What Ireland’s specialist third-level institutions have to offer

Life on campus: Institutions around the country offer a diverse range of course options for prospective students

Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland

Open day: Thursday, January 3rd, 2019, at York Street and St Stephen's Green campuses

Web: rcsi.com

Located just off St Stephen's Green, in one of the busiest spots in Dublin, RCSI offers undergraduate degrees in medicine, pharmacy and physiotherapy and is ranked among the top 2 per cent of universities worldwide in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings (2018).

Its new facility at 26 York Street is home to Europe’s most advanced clinical simulation facility. A mock operating theatre, patient consultation rooms and a hospital ward give RCSI students the opportunity to hone their skills in a simulated environment before continuing their training in real-world clinical settings.


Its open day offers a range of interactive workshops to give a real flavour of what it is like to be a student in each of its disciplines for a day. Activities include assisting with a mannequin which simulates giving birth, taking blood pressure, a hands-on experiment in the pharmaceutics lab and learning about prevention of ankle sprains in the physiotherapy practical.

Institute of Art, Design and Technology

Open days: Friday, November 23rd and Saturday, November 24th, 2018, 10am-4pm; Saturday, January 19th, 2019, 10am-1pm

Web: iadt.ie

Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology (IADT) is a renowned centre of creativity in animation, design, TV and film production, computing and media. It prides itself on creating graduates who are thinkers as well as doers, and there is a strong focus on entrepreneurship.

Many of IADT’s graduates work in the creative and cultural sectors, and the college has changed its business studies and arts management degree to a cultural enterprise degree to meet demand.

IADT also offers a business studies, entrepreneurship and management degree, with students learning how to identify and take business opportunities by combining knowledge, skills and competencies through setting up a market stall in first year, followed by an online business in second year, as a core part of their assessment.

National College of Art and Design

Open day: Wednesday, November 28th, 2018, 9.30am-3pm

Web: ncad.ie

NCAD can trace its history back 250 years and counts many successful and significant artists and designers among its graduates, including Orla Kiely, Simone Rocha and Philip Treacy, to name a few.

It is ranked in the top 50 European art and design colleges (QS World University Rankings by Subject, 2018) and offers a broad range of studio pathways that reflect the full spectrum of contemporary art and design practice. This spectrum runs from traditional techniques and crafts to digital art and digital design, and everything in between.

One of the highlights of this year’s open day is a taster lecture from the BA Visual Culture course – Thinking with Visual Images. This will be of great interest to anyone with a general interest in art or design and particularly those who want to pursue this interest at third level.

Royal Irish Academy of Music

Open day: Saturday, November 17th, 2018, 3pm-5pm

Web: riam.ie

As well as short music courses, the Royal Irish Academy of Music offers diplomas, bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and doctorates in teaching, performance and composition. The open day will include performances, workshops, tours and information sessions. It aims to give aspiring full-time students of Ireland’s oldest music conservatoire a valuable opportunity to explore the diverse offering of full-time courses and experience what musical life is like at the academy.

Mary Immaculate College

Open days: Thursday, October 18th and Friday, October 19th, 2018, 9am-3pm, Tailteann Sports Complex, MIC Campus, Limerick

Web: mic.ul.ie

Spread over two campuses in Limerick and Tipperary and with a student population of just over 5,000, MIC gives students a home-from-home feel and a close-knit community experience.

Close to Limerick city centre and in the centre of Thurles town, MIC has an array of cultural and social amenities on its doorstep. The college has a long sporting tradition and more than 30 clubs and societies are active on campus.

With rising costs of living in bigger urban areas, Limerick and Thurles offer students a more affordable experience. MIC offers programmes in the liberal arts, theatre studies, primary and post-primary teacher education and early childhood education.

Thurles now offers five post-primary teaching programmes, with unique subject combinations such as the new BA in education, mathematics and Gaeilge.

Marino Institute of Education

Open day: Saturday, November 17th, 2018, 10am-4pm

Web: mie.ie/en

With under 1,000 students, Marino Institute of Education is a something of a boutique college, with all programmes accredited by Trinity College Dublin. Best known for its primary-teaching courses, the north Dublin institution also runs programmes in education studies and further study.

There are 12 clubs and societies on campus – men and women’s GAA, camogie and badminton are popular.

A new degree commencing in September 2019 is a Baitsiléir san Oideachas Trí Mheán na Gaeilge, suitable for students who are interested in teaching through the medium of Irish in all-Irish and Gaeltacht primary schools.

Hibernia College

Open days: Saturday, November 10th, 2018, 11am-2pm; Saturday, January 26th, 2019, 11am-2pm, at the Spencer Hotel, IFSC

Web: hiberniacollege.com

Hibernia College is Ireland’s first online higher-education institution, offering professional masters degrees in both post-primary and primary school teaching. Students study from home through a mix of online learning and traditional in-school practice. It also offers continuing professional development for teachers and an online PhD in education.

National College of Ireland

Open days: Wednesday, November 28th, 2018, 10am-3pm; Saturday, January 19th, 2019, 10am-1pm

Web: ncirl.ie

The National College of Ireland (NCI) delivers courses in business, computing and psychology to more than 5,000 students. This year marks the 20th anniversary of its School of Computing and also sees the launch of a BSc in data science.

NCI’s purpose-built campus is located in the heart of the IFSC and the college’s strong relationship with the businesses surrounding it, both in finance and technology, is reflected in its consistently strong graduate employment rate. On-campus accommodation is guaranteed for first years.

Dublin Business School

Open day: Tuesday, December 4th, 2018, 5pm-7pm, Aungier Street

Web: dbs.ie

Dublin Business School, which says it is Ireland’s largest independent college, offers programmes across a range of disciplines, such as business, arts, law, media and computing. It has four locations in the city centre and an active student services team.

There are social nights and weekend trips and a good range of clubs and societies to choose from.

It offers DBS Advantage – an initiative which gives students the opportunity to engage in a development programme run parallel to their academic studies that prepares them for the workplace.

Like the other fee-paying colleges, it has small classes and offers courses that reflect the needs of students and employers.

Griffith College Dublin

Open day: Friday, December 7th, 2018, 11am-2pm

Web: griffith.ie

With campuses in Dublin, Cork and Limerick, Griffith College is Ireland’s oldest and perhaps best-established private college. It offers programmes in accountancy, business, computing, design, law, media, music and drama, training and education.

It has a good reputation nationally and internationally for the quality of its graduates. Courses are industry-focused, classes are small and teachers have hands-on industry experience.

Students on all three campuses have the city to explore, and there are more than 25 clubs and societies. Griffith College has some strong sports teams – particularly in basketball, table tennis and cricket.

Pulse College

Open day: Thursday, November 29th, 2018, at 6.30pm

Web: pulsecollege.com

Pulse College's music and film campus is housed in the world-famous Windmill Lane recording studios in Ringsend, Dublin. With the significant benefit of hands-on experience in these top-class facilities, students are taught beyond the standard levels required by academic institutions. Practical experience is an essential element of its unique degree programmes and Oscar-winning director Ben Cleary is an alumni of the college.

Its games and animation campus can be found in The Market Studios, close to Capel Street in Dublin 7. These courses are developed and taught by practising industry professionals to ensure students receive the very highest levels of training. A key part of the courses involves producing a portfolio of work that will help students get into these industries.

Nora-Ide McAuliffe

Nora-Ide McAuliffe

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