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Number of non-EEA students in Ireland reaches record level: here's where they're coming from

There has been a 45% increase in students from non-EEA countries since 2013.

Image: Shutterstock/GaudiLab

THE NUMBER OF students entering the Irish education system from abroad has reached record levels, according to new research by the European Migration Network.

Figures show that around 13,500 first residence permits were issued to students entering higher education in Ireland from non-European Economic Area (EEA) countries in 2017 – a 45% increase on the same figure from 2013.

However, the latest research – which did not include a study of foreign language students – also showed that students from non-EEA countries are facing increasing difficulties in Ireland, something which could affect Ireland’s attractiveness as a place to study.

Lead author Sarah Groarke pointed to issues such as a lack of affordable accommodation and difficulties among students finding employment after they finished their studies.

She also told TheJournal.ie that the main problem faced by students was the registration of their immigration with the Irish Nationalisation and Immigration Service (INIS).

According to Groarke, students have experienced problems with the appointment system on the INIS online booking system, particularly a lack of available opportunities to renew their permit.

She claimed this is causing stress and anxiety among students and is negatively impacting upon their academic experience in Ireland.

“It’s something that’s being addressed, and the INIS says it is looking at ways to address delays in the system,” Groarke said.

“Last year, Dublin-based students having these problems had separate registration sessions co-ordinated by the INIS and universities themselves to help avoid these delays.”

Groarke also pointed to a lack of awareness among employers that non-EEA students are eligible for the Third Level Graduate Programme, which was recently reformed to expand time that they can say from 12 months to 24 months.

Last year, the government approved a new scheme which could allow up to 5,000 people from non-EEA countries who came to Ireland to study to remain here to work.

The research showed that the number of non-EEA graduates who obtained an employment permit following their studies has increased from 48 in 2013 to 871 in 2017.

Meanwhile, the data showed that China is the top country of origin for full-time students from non-EEA areas who entered higher education in Ireland between 2013 and 2016.

Malaysia, the USA, Canada, India and Saudi Arabia also featured among the top countries of origin, while the research showed that the majority of non-EEA students are enrolled in health and welfare courses.

A report carried out on behalf of the Irish Universities Association published last month showed that were 16,701 full-time international students living in Ireland during the 2017-18 academic year.

The report also estimated that these students were worth around €386 million for the Irish economy.

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