how late this year’s Leaving Cert results are being issued — students who didn’t get into the course they wanted in Ireland have a number of options in the interim. They could take a year off and travel or work before applying to an overseas third-level. Or, they could spend a year doing a Post-Leaving Cert course which will help better prepare them for the transition between school and third-level, while still picking up valuable skills that will help make them more employable.
So you’ve decided to study abroad. But there are tens of thousands of courses and thousands of universities to choose from, so how can you sift through your options to find the right one for you?
Erudera.com, which launched earlier this year, is an education search platform based on artificial intelligence, which is helping students to find their ideal university and study programme.
The site contains international student news and updates from around the world, but by far the most useful aspect is that applicants from around the world can easily browse courses from any country or continent. The search function allows students thinking of going abroad to filter their search by country, continent, subject, level of study (from undergraduate to postgraduate and beyond), delivery method (online, blended or on-campus), the duration of the course, when the course starts and the language of delivery.
Students using Erudera can browse through more than 23,000 university profiles and more than 64,000 study programmes. Registered users receive personalised recommendations based on their profile, academic achievements, career prospects and personal preferences.
It’s early days for this new platform, but it’s definitely made it easier for students to explore all their options than ever before.
“Our mission with Erudera is to reach the students early in the research phase, match them with the right university using our platform and guide them on this journey all the way to the end,” says Gent Ukëhajdaraj, chief executive of Erudera.
“A teenager with a limited amount of information is about to make a decision that will define the rest of their life. We want to help them make the right choice.”
Eva Grgeta: ‘It is easier to meet the entry requirements for overseas colleges’
“I was 14 when I moved from Croatia to Ireland.
“I’d already moved for secondary school, so in transition year I made the decision to study abroad.
“It is easier to meet the entry requirements for overseas colleges, but it wasn’t about that for me — and, ultimately, I got enough CAO points to get into third-level in Ireland. I wanted to explore a new country.
“I applied to study liberal arts and sciences at Amsterdam University College in the Netherlands, and I am currently a science major there. The course is delivered in English.
“I live in a dorm room that is like a little studio apartment. The city is so accessible. It’s easy to get around by foot, bike and public transport. I’ve learned some Dutch but everyone can speak English so I mainly speak English.
“My mam and her partner both live in Dublin, and I’m in a long-distance relationship so I do try to go back to Ireland every two months. It’s only 1½ hours by plane. I sometimes feel homesick for Ireland and sometimes for Croatia, but I love it here.
“When I’m finished, I hope to take a year out to travel and keep exploring the world. This has opened up so much for me.”
“I did my Leaving Cert in 2019 and originally had classics in Trinity down as my first choice.
“But I decided to take a year out before starting college and during this time switched my CAO choice to sociology. But Covid hit, that year’s Leaving Cert students got predicted grades and the CAO points soared. It meant that I didn’t get the offer I wanted.
“I was so torn up. I didn’t know what to do. I had been so set on Trinity. Another gap year hadn’t been in the plan but Covid threw everything.
“Eventually, I decided to apply for college abroad. I initially looked at the Netherlands but then my head turned to classics again, and I found that Sapienza University in Rome had the number one classics course in the world.
“And, amazingly, it was really easy to get into. It’s generally easier to get into a college outside Ireland.
“The course itself is through English and my friends are a mix of international students. I’m trying to learn Italian but my flatmates are only teaching me the bad words.
“I was majorly homesick in my first semester and wanted to come home, but I could go back for the weekends. All my friends were homesick too so I didn’t feel alone.
“I love that, as a classics student, I am surrounded by all this Roman art and architecture. I love the international mix and everything I am learning.”
Eva and Emma were both students at St Patrick’s Cathedral Grammar School in Dublin 8
© 2022 The Irish Times DAC
© 2022 The Irish Times DAC