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Studying in the UK

General Information

The United Kingdom (UK) includes Northern Ireland, England, Wales, and Scotland. It has been the main University destination for Irish students opting to leave home to study, as well as for thousands of students annually from a wide range of international countries.

Application for study in the UK is through UCAS. It is the earliest application date on the academic year calendar for Leaving Certificate students in Ireland, with a date of 15th October for Dentistry, Medicine, Veterinary, Oxford and Cambridge applications. 15th January is the general undergraduate UCAS application deadline.

The UK is well respected for its world-class standards of teaching – four of the top six universities in the world are in the UK (QS World University Rankings here).

Northern Ireland is always attractive as it is so easily accessible. The University of Ulster is bigger than any University in the south and, it is considered the best-value university in the UK. It also receives some 34,000 applications, making it one of the most popular destinations each year.

Primary Teaching in the UK

Irish students may apply for a place on  primary school degree programmes in Northern Ireland or Britain. All primary school teaching courses are listed on the UCAS website, through which application is made. The closing date for normal applications is 15th January each year.

Entry requirements

Check out individual undergraduate teacher traning programme entry requirements in the UK on UCAS here.

Details of entry requirements for Initial Teacher Education in Northern Ireland are available here.


If you successfully complete a UK-based qualification and wish to teach in southern Ireland, you must register your qualification with the Teaching Council of Ireland. All teachers employed in State-funded schools in Ireland must be registered with the Teaching Council to be paid a salary by the Department of Education.

To be eligible to apply for registration in Ireland, you must be a fully recognised and qualified teacher, under the terms of EU directive 2005/36/EC, in the state in which you completed your teaching qualification.

To be fully qualified in the UK, you must successfully complete an initial teacher education qualification, together with a period of induction. It is worth noting that Northern Ireland does not require induction to be completed before it issues a teacher with a letter confirming that they meet the terms of the EU directive. This means that teaching graduates in the North may choose to complete their period of induction in Northern Ireland or in the South.

Graduates applying for registration in the South, before completing a period of induction in Northern Ireland, will have “induction” attached as a condition of their registration status. On securing a UK-based teaching degree, you will be required to demonstrate that your qualifications are comparable to Teaching Council requirements, as set out in its registration regulations. [Click here] Your qualification will be assessed by the council, and any shortfalls that are identified will be attached as conditions to your registration status.

The current Irish primary school teaching degree programme is now a four-year programme. UK-based courses are mainly three years, so there may be a significant shortfall of specified course work to be made up.

Garda Vetting

Registration to teach in the South is subject to Garda vetting.

Irish Language Requirement

The study of the Irish language is also a requirement. Those who qualify to teach in Britain or Northern Ireland must address the latter by successfully completing either an aptitude test - An Scrúdú le hAghaidh Cáilíochta sa Ghaeilge – Scrúdú (the SCG) or an adaption period - Oiriúnú le hAghaidh Cáilíochta sa Ghaeilge – Tréimhse Oiriúnaithe (the OCG). Further information can be found here at www.ilrweb.ie

A period of three years is granted, from the date of registration, to address all identified shortfalls attached to registration. During this time, you may be employed as a primary school teacher. Failure to address the shortfalls within the three-year time frame will result in your registration lapsing.

Scotland is particularly attractive for Irish students as there are no tuition fees payable. See Fees and Finance.

Nursing in the UK

Every year lots of Irish students who want to do Nursing opt to go to the UK, perhaps to avoid the competitive entry to Nursing here, or simply because they want to move further away from home and claim their independence. However, it is important to be aware of the 2015 decision by the UK government to end NHS funding for nursing and paramedical degrees, which previously covered the £9,000 (€10,410) fees. 

Here are some useful links to help with finding Undergraduate Nursing Programmes at UK Universities:

UCAS Undergraduate Nursing courses

Study in the UK (provides independent advice for international students) - Nursing

Individual college websites where Nursing Training is offered provide comprehensive information for both students and parents. The following  universities are highly ranked – the links will give you basic information about each one and take you directly to the Undergraduate Nursing Faculty with course details, entry requirements and open day information etc. You can request a prospectus from them:

Useful Links

  • Funding for Healthcare Studies in the UK here

Searching for Courses in the UK

UCAS is the UK shared admissions service for higher education. Like the CAO system here in Ireland, UCAS manages all of the applications for full-time undergraduate courses at over 350 universities and colleges across Britain and Northern Ireland.

Making your application for UK courses through UCAS

While UCAS is similar to the CAO, the application process is very different.

The first deadline for applying to UCAS is in mid-October each year. The general deadline for the majority of UK courses is January 15 at 6.00pm.

Exceptions to the January 15 deadline are art courses, which close in March, and veterinary, medicine, dentistry and any Oxford and Cambridge applications, which close in mid-October. Many of the latter require aptitude tests [i.e. UKCAT, BMAT - see below].

Unlike the CAO system, when applying through UCAS, institutions judge applicants based on more than just exam results. The UCAS application involves students completing a Personal Statement, providing an Academic Reference and providing information about Work Experience. As well as the extra work involved in preparing an application, UCAS will send the completed application to each institution for which a student applies, for their consideration as soon as they receive it.

All UCAS applications are made online through ucas.com.

Students should first use this website to search for courses and institutions in which they may be interested. They should then contact the particular institution to enquire about Irish Leaving Certificate entry requirements, fees and any other requirements such as aptitude testing.

Students can apply for up to five courses in a normal UCAS application. Start by finding out about different courses and colleges in the UK. Here are some useful online resources to guide you:

A search tool is available from UCAS to help you find undergraduate courses and courses at conservatoires across the UK.

Search for courses that interest you and then compare entry requirements, course content, assessment procedures etc. Explore what the different colleges have to offer. The UCAS site also has a range of information to help with your decision including an information area for parents.

Converting Leaving Cert points to UCAS Tariffs

UCAS tariffs system is a points system used for entry to higher education in the UK. It allows you to compare Leaving Certificate and GCSE A level grades. A Leaving Certificate subject at honours level is approximately equivalent to two-thirds of an A level. Explore the UCAS tariff calculator here.

2016 UCAS Tarriff Table for Irish Leaving Certificate Grades

2017+ UCAS Tarriff Table for Irish Leaving Certificate (Higher Level)

Updates for 2017 entry and therafter to reflect changes to the Leaving Certificate Grading Scale made in 2017:

2017+ UCAS Tarriff Table for Irish Leaving Certificate (Ordinary Level)

Source: UCAS 2017

Note: There is also a new UCAS Tariff calculation system from 2017 entry - view this useful video from UCAS 

The British Council website Education UK allows you to search for both undergraduate and postgraduate courses on a particular subject, in a particular university or in a specific area such as Northern Ireland.

The site contains a summary of information about each college or university with contact details. You can make an online request for course brochures and information. The site also has general information about living in the UK including accommodation and working while studying.

The GOV.UK website gives information about UK higher education institutions and courses. The website also has a ‘quick answers’ section and a student finances calculator.

What next?

  • Contact the colleges that interest you and request further information on the courses that appeal to you, or ask any questions you might have.
  • Check out the College Open Days – see if it’s possible to arrange to be there, or alternatively, find out if they be at Higher Options in Dublin?
  • Check out the application deadlines for the courses that interest you

Application Procedures for undergraduate courses in the UK

Note: The application process for UK courses starts earlier than in Ireland, so you need to begin looking at courses at least 12 months before you plan to start studying.

Key Dates for UK applications

As a guideline, the key dates for applying for undergraduate courses in the UK are as follows:

  • 1 September – applications for UK courses for entry the following year
  • 15 October - deadline for applications to Oxford or Cambridge universities and for applications to medicine, dentistry and veterinary medicine/science to arrive at UCAS by midnight
  • 15 January - deadline for most other UK course applications to arrive at UCAS
  • 24 March – 16.00pm deadline for (some) art and design courses to arrive at UCAS

A complete list of the Key Dates UK applications is available on the UCAS website here.

How to apply

The application procedure for all UK undergraduate courses is via UCAS. Applications are completed online. In the UCAS system, you apply for a maximum of 5 courses. It is not necessary to list your choices in order.

If you are applying for medicine, dentistry or veterinary medicine, you can only apply for 4 courses in any one of these areas.

Note: Applicants can only apply to Oxford or to Cambridge, but not to both. The closing date for applications to Oxford and Cambridge is mid-October. For detailed information see:

Personal Statement

All UK course applicants must also complete a Personal Statement as part of their application. This is an essay style exercise of about 4,000 characters (approx. 1.25 A4 pages or 47 lines). It is an opportunity for students to argue why they should be offered a place on the courses they have applied for. The Personal Statement typically addresses:

  • Why you chose to study in this particular area
  • Evidence of skills you have developed
  • Details of your interests and achievements to date
  • Relevant work experience you may have completed

Read: What makes a good personal Statement?

Academic Reference

The majority of UK colleges require the submission on an academic reference. This is usually supplied by your school principal. It is an opportunity for your school to vouch for your participation and achievements both in education and non-academic activities to date and on your suitability for higher education in the environment you have chosen.

Late applications - UCAS Clearing

UCAS Clearing is the UK equivalent of CAO Available or Vacant Places. UCAS clearing is available from July-September each year. 

Check out theUcas Clearing Video Guide here.

How to go about it

  • Research the available courses on Ucas. com - you can search by course, college, location etc
  • Check the entry requirements - some will show Irish Leaving Cert requirements. If not, speak to the admissions office. You can also ask what your chances are being accepted this year.
  • Colleges may accept lower grades than listed during the clearing process - contact admissions and ask.
  • UCAS Application Form is required which can be completed on Ucas.com
  • A Personal Statement must also be supplied together with a Reference from a teacher or other independent person.
  • You will receive a “clearing” number
  • Enter the details of your chosen course into the clearing section of the UCAS application.

Additional Assessments

Some courses, medicine in particular require an extra assessment for admission e.g. an aptitude test or an interview. Students will need to take a test for entry such as UKCAT, BMAT or HPAT UK.

Studying Medicine in the UK 

What is the UKCAT Test?

UKCAT is one of a number of entrance exams for entry to medicine. You may need to sit it if you plan on applying to UK colleges to study medicine. In the Irish system, all schools of medicine require students to take the same admissions test for entry (The HPAT). In the UK, there are a number of tests available from which the colleges can choose, including HPAT UK.

UKCAT is probably the most popular test. It is is the preferred test for large number of colleges including Queen's University, Belfast (QUB). Intending applicants for mediciane should always check which assessment their preferred course requires.

Key Dates

The deadline to apply for medicine in the UK is October 15. Applications for medicine in the UK and Northern Ireland must be submitted to UCAS by this date.


UKCAT registration opens in the first week of May each year. Booking closes sometime in October - check here for details. Results are forwarded to universities in November. 

UKCAT is similar to the HPAT. The test is held at locations all over Ireland. Applicants are advised to register early and nominate their preferred centre, as some locations fill-up faster than others. There is no curriculum science element to UKCAT, however, like the HPAT, it is useful to get some practice for the test before sitting the assessment. Sample papers are available. 

Students need to register for UKCAT at www.ukcat.ac.uk.

What is the BMAT Test?

The BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) is a subject-specific admissions test for applicants to medicine, veterinary medicine and similar courses at universities.

Certain UK Colleges require students to sit BMAT:

  • University of Cambridge – Medicine; Graduate Medicine; Veterinary Medicine
  • Imperial College London – Medicine; Biomedical Science; Pharmacology & Medical Science
  • University of Oxford – Medicine; Physiological Sciences
  • Royal Veterinary College - Veterinary Medicine; Combined Degree Programme
  • University College London – Medicine.

The BMAT is a 2-hour, pen-and-paper test divided into three sections. It does not require a lot of extra study as it is a test of skills and knowledge that learners are expected to have already. Full details are available on the BMAT website .

Where to apply

UCAS (University and Colleges Admissions Service) is the central applications body for full-time undergraduate courses at UK universities and colleges.

The UCAS website contains all the information you need to apply to college including: How to apply, Fees, and Information about the colleges.

Applications can only be made online through the UCAS website. You can apply through your school or as an individual.

Duration of Undergraduate Courses in the UK

Undergraduate Degree Courses (Bachelor’s Degree) in the UK are generally shorter than in many other countries, which helps to reduce tuition fees and accommodation costs. In the UK, an undergraduate course typically last 3 years, but in Scotland they last 4 years.

Q: Will my UK qualification be valid in Ireland?

Qualifications can cross boundaries, is an updated leaflet that gives a rough guide to comparing qualifications in the UK (Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales) and in Ireland.

The leaflet shows how qualifications are organised and how they relate broadly to each other through the different qualifications frameworks, including the European Qualifications Framework.

As qualifications frameworks continue to develop around the world, they contribute to greater mobility opportunities for learners and to the internationalisation of education and training.

Qualifications Recognition- an updated leaflet explaining how QQI works with the National Academic Recognition Information Centre (NARIC). It provides advice on fair academic recognition of foreign qualifications that may be used for access to unregulated employment and/or further study in Ireland. The leaflet is availabe here in six languages'

The Qualrec website – www.qualrec.ie  explains education and training systems in different countries in EU and beyond, and gives access to other relevant information updates.

The popular leaflet, Travelling with your Irish Qualification has also been updated and provides advice on the initial steps involved in getting Irish qualifications recognised abroad, whether for study or employment purposes.

College Fees and Living Expenses in the UK

College courses in the UK are generally shorter than in many other countries, which helps to reduce tuition fees and accommodation costs.

NoteDepending on your income you may be eligible for a maintenance grant under the Irish Student Grants Scheme, but this may not include tuition fees – further details below.

Tuition fees

Before applying, you should find out about the different structures and costs for third-level education in the UK, in particular fees and living costs.

There are different fee arrangements within the UK. The fees can vary quite a bit, even for similar courses. 

As an EU national you are treated in the same way regarding fees, as UK students.

England: Since 2012-2013 universities and colleges can charge new students up to ST£9,000 a year for undergraduate courses, and this fee level is being charged in many colleges in England.

Northern Ireland: Maximum fees payable by EU students in Northern Ireland are available here.

Wales: Maximum fees payable by EU students in Wales stand at £3,575

Scotland: There are no tuition fees payable by EU students, who started their first full-time degree course in Scotland, wishing to study there.

You can apply for a tuition fee loan which you only have to repay after you have graduated and are earning over ST£21,000 a year. However, you are not entitled to maintenance support in the same way as home students.

If you are an EU national who has been settled in the UK for over 3 years you will be classed as a home student and will be able to apply for financial support for living costs.

UCAS includes a table showing the maximum tuition fees at present {here}

Accommodation & living Costs

Tuition fees are not the only expense when studying in the UK - you also need to consider accommodation and living costs.

Sample Budget for Studying in the UK

Accommodation: on-campus

£350-460 pm

Accommodation: off-campus

£300-400 pm


£25 pm

Mobile phone

£40 pm

Food and groceries

£150 pm


£30 pm










GBP £830 p/m

Source: Sample Living Costs Budget Brunel University London

So based on this budget, a student planning to study in London will need around £7,000 for each academic year of study to cover their living costs (not including tuition fees).

Every student is different, and you should calculate your own budget based on your personal circumstances. You can find a useful cost-of-living calculator on the UCAS website.

The following student finance websites provide a range of useful information:

  1. Information for study in Northern Ireland
  2. Information for study in England
  3. Information for study in Scotland
  4. Information for study in Wales

 See also Fees and Finance UK

Irish Student Maintenance Grants

Note: If you qualify for a student maintenance grant here in Ireland, you may be able use this grant to pay for study in the UK:

“Under the Student Grants Scheme maintenance grants are available for undergraduate courses of at least 2 years’ duration in a publicly-funded third-level institution in another EU member state. Depending on your income, you may be eligible for a maintenance grant provided that you fulfill the conditions as to residence, age, academic attainments and nationality”. (SourceSUSI )

There are TWO Conditions:

  1. The college you are considering must be a publicly funded college
  2. The Course you are considering must meet the requirements of the student grant scheme

Detailed information on the range of Irish grants and funds for students in further and higher education are available on www.studentfinance.ie.

Working while you Study Abroad

You might be able to work while you study. Further information is available at theUK Border Agency (UKBA) and The UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) on working during and after your studies.

Useful Links for those interested in Studying in the UK, Scotland, Wales

  • UCAS - Comprehensive information on all Higher Education courses in UK and much more
  • Citizens Information Website –Studying in the UK Resources anyone living in Ireland and thinking of doing a third-level course in Northern Ireland or elsewhere in the United Kingdom
  • The European Funding Guide - a not-for-profit website which provides details of some 12,000 scholarship programs and other forms of financial aid (Incl.UK), to help students with their studies. CLICK HERE
  • The International Education Financial Aid website - provides a database of financial aid information for students who want to study in a foreign country. The site contains a comprehensive list of grants, scholarships, loan programmes and other information that may be helpful to students interested in studying in Europe, or other countries abroad CLICK HERE

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