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Ireland: Destination Guides - Must read

The top universities in Ireland

Take a tour of the top universities in Ireland and discover some of the features that make these institutions so unique and perfect for international students.

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Studying abroad in Ireland has much to recommend it. Whether it is the international recognition afforded to degrees obtained from Irish institutions or the enviable student lifestyle, students from around the world often consider the “Emerald Isle” as an option. The tricky part can be deciding exactly which city you’ll study in and knowing which the best universities in Ireland are. We take a look at the top universities in Ireland and some of what makes studying there so unique.


Trinity College Dublin


Kicking off our list is the top-rated university in Ireland, Trinity College Dublin. Based in the capital of the country, Dublin, Trinity College was founded in 1592 and has an impressive list of alumni including Nobel Prize winners. The university was awarded the top rank by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings in 2019 for being Ireland’s most international university.


The university sits atop the list of best institutions in Ireland and is ranked at number 101 in the world by the QS World University Rankings 2021. The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021 underlines the institution’s claim to the top spot in Ireland and places the university in the top 200 globally. The university also has the distinction of being a member of the exclusive League of European Research Universities, which serves as a mark of its research standing.


If you did find yourself living and studying in Dublin you would be in a city that boasts the widest street in Europe. At 49 metres wide, O’Connell Street is a must-see attraction. The city of Dublin is also known for its Viking history, having been founded in 841 AD by a Viking community.


Check out some of the other activities and things you can do in Ireland.


University College Dublin


Another of Dublin’s famous universities and rated as the second-best university in Ireland, University College Dublin (UCD) has a world-renowned reputation. The university is the largest institution in Ireland and is home to over 8,000 international students. The QS World University Rankings 2021 places UCD in the second spot in Ireland and at number 177 in the world.


UCD also enjoys a favourable ranking in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021, being placed 3rd in the country and the top 300 universities globally. One of the major attractions of the UCD campus is the 133-hectare parkland in which it is based. The university is also acknowledged for the social and economic impact that it has made, being placed in the top 100 universities by the Times Higher Education University Impact Rankings.


Studying in Dublin means that you will also be living in the city that has been called “the Silicon Valley of Europe”, for its reputation for innovation and as a technology hub. The European headquarters of Google and Facebook are both based in Dublin. You never know a once in a lifetime internship could be on the cards.


Want to find out what else Ireland has to offer international students?


University of Galway


Based in the city of Galway, in the west of Ireland, the University of Galway has an enviable profile for academic research, this is motivated by the institution’s stated aim of enriching and enhancing society through research. The university is ranked third in Ireland and among the world’s top 250 best universities by the QS World University Rankings 2021.


The university has a vibrant student population of just over 19,000 students, of which 3,900 are international students. The institution boasts links and partnerships with over 3,800 institutions worldwide. If you graduate from the Galway you’ll enjoy the highest employability of any university graduate in Ireland, at 96 per cent.  The university is also rated as the fourth-best institution in Ireland and a top 350 institution by Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021.


The city of Galway is very student-centred, and it is estimated that students make up over 20 per cent of the population. There is also plenty to see and do in the city, including traditional Irish sport, to more well-known disciplines like football and rugby. If you happen to like the outdoors, then Galway could be the ideal city for you as it is located within easy distance of some of Ireland’s most iconic natural sites, including the Burren and Connemara.


Thinking about studying in Ireland, but want more information about accommodation?



University College Cork


Hugging the southern coast of Ireland, you will find the city of Cork and University College Cork (UCC). UCC is one of the top universities in Ireland and sixteen subject areas at the university are featured in the top lists of global rankings. The university also holds the distinction of having been named “Irish University of the Year” five times by the Sunday Times.


UCC sits in the 4th spot in a list of the best universities in Ireland according to the QS World University Rankings 2021. The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021 places UCC at 5th in Ireland and within the top 350 institutions in the world. UCC was the first institution in the world to receive a Green Flag award that acknowledges its commitment to sustainability and the protection of the environment.


Becoming a resident of Cork will see you join a community that makes up the third-largest city in Ireland. The city also lays claim to the largest natural harbour in the world after Sydney in Australia.  Cork is known for its welcoming atmosphere, safety and the plethora of food and entertainment options on offer.


Wondering how to apply to a university in Ireland?


University of Limerick


Located in the southwest of Ireland is the University of Limerick. A winner of the Sunday Times Good University Guide “Irish University of the Year” award in 2019, Limerick ranks fifth in the country as per the QS World University Rankings 2021.  In addition, it sits comfortably within the world’s top 300 institutions.


With an international student cohort of 2,500 students, you would be part of a multicultural and dynamic student community at the university. According to the Times Higher Education Young Universities Rankings, you’ll also join one of the top-rated young universities in the world.  Some of the major benefits of studying at Limerick include the high quality of teaching, student satisfaction levels and the low cost of living.


The University of Limerick boasts a unique feature on campus, namely the longest footbridge in Ireland and one of the longest in Europe. It is built over the River Shannon and runs for over 350 metres. The picturesque campus is not the only attraction in Limerick, with one of the best Norman castles in Europe located in the city, having been built in the 13th century.  If you’re an architecture fan, you’ll also probably want to check out one of the best examples of Georgian architecture in Ireland, in what is known as the “Georgian Quarter”.



Having reviewed and interrogated the top universities in Ireland you should be well placed to answer the question “Why study in Ireland?” and well on your way to deciding if it is the study abroad destination for you. Remember to also check out our guide on how to prepare to study abroad and your crucial university application checklist.   


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