My daughter wants to study physiotherapy abroad, but I’m not so sure

Ask Brian: Several thousand Irish students are studying at EU universities

Many Irish students face the dilemma of staying at home or going abroad to study for their undergraduate courses. Photograph: iStock

Many Irish students face the dilemma of staying at home or going abroad to study for their undergraduate courses. Photograph: iStock


My daughter wants to study physiotherapy but isn’t sure she’ll achieve the high CAO points required. A neighbour of ours is studying a similar programme in the Netherlands. I’m not sure going abroad is a good option. Surely she’d miss out on building up a network of Irish friends and connections?

Many of us feel an attachment to a particular university or college because of our own experience and the friendships we made there.

For that reason, I can understand your reticence about your daughter’s wish to study abroad, even if the lectures are all through English (which they are now in more than 1,000 programmes).

But, if she has her heart set on becoming a physiotherapist, and her academic profile does not put her in the 540 points-plus range required by RCSI, Trinity, UL and UCD, then being able to access a similar programme in a EU university with full reciprocal recognition seems to be an option at least worth exploring.

Until a few years ago, opting for a EU university might have been a very lonely existence, cut off from friends, family, your own cultural and social environment.

Today, several thousand Irish students make that journey and there are Irish students studying for degree courses in the Netherlands, Germany, Scandinavia and northern Italy.

Many of these countries have shrinking populations and are competing hard to get European students. Colleges fees tend to be cheaper, entry requirements are not as stringent and accommodation is usually available.

In the Netherlands, for example, fees are between €2,000-€3,000; while university education is free in many other northern European countries.

There are also large numbers of Irish students in eastern European universities paying high fees of more than €10,000 for medical and veterinary and other para-medical programmes.

If you want more information, European university application support service Eunicas is holding a series of information meetings in late October in Cork, Galway and Dublin. Attendance is free, but tickets (available at are required for health and safety reasons.

Regarding your concern about your daughter missing out on Irish friends and connections, you’re right: studying in Europe will certainly shape her future very differently. Her friends will be scattered throughout Europe and further afield.Her language skills may be greatly enhanced, even though she would be studying through English.

As our European identity deepens, as we integrate further into the EU following the planned departure of the UK next March, her understanding of the social and cultural norms of our European partners will prove invaluable to her if she returns to work in Ireland following graduation.

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