Higher education in Ireland is provided by universities, technological universities, institutes of technology and colleges of education. In addition, a number of other third level institutions provide specialist education in fields such as art and design, medicine, business studies, rural development, theology, music and law. Click here for a full list of these institutions.
The majority of applications for entry to higher education are processed by the Central Applications Office (CAO). The aim of the system is to process applications centrally and in a fair and efficient manner with participating institutions retaining the function of making decisions on admissions.
The Higher Education Authority (HEA) is the statutory planning and development body for higher education and research in Ireland. The Authority has wide advisory powers across the third-level education sector. In addition, it is the funding authority for the universities, institutes of technology and other designated higher education institutions.
The Universities Act 1997 sets out the objects and functions of a university, the structure and role of governing bodies, staffing arrangements, composition and role of academic councils and sections relating to property, finance and reporting. University governing authorities are required to ensure that strategic development plans and procedures for evaluating teaching and research are in place. The Higher Education Authority has an overseeing role on such plans and procedures. The legislative framework preserves the academic freedom of the universities and respects the diverse traditions and institutional autonomy of each university.
The Technological Universities Act 2018 provides an analogous legislative framework for TUs and the eligibility criteria and processes for the establishment of this new type of Higher Education Institution.
The Institutes of Technology Act 2006 provides for a similar relationship between the Institutes of Technology and the Higher Education Authority as that between the Authority and universities as well as greater institutional autonomy, improved governance and a statutory guarantee of academic freedom for the institutes.