‘Talent attachés’ to be posted across globe to attract international students to Ireland

Strategy aims to increase number of ‘high-calibre’ PhD researchers in Ireland by end of decade

A new Government strategy aims to attract thousands of high-quality students and researchers to Ireland between now and the end of the decade.

Global Citizens 2030, described as Ireland’s first international talent and innovation strategy, aims to increase the number of overseas higher education students by 10 per cent and attract hundreds of high-calibre PhD students to undertake research and innovation in Ireland by the end of the decade.

The strategy describes the projected increase as a “moderate growth strategy” due, in part, to constraints such as limited accommodation, rising domestic student numbers and cost-of-living concerns.

It also pledges to introduce a new international quality mark for English language schools, which have been the subject of controversy in the past over poor standards and closures which have left many students out of pocket.


In addition, the strategy envisages developing new academic exchange programmes and stronger collaboration with universities in Britain and the EU.

At present, there are an estimated 35,000 international students enrolled in higher education and a further 25,000 in English language schools. The international student market is worth an estimated €2 billion to the economy.

Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris said the blueprint’s aim is to ensure Ireland is a “first choice” destination for international learners, researchers and innovators.

“At a time when countries begin to look inward, I hope this strategy sends a clear message of Ireland’s commitment to continue to be a global, diverse society and for some a beacon of hope and educational opportunity,” he said.

“We want to attract the best generation of international learners, researchers and innovators to Ireland. That brings significant benefits for our economy, but also our society. It helps us address the skills needs we have but also helps open opportunities through diversifying our education communities.”

The plans envisages deploying “talent and innovation attachés” who co-ordinate and prioritise Ireland’s global talent and innovation activities.

Locations under consideration include the east and west coast of the US, major EU capitals, London, Asia, the Middle East and other locations.

The blueprint notes that Irish universities are consistently ranked in the top 1 per cent of institutions in the world, while Ireland is a world leader in many research fields spanning natural sciences, social sciences and the humanities.

“Ireland has an opportunity to be a first-choice destination for international learners, researchers and innovators. It offers the unique value proposition of a multicultural, diverse, inclusive and culturally rich learning experience in a country which has a native English-speaking society, an advanced economy and is a committed and influential member of the European Union,” it states.

It cautions that “tangible constraints” cannot be ignored, such as the need to respond to rising domestic demographics in the latter part of this decade, the transition to low-carbon campuses, the availability of accommodation, the skills needs of the domestic economy and cost-of-living concerns.

It also pledges to boost collaboration with learners, researchers and innovators in Northern Ireland through cross-Border apprenticeships, common skills forecasting models and joint programmes which can meet shared needs on the island of Ireland.

In addition, it envisages new mobility and exchange schemes for learners, researchers and innovators between Ireland, Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

A new international education mark, meanwhile, is intended to promote confidence in the quality of English language schools and higher education generally.

The State education standards watchdog Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) will authorise the quality mark for providers that meet quality standards for student experience, academic quality and protecting the welfare of international students.

Stronger ties with European universities are also envisaged by providing funding for the 12 Irish institutions involved in the new “European University” initiative. This aims, in time, to allow learners to gain degrees or other qualifications by studying across different universities within the EU.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent