Everything you need to know about Ireland’s universities

What the country’s top universities have to offer


Web: ucc.ie/opendays

Life on campus: There's so much more to life in UCC than spending long hours in the Fishbowl (the famous library study room). Most of the university's 21,000 students actively participate in one of the many clubs and societies on campus and with more than 100 to choose from, there's something for everyone. Along with the traditional offerings, students can also get involved in powerlifting, motorcycling, ultimate frisbee, hot beverage enjoyment and even find fellow wizardry enthusiasts at the Harry Potter Appreciation Society. With a vibrant city social scene just 10 minutes from campus, there's rarely a dull moment.

Strengths: Since 1845, UCC has been the main university of the south of Ireland and today it is a globally-oriented, student-centred, research-led university, providing a full range of disciplines. It is in the top 2 per cent of universities worldwide (QS World University Rankings) and is ranked in the top 50 universities for teaching and learning in Europe (Times Higher Education Europe Teaching Rankings). It has been recognised internationally for its excellent first-year retention rates (93 per cent for the academic year 2017/18), while employment rates are at an all-time high at UCC – at 94 per cent for undergraduates and 95 per cent for postgraduates.

Accommodation: Prospective students are advised to start their search in January. Applications can be made for a lottery system to live on campus but there are a number of other options including digs, private rentals and privately-owned students apartment complexes. The Office of Student Residential Services offers advice to those seeking accommodation.


What's new: A BAgSc agricultural science in partnership with Teagasc will begin in 2019.

Don't miss: Live performances by the Cork Light Orchestra and The Guilty Judges.

University of Limerick

Web: ul.ie/opendaysOpen days: Thursday, October 18th, and Friday, October 19th, 2018, 9.30am to 2pm.

Life on campus: With a city on its doorstep, more than 70 clubs and societies to choose from and top-class sporting facilities, there's always a buzz around this Shannonside campus. Home to Ireland's largest all-weather floodlit park, along with a sports arena, a 50m pool, an indoor rowing tank and a diving pool, fitness and sports enthusiasts will feel right at home. With preparation for the working world at the forefront of the student experience, facilities like the law school's moot court room, the journalism editing suite and the university's Wall Street-style trading area make for energetic and practical learning.

Strengths: UL is ranked third in Europe for career preparation through internship, according to the Times Higher Education Europe Teaching Rankings, with many of its courses boasting 100 per cent employment rates. First-year students get to 'try before they decide' and can avail of several common-entry programmes in science and engineering before choosing a preferred pathway to specialise in for their remaining years. Arts students can build their own degree from 19 different subjects, with 176 possible combinations.

Accommodation: Limerick is currently one of the most affordable cities in Ireland for rental accommodation. There are a number of on-campus village-style accommodation options along with digs and private rentals.

What's new: Earlier this year, UL opened its new Glucksman Library, which has now doubled in size and capacity, having added an extra 7,600sq m to the original library building. A new BSc (Ed) in mathematics and computer science will begin next year.

Don't miss: Interactive displays from the science and engineering faculties; talks on sports scholarships and find out about the co-op work experience, which is part of every programme.

NUI Galway

Web: nuigalway.ie/opendays/

Life on campus: Given its location, student life at NUI Galway is intrinsically intertwined with that of the city. Galway is well-known for its vibrancy and a year-long programme of cultural and sporting festivals ensures there's plenty for students to do and see outside of the campus gates. Of course, there's plenty happening on campus too, with more than 100 societies and 50 sports clubs to get involved in.

Strengths: NUI Galway is the Sunday Times 2018 University of the Year and is ranked in the top 1 per cent of universities worldwide (QS World University Rankings). With the city being home to one of the world's largest biomedical hubs, NUI Galway cultivates this industry through research-led teaching, encouraging its students to develop original thinking, harnessing technology and improving human health across a range of degrees.

Accommodation: New on-campus accommodation opened in September, delivering an additional 429 new beds. Digs and private options are also available and the university's accommodation office is a useful port of call in getting support and advice.

What's new: NUIG has expanded its offering of arts degrees, adding programmes which incorporate work placements and study abroad options such as BA global languages and BA film and digital media. A new BA music launched this year while revamped, industry-focused options in law, law and business and a new bachelor of law and human rights all include the option of work placement or study abroad. A BA education (computer science and mathematical studies) has just launched.

Don't miss: A range of masterclasses in drama, music, and fuelling success: nutrition and food for students, to name just a few. There will also be information sessions for parents, along with information on Hear and Dare entry options.


Web: ucdopenday.ieOpen day: Saturday, November 3rd, 2018, 10am-4pm.

Life on campus: Set in a modern parkland campus just 4km south of Dublin city centre, Ireland's largest university is home to 33,000 students. Its huge population is well catered for with a state-of-the-art student centre, restaurants, cafes, shops, a launderette, a bike shop, and a barber shop, to name but a few services. Its highly developed sports facilities, along with 8km of woodland walkways provide a refreshing break from studying. Trampolining, sepak takraw and ultimate frisbee are just some of alternative sports on offer from its 56 clubs, while more than 90 student societies, with everything from jazz to comedy to science and travel, are also on offer.

Strengths: UCD has been ranked the number one university in Ireland for graduate employability for the second consecutive year in the QS World University Rankings, which describes UCD as Ireland's most "globally engaged university". Its veterinary science programme, the only one in the country, has been ranked 24th in the world by the QS rankings by subject while nursing at UCD is 31st worldwide. UCD is the university of first choice for students who apply through the CAO, with more putting a UCD course at the top of their CAO form than any other university in Ireland.

Accommodation: First-year students are prioritised for accommodation. The total number of residences on campus is currently 3,164.

What's new: UCD recently restructured the entry pathways to its arts and humanities and social sciences degrees, with more information about this available at its open day.

Don't miss: Join the UCD Choral Scholars for an open rehearsal, listen to music performances by the jazz society and gospel choir, or take part in the Philosopher's Café, where topics such as the possibility of free will, political power, truth and lies are discussed in a lively, informal setting.

Dublin City University

Web: dcu.ie/openday

Open days: Friday, November 16th and Saturday, November 17th, 2018, on both the Glasnevin and St Patrick's campuses.

Life on campus: DCU is expanding rapidly. Recent developments include a new state-of-the art student centre which combines facilities for social, cultural, global engagement and entrepreneurial activities. Clubs and societies are the heart and soul of DCU and for its 17,000 students there's plenty to get involved in, with more than 150 clubs and societies. DCU boasts an award-winning gym, a state-of-the-art sports campus, playing fields, cafes and restaurants. NuBar, the campus bar, is always a busy spot – hosting comedy festivals, guest speakers and gigs throughout the year.

Strengths: DCU is regularly featured among the top 100 young universities worldwide and is renowned as a globally-engaged, research-intensive university. The DCU Business School is accredited by AACSB International (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business), placing it among the top 5 per cent of business schools worldwide. It is the first university in the world to be designated as an autism-friendly university. It is also renowned for the quality of its courses in teacher-education, with 11 degree programmes now offered in the areas of early childhood, primary, secondary and further education.

Accommodation: There are 300 bedrooms reserved on campus for first years, on a first-come, first-served basis. The students' union works with local landlords to source digs, apartments and houses.

What's new: A BEd in Irish and French, German or Spanish and a BSc in data science.

Don't miss: The opportunity to speak with expert academic staff and more than 150 DCU student helpers to answer any questions; subject-specific presentations and information sessions on sport and elite sport opportunities; and a parent information session.

Trinity College Dublin

Web: tcd.ie/openday

Open days: Saturday, November 10th, 2018, 9am-3.30pm; Law open day: October 20th.

College life: Its easy to see why Trinity, with its cobbled squares and historic buildings, is ranked in the top 10 of Europe's most beautiful universities. The city-centre campus is not only home to the oldest student societies in the world (the Phil and the Hist debating societies), it's also where Ireland's first student newspaper hit the presses and where the country's largest library is located. Though steeped in history, TCD offers state-of-the-art learning and sports facilities and with more than 170 student societies, publications and sports clubs, there's something to suit the interests of each of the university's 18,000-strong population.

Strengths: Over the past 425 years, TCD has developed a reputation for delivering world-class education. Today it is the highest ranked university in Ireland (QS World University Rankings 2019, Times Higher Education Rankings 2018, Academic Ranking of World Universities 2018), along with being recognised as the country's most innovative university (Reuters Europe's Most Innovative Universities 2018). Ninety-five per cent of graduates are employed or in further study within six months. Trinity puts a strong emphasises on learning support, providing all undergraduate students with a personal tutor. It's also an attractive hub for budding entrepreneurs, with its Blackstone LaunchPad programme available free to all students.

Accommodation: New entrants are predominantly accommodated at Trinity Hall, in Dartry, near Rathmines. The accommodation advisory service provides advice and access to house-hunting resources.

What's new: A new dual BA programme between Trinity College Dublin and Columbia University, New York, was launched earlier this year.

Don't miss: Meet lecturers and students from across all of of the departments and see medical, engineering and computer science demonstrations.

Maynooth University

Web: gomaynooth.ie

Open days: Friday, November 23rd and Saturday, November 24th, 2018.

College life: Maynooth is Ireland's only university town and the campus is a mix of old-meets-new with a complex of beautiful 19th-century buildings on the South Campus and a modern complex of teaching, research, accommodation and support facilities on the North Campus. The on and off-campus social scene includes just a handful of pubs and clubs where it's easy to meet almost everyone on a night out. With more than 100 clubs and societies, its 12,500 plus students have much to choose from, ranging from kickboxing and outdoor pursuits to the Bosco society, Game of Thrones society and drama.

Strengths: The Maynooth curriculum allows students to choose optional critical skills courses (which aid in the transition to third-level study), elective programmes across disciplines, and flexible degree pathways. Most students at Maynooth have the option of taking an international year abroad as part of their degree, choosing from 200 partner institutions across the globe. Maynooth University was ranked number one among Irish universities by the International Student Barometer 2017, and ranked in the top 100 in the Times Higher Education 'Young Universities' list.

Accommodation: There are 1,200 student apartments on campus, with 50 per cent of these reserved for first years. There is also a Scéim Chónaithe for rooms in an Irish language-speaking and Irish cultural environment.

What's new: There are new degrees in quantitative finance, data science and maths and computer science (with education). There is a significant expansion plan under way which will see new facilities such as a new arts and science academic building, a student centre, cultural engagement, as well as sports and recreation amenities.

Don't miss: The opportunity to meet student ambassadors who will share their perspectives on the uniqueness of studying at Maynooth University.

Nora-Ide McAuliffe

Nora-Ide McAuliffe

Nora-Ide McAuliffe is an Audience Editor with The Irish Times