Our complete guide on PhD study in Ireland

Ireland has one of the world’s oldest higher education systems and has been a center of learning in Europe since as far as 500 AD. With this many centuries of experience in dispensing education and training, you’ll certainly get access to world-class PhD resources at its universities. Moreover, being part of the European Higher Education Area, Ireland follows the Bologna process, offering PhDs as third-cycle degree-programs. Here’s our overview of how a PhD in Ireland works: structure, requirements, duration, funding and more.

Benefits of doing a PhD in Ireland

The decision to do a PhD stem from considering several factors: your field of study and research, the university you plan to do your research at, and your goals. Ireland has a number of universities with an excellent reputation, nationally and internationally. Here are some of the benefits you’ll gain if you choose to do your PhD in Ireland.

You don’t necessarily need a master to do a PhD in Ireland

Unlike in many countries, where it’s mandatory for a PhD candidate to hold a master’s degree, in Ireland, you may directly jump from a bachelor’s degree to a PhD. The possibility to do your PhD depends on the program the student is applying for and their academic goals. So, make sure to check with your university whether a master is part of the requirements for doctoral studies in your institution. 

You can conduct research in a subject you are passionate about

Because a PhD can be challenging in so many ways, in order to have the required resilience to pursue it, you should make sure to choose the right topic for your research project. Start by choosing a subject you are really enthusiastic about, that you are eager to deepen your knowledge about. The idea is to give yourself this extra motivation to carry on your research and achieve your goals. 

You are allowed to contact a supervisor of interest

This means getting to know beforehand a potential supervisor to find out if they share your interest in your research topic. It is also a great way to find out if you can work well with this person. Since you’ll have to interact a lot with this person for the duration of your PhD, this proactive approach can only be beneficial. 

You have access to several scholarships and funding programs

We will elaborate a bit more on this subject later in this guide. But know just that it is rare to not have any funding option for a PhD research in Ireland. There are programs both for European and non-European students. They are either from the government of Ireland, the Irish Research Council and even the universities themselves. 

You benefit from a 2-year visa extension after you graduate

At the completion of your studies in Ireland, you have a 24-month stay back option you can take advantage of. This is one of the reasons why Ireland is a popular study destination in Europe. Students can apply for an extension of their visa for 2 more years in order to seek employment in Ireland.

How long is a PhD course in Ireland? 

The typical duration of a full-time PhD in Ireland is 3 to 4 years. A part-time PhD, on the other hand, will take 5 to 6 years to complete. The academic year in the country is the same as in the UK, with 2 semesters a year: from September to December, then from January to April. In case the students don’t complete the requirements for their degree within these timelines, they can apply for a permission to continue their research. 

Supervision and support during the PhD

During your PhD, your host university will assign you at least one supervisor. This supervisor is an active academic whose main responsibilities are to manage and oversee your research and studies. In some case, there might be a co-supervisor who supports the primary supervisor. 

There is also a Research Study Panel (RSP) whose role is to monitor your progress, provide advice and support the student-supervisor relationship. You will be assigned a RSP within the first trimester upon your registration. Moreover, you’ll have to meet them at least twice in the first year and once a year the following years. 

Assessment and examination

Upon their registration, full-time PhD students initially enroll into a Masters of Philosophy (MPhil). They must then complete an assessment in their first year to upgrade to a PhD. 

In the following years, students conduct research and produce a written thesis of up to 100,000 words in length. This dissertation must include details such as the context, description, methodology and result of the research, and will be assessed during an oral examination (viva voce). 

Moreover, before they submit their thesis, students need the approval of their primary supervisor. Furthermore, the oral defense of the dissertation is assessed by an examination committee including an internal and an external examiner. 

Applying for a PhD in Ireland

As already mentioned earlier, a master is not mandatory for your admission in a PhD program in Ireland. Also, application for a PhD program in the country is pretty straightforward. You’ll get admission as long as you comply to the requirements set by your university of choice. 

Read our guide on the requirements to study at Irish universities.

A proof of an excellent command of the English language is also mandatory, with a minimum IELTS score of 6.5. Along with this, you have to provide your latest academic transcripts (master or bachelor’s degree), as some programs may be more competitive than others. 

Moreover, as in most PhD application, you need to provide a research proposal. It should include details about the research you wish to conduct, how you will do it and why it should be approved. This research proposal should be approved by a panel of expert before you can start your PhD program. 

Like for the master’s degree in Ireland, it can happen that your university asks you to apply via the Postgraduate Application Centre (PAC). It’s an online registration portal for postgraduate studies for most Irish universities, which guides you throughout all the application process. The advantage of the PAC platform is that you can make multiple application, with a €50 fee. 

PhD fees in Ireland for international students

The cost of a PhD in Ireland starts at €9,000 a year for international students. But some programs may cost as high as €30,000 per year. And business studies and medicine are the most expensive ones. Moreover, it’s quite rare for a PhD to not come with some form of scholarship, grant or bursary. Many universities provide monetary support, that are available for both local and international students.

PhD scholarships in Ireland for international students 

Here are some options of funding for your PhD studies in the Emerald Isle.

Postgraduate scholarship program from the Government of Ireland

The Irish Department of Education and Skills in partnership with the Irish Research Council offers a scholarship to fund a PhD or a master in any discipline at a university in Ireland. This scholarship is open to both local and international students, who are eligible as long as they have a bachelor’s degree (or an international equivalent). 

The scholarship includes: 

  • €18,500 stipend per year
  • A contribution of up to €5,750 per year to the tuition fees
  • An annual contribution of €3,250 to the student’s research expenses.

Learn more on the website of the Irish Research Council.

Enterprise Partnership Program 

It’s a system that joins research students with a partner enterprise for their postgraduate degree. The student’s research topic should then be directly related to the partner organization which can be a company, a governmental body or a charity. And by the end of the degree, students will gain both research and professional skills.

Find out more about this scholarship

To benefit from this scholarship, applicants must have at least a bachelor’s degree. The program is open both to domestic and foreign students, and it includes the same benefits as for the Irish Government postgraduate scholarship. 

Scholarships from Irish universities

The last option of PhD funding is from the university you intend to apply to in Ireland. It’s common for universities to have in-house incentives for researchers, whether it is a tuition fee reduction or a fully funded PhD opportunity. 

Read also our resource on the types of scholarships in Ireland.

Can I work while doing a PhD in Ireland?

The answer is yes! You can definitely get a job to earn an extra-income while doing your PhD, without the need of a work permit. However, if you’re a non-European citizen, you’ll need a valid Irish Resident Permit (IRP) as well as the Stamp 2, which allow you to work a maximum of 20 hours a week during the academic year. And like for any student job in Ireland, you can work up to 40 hours a week during holidays.  

You can check our guide on the subject to find out all the other requirements to work during your studies. Moreover, you can also get an employment contract with your host university. This is the case for students who enroll in a structured PhD with job placement or engagement with a research enterprise partner included. Check with your university to find out more on the subject.

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