Blueprint targets €1.2 billion earnings annually from foreign education sector

The Government today launched a major new strategy aimed at increasing international student numbers in higher education by 50% and in English language schools by 25% by 2015.

On the full implementation of the five year blueprint - Investing in Global Relationships - the international education sector will be worth €1.2 billion per year to the Irish economy by 2015. It is currently worth an estimated €900m annually.

The Government also launched a new immigration regime for international students - reforming entry requirements but imposing safeguards to prevent abuse of the system.

The strategy was launched today by the Taoiseach, Mr Brian Cowen, T.D., Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills, Ms Mary Coughlan TD, and Minister for Justice and Law Reform, Mr Dermot Ahern TD.

The Taoiseach said: "Our aim is for Ireland to be regarded as a world-leading provider of international education. This strategy and new student immigration regime sets out a shared vision for how Ireland can compete to the highest international standards and recruit talented students from overseas."

The Tánaiste said: "Ireland has a tremendous opportunity to become a global leader in the provision of high-quality education to the next generation of leaders, entrepreneurs, and decision-makers, who will make a difference in their own countries and who will form vital networks of influence for Ireland.

An education in Ireland should be a transformational experience that adds significant value to the career outcomes and personal development of students. We offer the highest standards of education but we must also offer a unique student experience so that we can compete internationally for the top students."

The Minister for Justice said: "Advanced non-EEA graduates, alongside Irish and EU graduates, have the potential to become entrepreneurs, high skills employees or scientific researchers in key sectors of the economy of the future. It is therefore important that we provide an opportunity for such non-EEA graduates to progress within the immigration system after their graduation and for those students to utilise their skills to the benefit of the Irish economy."

At its heart, the strategy sets out 10 core actions to improve Ireland’s performance, including a partnership-based approach between Government and the education sectors and a rejuvenated national education brand which is being managed by Enterprise Ireland.

The international education strategy and the new student immigration rules were developed in tandem and are mutually complementary.

The High-Level Group which developed the new strategy comprises senior representatives from the universities, institutes of technology, private higher education colleges and English language schools as well as from the relevant Government Departments and State agencies. The Tánaiste thanked the members of the Group for their contribution to the development of this new approach.

The strategy is available on the website of the Department of Education and Skills and on

22 September 2010

 Note for Editors

The EEA countries referred to are the 27 Member States of the EU and Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Liechenstein.

Last year, the Government approved a new framework for the promotion, co-ordination and regulation of international education as an alternative to the establishment of "Education Ireland" as a new statutory agency.

As part of this new framework, the High Level Group (HLG) was established in late 2009 and comprised representatives of the relevant Government Departments and State agencies as well as the university, institute of technology and English language sectors (and also the RCSI).

The Government directed the High Level Group to produce a strategy for Ireland’s enhanced performance in the area of international education.

The strategy was developed in tandem with the review of student immigration, and the two reports are complementary.

The key targets for 2015 are:

· Increase overall international student numbers in higher education institutions by 50% to 38,000.

· Increase the number of English language students by 25% to 120,000.

· Increase the proportion of full-time international students in higher education undertaking research or taught postgraduate programmes to 35%, from 23% currently.

· Enhance the economic impact of international education to over €1.2 billion.

The Group proposes 10 strategic actions to enhance Ireland’s performance in the area of international education.


1. Ireland will enhance its performance through partnership and collaboration. This will involve strengthened co-ordination mechanisms, including the establishment of four thematic working groups, to complement the work of the High Level Group on International Education and the targeting of priority markets where collaborative actions will take place. The High Level Group will work in co-operation with the standing Interdepartmental Committee on Student Immigration, chaired by the Department of Justice and Law Reform, to facilitate a co-ordinated national approach.

2. The "Education Ireland" brand will be redeveloped and national promotion and marketing will be strengthened. Enterprise Ireland will take the lead in redeveloping the national brand, to be supported by financial contributions from the education sector.

3. Quality will be at the heart of Ireland’s offering. A statutory Code of Practice and a Quality Mark, to be awarded to educational institutions that meet certain criteria, will provide the basis for quality assurance of education and related services provided to international students. Institutions will need to put appropriate supports, including in relation to pastoral care, in place for international students.

4. Ireland’s visa, immigration and work policies will be strong and competitive. Implementation of the student immigration reforms and of related proposals by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service of the Department of Justice and Law Reform to enhance Ireland’s student visa system, will enhance Ireland’s general competitiveness in the area of international education.

5. Ireland’s higher education institutions will be globally competitive and internationally-oriented. Institutions will articulate their international vision as part of their wider mission and will put in place the appropriate structures to make it a reality.

6. Ireland will develop targeted and relevant international offerings. Specific categories of international student who are likely to become the next generation of leaders, entrepreneurs and decision makers will be targeted, and educational programme offerings will be tailored to their needs and interests

7. Government policies and actions will be consistent and supportive. The High Level Group and its four working groups will be used to facilitate consistency of policy and approach by Government departments and agencies. New scholarship programmes, which will replace the existing Department of Education and Skills bilateral schemes, will be operated and funded in partnership between the Department and education institutions. The Department will also maintain a small strategic fund to support one-off specific research and other initiatives designed to improve Ireland’s position as a centre for international education.

8. Ireland will strengthen its Networks of Influence. A more strategic approach will be taken to maintaining relationships with the Irish-educated diaspora.

9. Outward Mobility by Irish staff members and students will be encouraged. Balanced internationalisation must include outward mobility, which will enhance the intercultural skills and international expertise of both staff members and students of Irish educational institutions.

10. North-South and EU co-operation will enhance Ireland’s performance. The potential for mutually beneficial North-South collaboration in the area of international education will be explored. Ireland will actively participate in the development of a proposed EU international higher education strategy and in EU mobility programmes.

The High-Level Group will be responsible for overall implementation and progress towards the national objectives and targets will be monitored through publication of an annual report on internationalisation of Irish education. Implementation will be phased over the full course of the five-year strategy.