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'A lot of Indian students are finding career opportunities in Ireland'

Barry O'Driscoll, Senior Adviser at Education in Ireland, says around 3,000 Indians currently study at Irish universities and colleges, and that number is rising fast thanks to practical courses and work opportunities after graduation.
BY Uma Asher |   22-11-2017

Barry O'Driscoll, Senior Adviser, Education in Ireland
(photo courtesy Education in Ireland, used with permission)

As Senior Adviser at Education in Ireland, Barry O'Driscoll promotes awareness about Irish higher education in India and China. Education in Ireland is a brand under the authority of Ireland’s Minister for Education and Skills. Mr. O’Driscoll earned his Master’s Degree in Human Resource Management from Dublin City University, diploma in Spanish at the University of Salamanca in Spain, and Bachelor’s degree from NEOMA Business School in France. Currently in India for a five-city university roadshow, he took time out to chat with BrainGain Magazine about higher studies in Ireland. Edited excerpts are below.

 

Please tell us a bit about Education in Ireland, and your role in it.

Education in Ireland is a national brand. It’s the Irish government agency that promotes Ireland as a location for education. I work with our higher education institutions and support them in their activities in India. We deal with five or six priority markets around the world. The top three would be India, China and the US. We are also active in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Brazil. So India is one of those six areas that our institutions and the government prioritizes. At the moment there are about 3,000 Indian students studying in Ireland at higher levels – undergraduate, postgraduate, and PhD. Two years ago, the number was around 2,000. So in the last two academic years, the number has increased by 50%, and I think that’s continuing to increase.

What about international students more broadly at the higher levels in Ireland?

It depends on the institution. It would go from 10% international students to – some of them would have 12 to 15%. And I think in the longer term our top universities would aim at getting around 20% international students. We’ve got students from about 160 countries. Obviously, there are a lot of European students through the Erasmus program, which is a European Union program. But for non-EU, the big numbers would be from the US, China, India, and Malaysia.

What do Indian students in Ireland typically want to study?

At the moment, around 90% - a bit more, actually – are at the postgraduate level, doing master’s degrees. In Ireland, most master’s programs are one-year taught courses, usually with a thesis at the end of it. In some countries, like the US, it’s often two years. In Ireland it’s one year, and quite an intensive year. The three main disciplines would be computer science, engineering, and business. We have everything, but the big numbers are in those areas. Particular courses that are attracting a lot of Indians – and Indians do very well – are data analytics, cloud computing, big data. Fintech is an emerging area. On the science side, things like biomedical engineering.

What do students do after graduation?

One of the big attractions for Indian postgraduate students is that in Ireland you can stay back for two years once you graduate at that level. Earlier this year, our Minister for Education announced an extension to the stay-back from one year to two years for postgraduates. So a lot of Indians are finding career opportunities in Ireland. They see it as a way to get a master’s and also to start their careers, because we have skill shortages in a number of areas, and highly skilled Indian graduates are plugging those gaps. It’s great for their careers and it’s good for Ireland because we need skills like that.

How are international students funded in Ireland? Do universities offer scholarships?

The majority are self-funded. However, institutions do offer merit-based scholarships. I think the latest figure is about 350 or so scholarships specifically for Indian students. They would range from €1,000 off the fees to a 50% fee waiver. Part of the reason we come out to do these fairs is that it’s an opportunity for Indian students to meet with the academics and staff, and learn about scholarship opportunities, because each of these institutions has its own offerings.

How do international students find their bearings in the academic and social environment at an Irish university?

That’s what Ireland does quite well. All of our institutions have orientation weeks where that’s the absolute goal: to help students settle in, particularly the international students, and get them all meeting. There would usually be a week of activities at the start of each intake. There’s a survey called Study Portals that looks at all of this, and in 2015 and 2016 Ireland was ranked No. 1 in the EU for international student satisfaction. A big part of that was the support services for students, and the on-campus activities. Clubs and societies are very big in Ireland, and I know a lot of Indian students are really active and they’re great at getting involved. All of the institutions have Indian societies. Ireland has developed a good reputation in this area of supporting students.

In terms of tuition fees and living costs, how does Ireland compare with other top study destinations such as the US or UK?

Tuition fees would go from around €8,000 a year to €22,000 at the higher end, which would be for medical programs and so on. The cost of living would be around €10,000, but that depends on the city. Dublin would be more expensive than the regional cities. In Dublin, we have about just over a million people, which is small compared to Indian cities, but that’s the capital. But if you went to Cork, Galway, Limerick, which are the next cities, it would be slightly cheaper. Interestingly, a number of institutes of technology are in regional towns. You could maybe spend €7,000 on the cost of living in places like Letterkenny or Carlow. If you go to the Education in Ireland website, you can see a list of the institutions and where they’re located. We have international students in all of them, including Indians.

Does Ireland have a system for accreditation, certification, or recognition of universities to help international students avoid scams?

There are a few things. First, in the Education in Ireland brand, these are government-approved and certified institutions. If you go to the website you will see there’s a list of about 33 institutions. That would include universities, institutes of technology, private colleges, all government-approved. The other thing is that we work with a network of trusted agents. If a student goes to the top education agents here, they will all know which are the main reputable universities. We have seven universities, 14 institutes of technology, and a few private specialist schools. So it wouldn’t be like on a scale of the United States, where you have hundreds and thousands of institutions and you’re not sure about some. With Ireland you know the 33 institutions, and the agents know us pretty well now.

And how would a student know whether an agent is trustworthy and competent? Because that can be an issue in some places.

Absolutely. And we’re trying to be more active in this area in terms of training agents. We are doing Agent of the Year awards, and on our website we’re going to publish the list of trusted agents who have done training by us. But if students are in any doubt they can message us and we’ll give them a list of agents in their city that we would recommend. We are active in the north, west and south. Less so in the east of India. But we could certainly put them in touch with a bigger agent with a lot of offices in regional towns.

Agent fraud or incompetence can be a serious concern, in some cases with tragic consequences when students get deported.

Yes. In our case, the worst-case scenario would be when the application gets to our visa office, and it would end there. You wouldn’t find an Indian student in Ireland at a non-reputable school, because our visa office knows very well whom they should be working with or not.

Students at Education in Ireland's university fair in Delhi in November 2017
Students at Education in Ireland’s university fair in Delhi in November 2017 (photo courtesy Education in Ireland, used with permission)

What events does Education in Ireland have apart from university fairs?

We have fairs twice a year. We do other events as well. For example, in the summer, around early July, we do pre-departure briefings for all the students that have offers. We meet them and do an orientation session before they go out. We give them advice and support on things like accommodation, banking, all the practical things they’ll need to do when they go out there. These sessions are held in Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru. We get a lot of students from Chennai, so we’ll probably start sessions in Chennai as well.

Aside from fields of study that are popular with international students, what are the strengths of Irish academia?

The first is the whole area of tourism, hospitality and culinary arts. It’s a beautiful country so we get a huge number of tourists, and we have very good specialist schools in this area. So we have a lot of students, including international students, who would be top chefs working in top hotel chains. All of these programs have internships. But in a general sense, what’s good about Ireland is that our programs are practical. Our institutes of technology are well connected with local industry, so students can integrate easily into the workplace. We have a lot of international corporations that set up base in Ireland – ICT companies, medical devices, and so on. Our educational institutions work closely with them in terms of student placement, assignments, and projects. Courses are developed in consultation with industry. Eight of the top 10 ICT companies, and 50% of the world’s top 10 financial services companies, nine of the top 10 medical devices companies – they’re all in Ireland. Many students get job offers before they even finish their master’s course. All our institutions have career fairs on campus.

 
To find out more about studying in Ireland, click on the links below!
Here's your chance to find out more about studying in Ireland
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