This study examined policy, law and practice relating to international students undertaking a programme of higher education in Ireland. In particular, it looked at measures to attract non-EEA students to Ireland and to retain such students following the completion of their studies. The study focused on recent developments in policy on the internationalisation of higher education and changes to the student immigration framework that took place between 2012 and 2018.
Immigration of non-EEA nationals for the purposes of higher-level study in Ireland grew by 45 per cent between 2013, when 9,325 first residence permits were issued to students, and 2017, when 13,519 such permits were issued. The share of students in full-time higher education programmes who are of non-EEA origin grew from six per cent in 2013 to eight per cent in the 2017–2018 academic year. China is the top country of origin for non-EEA students, while Malaysia, the US, Canada, India and Saudi Arabia have also featured in the top five countries between 2013 and 2016. The most popular field of study among non-EEA students in the 2017–2018 academic year was health and welfare, followed by business, administration and law, and engineering, manufacturing and construction. Non-EEA students were primarily concentrated in honours bachelor’s degree and master’s degree programmes.