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Ireland – retention of non-EEA graduates and the International Education Mark

Ireland’s Department of Education and Skills has announced key changes to the country’s Third level Graduate programme, which aim to provide highly-skilled non-EEA students with better opportunities to remain and work in the country after graduation.

The changes are a follow-up action to commitments made in the 2016 International education strategy for Ireland – Irish Educated Globally Connected – that sets ambitious targets for increasing the international higher education student body by over 37 000, and for raising the value of the sector by EUR 2.1 billion by 2020. 

Key aspects of  the revised Third Level Graduate Programme:

  • Changes apply to any non-EEA student that has attained a qualification at level 8 (Honours Bachelors) or above, according to the National Framework of Qualifications, from a recognised Irish institution.
  • High performing Non-EEA students that graduated at Level 9 (Master’s Level) will be now be allowed residency and the permission to work in the country for a two-year period, post graduation.
  • Those students that graduated at Level 8 (Honours Bachelor) may now take advantage of a one-year period of residence and of the right to work in the country.
  • At the same time, the amendments remove for level 7 (Ordinary Bachelor) graduates the previous permission to reside in the country for six months after graduation. Nevertheless, those students enrolled before 31 May 2017 may avail of a transitionary arrangement that grants them a six month stay-on period. 

Qualified graduates will be initially granted a 12-months residency and work permission, which is subject to renewal, under the condition that the graduates satisfactorily prove efforts to find employment. The enhanced graduate programme is meant to offer highly-performing students from oversees greater opportunities to pursue a career path in Ireland. Irish authorities hope that the measures will further incentivise young talent to choose Ireland as a study destination, while being willing to contribute to filling skills and language gaps in Ireland.

The Minister of Education and Skills has proposed further legislative changes in the form of the Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Amendment) Bill, which, amongst others, seek to give greater powers to the country’s higher and further education regulator – Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) – to enhance quality and monitor standards across the sector. The approved draft outline includes, amongst other measures, the introduction of an International Education Mark (IEM), to be awarded by QQI, which will highlight educational providers delivering high-quality education and services to international learners. The IEM is also meant to provide international students with a benchmark on the reputation of national institutions.

Irish Department of Education and Skills - Revised Third Level Graduate Programme (press release)
Third Level Graduate Programme 2017 revision – full document 

Irish Department of Education and Skills – New Bill to establish International Education Mark (press release)