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An Interview with Meenakshi Batra

By Rajdeep Guha

For ages, Ireland has nurtured some of the great litterateurs, scientists and political thinkers of the world. The country has been home to men of letters like John Millington Synge, George Bernard Shaw and Louis Brennan. Needless to say, Ireland has some of the best universities in the world. In an interview with Rajdeep Guha, Minakshi Batra, Director India, University College Cork, Ireland, provides a detailed overview of the Irish higher education system. Here are her contact details. E mail: batra.minakshi@ucc.ie, Mobile no.: +91. 9811068098, 9820160408

Could you give me an overview of the Irish education system such as duration of Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programmes?

Ireland has a strong history where education is concerned. ‘Convent Education’ has been the hallmark for good education for generations in India. Most of the Convents were set up Irish brothers and nuns. Personally, I have been taught by Irish nuns in my school in Delhi.

Today Irish Universities carry on the same emphasis on education in Universities, offering high quality undergrad and postgrad courses in all disciplines. In Ireland we follow the 4 + 1 system:  Four years of undergrad and one year of postgraduate in almost all courses.

Which are the top ranking universities in Ireland?

There are 7 universities in Ireland, all funded to some extent by the government and all almost at par with each other. The leading Irish University, ranked among the top 2% of global universities is University College Cork (UCC). It derives its high global ranking because it is the leading research university in Ireland. The National Tyndall Institute, which is a leading research centre in Europe for Micro-electronics, nanotechnology, photonics, robotics, etc. is part of UCC.

The other universities are Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin.

What about doctoral studies? How long does it take to complete a Ph.D.?

It normally takes 4 to 5 years to complete doctoral studies in Ireland. Almost all professors in Irish Universities are PhDs as that is a mandatory qualification for a college professor in Ireland. This means that most students are encouraged to go in for doctoral studies as all professors are qualified to be supervisors.

Which are the main thrust areas of Ph.D. research in Ireland?

Doctoral research is encouraged in all disciplines. Ireland is very strong however in Bio-technology, medical sciences, related fields like pharmacy and Occupational therapy, Molecular biology, all sciences, computer science, electronics and liberal arts.

UCC is particularly strong in Molecular Biology and Cancer research, Nano-technology and electronics, material research and computer science. Law is another area with human rights and patent related laws having a thrust.

Are Irish degrees internationally recognised?

Yes, Irish degrees are internationally recognised. Out of the top US Fortune 500 companies, 40% are headed by Irish origin CEOs. More than 800 of the top American companies have International headquarters in Ireland. Ireland forms the hunting ground for talent across Europe and US.

Many UCC alumni are professors in Ivy League Institutions in the US. Many are holding top jobs in US firms.

What is the average cost of completing a degree from an Irish university?

An average cost of completing a post-graduate degree in Ireland is €17-18,000 per annum with another €8-10,000 per annum as living expenses.

Undergraduate studies are slightly lower in cost.

Are funding opportunities available?

Scholarships are available from the Universities, the Irish Government and, in some cases, the European Union (EU).

How can a student find accommodation?

There are on-campus accommodation facilities available as well as off-campus options. Usually there are student counsellors who help students to locate the right accommodation.

Can students work after they finish their degree? For how long can they stay back in Ireland?

When any student gets admission in an Irish University then the visa automatically includes a one year stay-back option. This one year is for the student to search for a suitable job.

UCC has, in almost all courses, an internship program which helps students to make contact with the industry and to showcase their talent besides the education they get. Till now UCC has a record for 100% placements. Many companies come to UCC for on-campus placements.

Can students apply for Permanent Residence?

After the student has worked for a couple of years, they are eligible to apply for Permanent Residence.

How safe are Irish cities?

Entire Ireland is very safe. Despite being a tiny country Ireland is home to many nationalities. Racial incidents are extremely uncommon and the Irish people are some of the friendliest and warmest people on the planet.

What about English language requirements?

English is the language of communication in Ireland. It is important to be fluent in English.

Which are the exams (such as IELTS, TOEFL, SAT, GRE, GMAT) that a student must take in order to apply to an Irish University?

IELTS or TOEFL are the only exams that the student needs to take for getting an admission into an Irish University.

Does the Irish Embassy help the student shortlist universities?

There is an Irish Government agency called Education Ireland which guides students about education in Ireland. They have an office in India.

Any particular website that you would recommend for aspiring students?

All Universities have their websites which can be accessed. UCC also has an India Facebook page which gives a lot of extra information on campus activities etc.

How many Indians are presently studying in Ireland?

UCC itself has more than 150 Indian students on campus. There are more than 25,000 Indians in Ireland.

Can a student work in Ireland after completing his/her degree there?

Students are allowed to take temporary jobs while studying and, after the course, they are allowed to stay back for one year in Ireland to get work.

Could you please describe the visa application process? How long does it take?

The visa process is fairly straightforward and it takes two to three weeks for the visa application to be processed.

Lastly, why would you recommend Ireland as a higher education destination to Indian students?

I would highly recommend Ireland for Indian students for undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral studies. The quality of professors is world class and so is the education. Irish and Indians have many things in common and mix well together. There is an Indian society in UCC which is very strong and many Irish participate in all the functions and celebrations. The environment is superb with safety and loads of fun.

Interviewer:

After completing an MA in English from the University of Calcutta, India, Rajdeep Guha went to the University of Otago, New Zealand to pursue an MA (Thesis) in English. He submitted his thesis on his chosen area of specialization and then, returned to India in 2013. Since then, he has been working as IELTS and TOEFL trainer in New Delhi, India. His e-mail id: rajdeepguha@ymail.com.

***

For more stories, read Café Dissensus Everyday, the blog of Café Dissensus Magazine.

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