Irish institutions boast of an edge, thanks to their links with the industry. The country has turned itself into a high-tech research and product development hub with trade cords stretching to the Silicon Valley in the US. It is one of Europe's fastest growing economies which grew by 5.3 per cent in 2007, though under pressure now — Bank of Ireland's Quarterly Economic Outlook expects a GDP growth of 3 per cent in 2008 and 4 per cent in 2009. To drive the economy, the Irish government's main priorities include science and innovation, with a focus on commercialisation of research.
According to an International Education Board Ireland 2008 report, there were at least 1,094 Indian students in Ireland in 2006-07; their actual strength is said to be higher as all colleges hadn't shared up-to-date data. Though the Indian student population there has gone up from 672 in 2002 and 475 in 2003, the contingent makes up only 4 per cent of all international students in the country. According to the report, the number of international students, too, has climbed from 11,000 in 2002 to 27275 in 2007.
Hot for what?
Indian students mainly study programmes in Business, Information and Communication Technologies and Engineering.
How to set the ball rolling
Commencement of session: the session runs from September to June and is divided into either two or three semesters with vacations in December (Christmas) and April (Easter). Most universities go by the semester system.
When to apply: launch the hunt for your desired university and programme in Class XII. Aspirants may apply from April onwards for entry to that year's batch.
How to apply: whereas European Union students can apply straight to the Central Application Office, non-EU aspirants, including Indians, should contact individual universities or institutions directly.
Deadline: each institute has its own deadline for different programmes. But applicants should apply at least four months before the programme is to begin.
Application processing time: institutions send the offer letter depending on when you had sent the application. The application processing time can be as little as 24 hours on the spot, to as much as two months.
Application docket: in Ireland, candidates are selected for undergraduate programmes through a score system based on their school leaving certificates (SLC). For overseas pupils, too, the reference point is the SLC, although some institutes may also ask them to take an online or written test in India, before confirming admission.
Standardised test scores: Irish institutes may insist on an IELTS score of at least 6.0 to assess a candidate's proficiency in English.
Tuition fee: the annual tuition fee for an undergraduate programme varies from about 8,000 to 15,000 euros. It can go up to 35,000 euros for a medicine programme.
Cost of living: the living cost, on an average, is 1,000 euros a month. Accommodation is cheaper outside Dublin.
Scholarships: universities give out scholarships directly. The Embassy of Ireland doesn't offer any.
Part-time jobs: students are allowed to work part-time for up to 20 hours a week and full-time during college vacations.
Student visa: contact the visa office of the Embassy of Ireland. To facilitate the process of visa applications, the Embassy has opened visa application centres in Delhi, Chandigarh, Jalandhar, Chennai, Kochi and Hyderabad.
Job opportunities: Irish degrees are well recognised the world over by leading employers. Institutes placement cells work with companies to help graduates find jobs.
After completing their programme, you can apply for a non-renewable extension of six months to their student permit to look for a job and obtain a green card or work permit. More details at www.educationireland.ie.
Some useful links
National Qualifications Authority of Ireland
National Framework of Qualifications
Higher Education Authority
Qualifax (Ireland's national database of all higher education courses)
Central Applications Office