Visa conditions can constrain international student numbers

Leonie Machbert looks at how visa conditions can affect non-EU student numbers in Ireland.

Ireland aims to increase the number of international students studying at Irish universities and colleges by 6 per cent in the coming three years. However, the visa conditions could prevent non-European students from studying in Ireland.

“Irish universities have a good reputation. Students come here for reasons like safety, the English language and the low fees compared to other English-speaking countries”, Susan O’Connor from the International Office of Griffith College Dublin said. International students account for 8 per cent of the students in Ireland. They have become more and more important for the Irish economy.

Students from European Union (EU) countries do not need a visa to study and to work in Ireland but non-EU students do. With that visa, they can stay up to seven years and work until one year after their graduation.

Like with every visa, there are conditions students have to fulfil. Obvious conditions are proof of payment for courses and having medical insurance. At least as important is the proof of progress and attendance at university. Students have to exhibit academic success.

This is a controversial condition international offices of universities are confronted with. “Even if students have good reasons like sickness of a family member, they risk losing their visa if they don’t attend frequently. Without a visa, the course can’t be finished and all the money spent on the semester abroad is gone”, Ms O’Connor said.

“As they already have to cope with a different language and culture, problems with the visa might complicate settling in even more”

In her experience, students from non-European countries struggle more with their student life in Ireland because of educational but also cultural differences. “As they already have to cope with a different language and culture, problems with the visa might complicate settling in even more.”

The visa conditions for international students are strict. The international offices of the Irish universities have to deal with them every day and find solutions for students. Although the number of international students continues to rise, the authorities here in Ireland need to constantly monitor the conditions to facilitate that increase.

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