Britain has traditionally been one of the most-favoured education destinations for Indians. Only aristocrats used to be able to enjoy the privilege to study there. But since the past few years, the country has witnessed a rise in student influx from middle class families in the Indian sub-continent. Moreover, the curiosity among Indians is not limited to the universities in the United Kingdom but has traversed to neighboring France, Netherland and Ireland that are offering scholarships and other facilities to the students.
In 2012, the number of Indian students going to Ireland was 850. In just three to four years, this number has more than doubled. With almost 2,000 students heading to Ireland in the academic year 2015-16 for undergraduate as well as postgraduate programmes, the country is giving a tough competition to other European nations.
H.E. Brian McElduff, Irish Ambassador to India, feels that this success can be attributed to the positive feedback from those who have already completed studies in the country.
“Through word of mouth, students learn that Ireland is a good place to study. Its not only safe but you earn money and is a good spring board for a career,” he says, besides offering avenues for having fun which is an imperative part of one’s learning process.
At present, the top universities in Ireland have about 12-15 per cent international students. “Over the next few years, we could go up to 20 per cent,” says Barry O’Driscoll, senior education adviser, Enterprise Ireland, the brand which manages Irish education abroad and is the umbrella company which takes care of education in the country.
This surge in Indian student population has also been due to Ireland’s industry-oriented academic programmes combined with a safe, warm and welcoming culture Ireland offers, feels Rory Power, senior market adviser, Enterprise Ireland.
“Ireland has one of the fastest growing economy in Europe,” he adds.
“A lot of our universities are in the top one per cent of the world in certain research fields. Also, we have been able to access EU funding for research and innovation that has helped us a lot,” Barry says.
Elaborating on recent trends in higher education in Ireland, Barry says that fields such as data analysis and cloud computing are seeing more takers. “Humanities and Arts courses are gaining precedence with Indian students too, which is a relatively new trend, although MBA and pharmacy continue to be strong. We are witnessing a lot of engineering students opting for MBA too,” he adds.
A key part of the Irish educational strategy is internationalisation. The country has about 35,000 international students in the higher education sector, a key factor being Irish institutions’ close links with the industry that helps train students in becoming industry-ready.
The education system focuses on imparting entrepreneurial skills too.
Enterprise Ireland claims that they invest in startups more than any other firm in Europe.
“We would invest in potential startups — it can even be two guys with a great idea. If they pitch it properly, we will invest in them and help them set up a business,” he says.
Read: MBA India vs MBA abroad
Talking about the Irish stand on Brexit, the Ambassador says that Ireland regrets the outcome (of Brexit) but with due respect, it’s a democratic shift of the British people.
“The British are in a new place and we want to be helpful. We are now the only native English speaking country in the Union. In terms of student influx, I don’t think it (Brexit) has a direct effect. We don’t know the effect on the economy (as yet). It creates uncertainty which is bad,” McElduff said, adding that Ireland’s relationship with either UK or the EU is not going to change.
Talking about scholarships and costs involved in studying in the Ireland, McElduff said, “Ireland can be quite expensive but through word of mouth, parents are convinced that it is a good investment. There are various costs involved which scholarships might not cover. But there is no better investment than education. Like somebody said, if people believe education is expensive, they should consider the cost of ignorance.”
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