Best universities in Ireland 2018

Explore the best universities in Ireland based on data collected by Times Higher Education

September 13 2017
National University of Ireland, Galway, Aula Maxima, Quadrangle

Despite a moderate island population of roughly five million, there are a number of excellent higher learning institutions in the Republic of Ireland. These are the best universities in the Republic of Ireland based on the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2018

Three of the country's best universities are based in the greater area of Dublin, Ireland’s capital and largest city. Culturally, Dublin is well-known for being the setting of the novels of James Joyce. Meanwhile, the Guinness brewery at St. James’ gate street was the original location for the brewing of Ireland's best-known stout in 1759, and is now a popular tourist attraction.

The ancient language of Irish Gaelic is still spoken in places on the "Emerald Isle", and continues to be taught in schools. However, English is more commonly used by the majority of Irish residents, and virtually every university course is taught in the language.

Top 5 universities in Ireland

1. Trinity College Dublin 

Established in 1592, Trinity College Dublin is the oldest university in the Republic of Ireland. It was founded as an Irish equivalent to the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge, and retains its reputation as a research centred university.

Trinity College Dublin is located in central Dublin near the River Laffey, and is a mere stone's throw away from the Irish Houses of Parliament, making the university ideal for aspiring political science students. Although Trinity is not structured in a collegiate like Oxbridge, the university offers a huge range of courses from acting to zoology. Trinity also support its students through assigning each student a personal tutor, and providing a campus-based Careers Advisory Service.

Among the university's alumni is mathematician William Rowan Hamilton, who has a research institute at Trinity named in his honour. Author of Dracula, Bram Stoker, and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Mairead Maguire are other well-known graduates.

=2. National University of Ireland, Galway 

Galway is a small city located on the western coast, among the green countryside. But don’t let that fool you into thinking the city is a quiet rural outpost, for lively events such as the annual Pride festival make Galway a social hub ideal for students. It is also a 2020 European Capital of Culture.

The university was recently awarded significant investment and now has a student centre, a building for the study of human biology and a centre for drama, theatre and performance.

Anyone with an interest in linguistics may be well suited to Galway’s School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures which contains disciplines including French, German and Classical. The school is also the location of the UNESCO-recognised archive of historical Irish Gaelic documents, studied under Celtic Civilisation.

The oldest student society at Galway is the literary and debating society, which was founded in 1846, just a year after the university opened.

=2. Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland 

The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) has been a renowned surgical college since it was granted a royal charter in 1784, and now serves as Ireland’s largest medical school. Although a private institution, RCSI offers a number of scholarships for both Irish and international students in PhD and master's programmes. There are multiple EU and Non-EU student admission pathways for undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. 

RCSI has expanded to offer postgraduate courses in bereavement studies and healthcare technologies, as well as offering five-year undergraduate degree courses in pharmacy and four-year courses in physiotherapy. This is among many other science and health care related undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. 

Many renowned figures from the worlds of surgical and medical development have received their degrees at RCSI. One such example is Nada Haffadh, who became Bahrain’s first female minster after being appointed health minister in 2004. Another is Lord Ara Darzi, a pioneer in the fields of surgical robotics and minimally invasive surgery.


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=2. University College Dublin (UCD)

While the university retains the Dublin name from its history of scattered campuses across the city, UCD is now based in Belfield, around four kilometres south of the capital. This consolidation of Ireland’s largest university allows for a genuine campus experience, especially for first-year students who can take advantage of accommodation on site.

UCD has a reputation for excellence in research across the humanities and sciences. In clinical and health fields the university is among the top scoring worldwide.

UCD is also known as "Ireland’s Global University". This is a result of the university hosting thousands of international students, exchange programmes with hundreds of universities worldwide, and the Overseas Chapters programme which hosts events throughout the year.

Notable graduates include author James Joyce, founder of Amnesty International Seán MacBride, and comedian Dara O’Briain.

5. University College Cork

The university was originally named Queen's College, Cork, one of three Queen's Colleges. The others were in Belfast and Galway. 

It became University College Cork under the Irish Universities Act of 1908. 

The university has over 80 active student societies and 50 different sports clubs. These include academic, charitable, political and religious societies and indoor and outdoor sports. 

UCC’s alumni includes the prominent mathematician Professor George Boole, who most famously invented Boolean logic, as well as the feminist and politician, Mary MacSwiney.

Among UCC’s many historical collections and artefacts are the ancient Ogam stones, thought to be the earliest written source of the Irish language.


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Top universities in Ireland 2018

Click each institution to view its full World University Rankings 2018 results

Ireland Rank 2018 World University Rank 2018 University City
1 =117 Trinity College Dublin Dublin
2 201–250 National University of Ireland, Galway Galway
2 201–250 Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Dublin
2 201–250 University College Dublin Dublin
5 351–400 University College Cork Cork
6 401–500 Dublin City University Dublin
6 401–500 Maynooth University Maynooth
8 501–600 University of Limerick Limerick
9 601–800 Dublin Institute of Technology Dublin

Read more: International student table 2017: top 200 universities

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