EU applications for Irish university places have tripled since Brexit


Applications from European students wishing to study at Irish universities have more than tripled since the 2016 Brexit referendum.

The AO figures show continued growth in requests from other EU countries, as well as Britain and other non-EU countries.

The biggest increase was among students from other EU states, from 1,934 in 2017 to 6,383 this year.

The trend has accelerated since 2020/2021, when the UK officially left the EU.

Overall, non-domestic requests to CAO have grown from 5,063 to 9,616 since 2020.

Brexit has made Ireland a more attractive destination for those wishing to study in an English-speaking country.

Not all international applications have resulted in places being accepted, but the figures underscore the growing interest in Ireland.

Applications from Britain have increased but those from the North remain at a low level

Over the past two years, the late posting of CAO offers likely contributed to the gap between applications and acceptances.

CAO Round 1 was up to three weeks behind normal due to exceptional Leaving Cert arrangements due to Covid, and international applicants may have accepted an earlier offer elsewhere.

While interest from UK students is increasing, applications from Northern Ireland are, at best, stable and at a low level.

CAO applications from UK students have increased by 9% this year and 39% over the past two years, from 760 to 970 to 1,050.

But claims from Northern Ireland have changed little and, in fact, have fallen from 1,418 to 1,408 over the past two years.

The Oireachtas Education Committee recently explored a range of issues affecting enrollment, from north to south and south to north, and made a series of recommendations.

Cross-border registrations are seen as mutually beneficial in economic and social terms, but remain at a very low level, the report says.

The cost of living and, in particular, the cost of rent, is one of the most cited reasons why students in the North turn down offers from colleges in the Republic, he adds.

Further and Further Education Minister Simon Harris said overall CAO application figures showed the desire to study at Irish universities was increasing year on year.

Brexit has made Ireland a more attractive destination for those wishing to study in an English-speaking country

He said that as Ireland continues to invest more in higher education, the system will continue to grow, reform and improve.

The increase in international interest comes as universities also brace for a surge in domestic applicants coming out of school due to the baby boom of the early 2000s.

Mr Harris said it was important to stress that a growth in international applications has not come at the expense of Irish applicants.

Addressing the issue of North-South mobility, the Minister said he wanted to see “a greater exchange of students across our island and that is why we are working with institutions in Northern Ireland to create better pathways, particularly in health care”.

In a move, the minister and his officials are discussing access for OAC applicants to 50 places in medical colleges per year in the North from 2023.

Mr Harris said he wanted to see progress on a series of north-south initiatives in third-level education and skills over the next 12 months.

This includes apprenticeship programs across all islands, a review of how to improve student mobility north and south, the roll-out of skills programs across all islands, and progress in supporting expansion from the Magee campus of the University of Ulster in Derry, to which the Irish Government is committed.


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