Almost 1,500 third-level students from Ireland in receipt of State-funded grants are studying in colleges abroad.
Under the Department of Education's student grant scheme, eligible candidates may receive funding provided they are attending an approved course at a publicly-funded institution within the European Union.
The vast majority of students who qualify for grants for college abroad are attending colleges in the UK.
However, growing numbers are heading further afield to countries such as Poland, the Netherlands, Sweden and Hungary for reasons including lower costs, easier entry criteria for medical courses or higher-ranking universities.
A breakdown of figures shows England is the most popular location for grant-holders (783), followed by Northern Ireland (328), Scotland (172) and Wales (146). Significant numbers are also in Poland (95) and the Netherlands (63), while smaller numbers are in countries such as Hungary (12), Romania (8) and Slovakia (7).
While Ireland has "free fees" at third level, the €3,000 student contribution charge is greater than the cost of many courses in Europe.
In Austria, Switzerland and Belgium, fees are usually less than €1,000 a year, while they are mostly free in Scotland, Sweden and Germany.
Fees of just under €2,000 apply in the Netherlands where a student loan scheme is available, allowing graduates to pay back their fees over the longer term. In central Europe, however, fees for courses such as dentistry, veterinary and physiotherapy are often as high as €10,000 per year.
Guy Flouch of Eunicas (European University Central Application Support Service) said more than 1,000 degree programmes are on offer through English in European colleges.
“What Irish students are doing is exercising their rights as EU citizens; whatever these universities have for their students, we can access it as well.”