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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Mobility in Higher Education


13.Mobility and internationalisation

13.2Mobility in Higher Education

Last update: 27 November 2023

13.2 Mobility in Higher Education

This section outlines the position in regard to mobility in higher education. Separate data is not available for students and academics/researchers.

Irish Educated Globally Connected: An International Education Strategy for Ireland 2016-2020 key goals are to:

  • Attract more international students into Ireland;
  • Make it easier for Irish staff and students to study and to engage in research work abroad;
  • Make Ireland an attractive destination for talented overseas faculty;
  • Establish more collaborative institutional and research links;
  • Internationalise curricula;
  • Further developing Irish involvement in trans-national education (delivering Irish academic programmes overseas and establishing Irish-linked institutions outside of Ireland); and
  • Contributing to overseas development and participating in EU programmes and multilateral initiatives such as the Bologna process.

The internationalisation of higher education holds hugely positive potential for the higher education institutions and for Ireland. The quality of the education system is greatly enhanced by the inward and outward movement of students and staff. Internationalisation enhances the quality of learning, teaching and research in campuses and contributes significantly to the student experience. It represents an investment in future global relationships as it helps to build relationships with future trading partners and supports Ireland's national goal to become a global innovation hub. These benefits are in addition to the revenue that is generated for the country from every international student.

The Higher Education Authority is working closely with relevant stakeholders in the implementation of the key recommendations for higher education in the Internationalisation Strategy. This HEA provides the lead in the process of strategic dialogue with institutions which leads to agreement on individual institutional compacts which are the subject of regular review and consideration. Each institution will be required to set targets linked to their individual capabilities. Performance will be incentivised through the funding model.

The HEA manages two prestigious Irish Government funded schemes:-

  1. Government of Ireland International Education Scholarships Programme (GOI-IES)
  2. Government of Ireland International Academic Mobility Programme (GOI-IAMP).


The key priorities in relation to these initiatives are:

  • GOI-IES - support the enrolment of high calibre international students in Irish higher education institutions (HEIs)
  • GOI-IAMP - support Irish HEI endeavours in the area of international collaborations.

The Higher Education Authority (HEA) is the statutory planning and policy development body for higher education and research in Ireland. Through its international section, the HEA administers a wide variety of programmes with a global focus. They include acting as the Irish national agency/national contact point (Higher Education) for the Erasmus+ programme as well as managing the implementation of Government actions is this area and supporting bilateral co-operation wherever needed.  The Erasmus+ National Agency also plays a key information dissemination role in relation to a range of Erasmus+ Centralised Actions like the Jean Monnet Programme; Erasmus Mundus Master Programmes and Capacity Building Measures.

EUR Ireland serves as the website of the international section and aims to provide a first class information service for all interested in these and other European/International education activities.


Erasmus+ in higher education has 4 main targets:

  • Key Action 1 – learning opportunities abroad for individuals, within the EU and beyond, international credit mobility of individuals and Erasmus Mundus Joint Master’s Degrees
  • Key Action 2 – capacity building projects in higher education supporting partnerships which have an impact on the modernisation and internationalisation of the sector
  • Key Action 3 – supporting strategic policy dialogue to support reform
  • Jean Monnet activities with the aim of stimulating teaching, research and reflection in the field of European Union Studies worldwide Erasmus+ for learners

Students who go on Erasmus have the option to study at one of approximately 5,000 eligible higher education institutions in Europe (for a period of 3 to 12 months) or undertake a traineeship at a host enterprise (for a period of 2 to 12 months). While on Erasmus, students are exempt from paying tuition fees at the host institution and receive monthly financial support from the European Commission via their home institution to help cover their expenses. The Commission supports students for a maximum of 12 months in each cycle of study (Bachelor, Master and PhD) and a student can start their mobility anytime from the end of their first year in university to one year after they graduate (post-graduation students are only eligible to take part in traineeships).

Upon completion of their study/traineeship abroad period, students receive recognition of their Erasmus study programme utilising the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS).


Erasmus for Staff

Erasmus+ provides teaching opportunities and training opportunities for the staff of higher education institutions and staff invited from enterprises. An Erasmus period provides staff with a chance to enhance their professional development and build/strengthen relationships with a new/existing partner institution.  Staff who go abroad on an Erasmus+ mobility typically take part in one of two mobility Actions:

  • Teaching periods allow teaching staff or staff from enterprises to teach at a partner institution abroad. This teaching can be in any subject area/academic discipline and can take place at any institution that has an Erasmus charter for higher education (ECHE).
  • Training periods support the professional development of teaching and non-teaching staff in the form of training events abroad (excluding conferences) and job shadowing/observation periods/training at a partner institution, or at another relevant organisation abroad.

Staff mobilities typically last between two days to two months, with those on teaching placements preforming a minimum of eight hours teaching per week. Support is available for staff travel and subsistence while on Erasmus exchange.



The measures which have been taken to promote the learning mobility of academic staff include the following:-

• Information Seminars for students and staff

• brochures to institutions

• attendance at student fairs and career guidance events

• the EUR Ireland website

• Networking: Meetings have been held with a range of bodies

• Valorisation Events: promoting good practice in staff/teaching mobility; placements


The Mobility Scoreboard for Higher Education published by the European Commission in October 2016 indicates that 2002 graduates were inwardly mobile to Ireland, and 6189 were outwardly mobile.

Overall, the figures below show the distribution of higher education students from outside the State, attending college in Ireland


Domiciliary Origin of Full-Time Higher Education Students, 2017-18


Domiciliary Origin Number Percentage
Europe EU - UG 147,232 92%
Europe EU - PG 17,955 76%
Europe - non -EU - UG 207 0%
Europe - non - EU- PG 196 1%
America North - UG 5,483 3%
America North - PG 1,121 5%
Asia - UG 5,790 4%
Asia - PG 3,722 16%
America South - UG 79 0%
America South - PG 198 1%
Africa - UG 436 0%
Africa - PG 351 1%
Oceania - UG 436 0%
Oceania - PG 31


Source: HEA Key Facts and Figures. Higher Education 2017/18)


A further 12,000 international students annually enrol in private higher education colleges. The Department of Education and Skills engages in Ministerial led Trade missions to core markets and supporting inward and outward high level visits to promote the Irish Higher Education and English language sectors.

Enterprise Ireland is the Irish state agency responsible for supporting the development of manufacturing and internationally traded services companies. The agency provides funding and supports for college based researchers to assist in the development, protection and transfer of technologies into industry via licensing or spin-out companies. Enterprise Ireland is responsible for the promotion of Irish Higher Education Institutions overseas, and manages the Enterprise Ireland Education in Ireland website and brand.

A Code of Practice for Provision of Programmes of Education and Training to International Learners was published by Quality and Qualifications Ireland in July 2015. The Code includes a number of requirements such as the protection of enrolled learners, transparency of fees and refunds processes and the provision of pastoral care services to international learners. Protection of Learners refers to arrangements in the event of a course not being provided or a provider ceasing operation. It requires that there is either provision for a refund of fees and charges, or that arrangements are in place to enable the learner to complete the course in another college. Education and training providers are encouraged to give due attention to the Code of Practice when developing their quality assurance procedures and processes for the provision of international education.

A number of reforms to the student immigration system for international education were approved by Government in May 2015. These reforms, which are being implemented by the Department of Justice and Equality in conjunction with the Department of Education and Skills, include the restriction of the list of education programmes considered to justify the granting of permission to students to live and work in Ireland (known as the Interim List of Eligible Programmes – the ILEP).

As part of this new process all providers of English language training wishing to recruit non-EEA students are required to apply to the Department of Justice and Equality for inclusion on the ILEP. All English language providers seeking inclusion on the ILEP have to comply with certain new requirements including declaration of ownership, shadow directors, physical infrastructure and teaching capacity. They also need to have compulsory learner protection arrangements in place and a separate account facility to safeguard student advance payments.

The ILEP process is an interim measure until the introduction of the International Education Mark (IEM) for the provision of education to international learners, which will provide a full quality framework in the future. Legislation is being developed to provide for this.

An estimated 106,000 language students visit Ireland each year to attend English language training institutions.


Recognition of foreign qualifications

Ireland is a signatory to the Lisbon Convention on the recognition of foreign higher education qualifications. This requires that each country should recognise foreign qualifications for purposes of access and further study unless it can prove that there are substantial differences between its own qualification and that presented. Quality and Qualifications Ireland  is the Irish national contact point for NARIC (the EU wide network of National Academic Recognition Information Centres). QQI offers advice on the academic recognition of foreign qualifications in Ireland, by comparing them, where possible, to a major award at a particular level on the Irish National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ). The comparability information provided is advisory in nature based on the understanding that the qualification is awarded by a nationally recognised awarding body in the country of origin. A database offering downloadable comparability statements on international qualifications is provided. If the qualification is not on the database, an applicant can submit it to QQI for advice.