Today Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Minister for Research and Innovation Simon Harris launched the new Innovate for Ireland public-private partnership, which will offer stipends of €28,000 per year to PhD students from Ireland and abroad. Initially, the initiative will seek to attract up to 400 PhD students to undertake research in Ireland on national and global challenges such as climate change and climate adaptation, global health and pandemics, water poverty, digital society, and cyber-security.
As highlighted by a 2019 EMN Ireland/ESRI study, the number of non-EEA nationals who migrate to Ireland for the purposes of higher education has increased substantially in recent years. (More recent data from Eurostat show that these numbers consistently increased up to 2019, before declining substantially in 2020, presumably affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.) The study calculated that approximately 28% of first residence permits in Ireland in 2017 were issued for purposes of study to non-EEA nationals enrolled in higher education programmes. Of this number, 25% came from the United States, 17% from India, 15% from Brazil, 14% from China, and 5% from Canada, meaning that slightly more than three-quarters of all non-EEA international students in Ireland that year came from one of these five countries.
Since 2012, Ireland has developed a series of policies meant to attract higher numbers of international students, and to retain highly skilled international students after they have completed their studies. These include the Third Level Graduate Programme, which allows non-EEA students to remain in Ireland for a period of time after graduating in order to seek employment – one year for those graduating with a bachelor’s degree, and two years for those with a postgraduate qualification. Graduates can also be granted permission to remain if they secure employment through the employment permit system, a critical skills employment permit, or a research hosting agreement, and they may also apply to set up a business through the Start-up Entrepreneur Programme. In 2013, 48 international graduates secured an employment permit after graduation; about eighteen times as many international graduates (871 total) secured an employment permit in 2017.
The Innovate for Ireland partnership and its attendant PhD funding thus sits within and complements existing State policy aims focused on attracting and retaining international talent and developing that talent through the Irish further and higher education system.
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