Substantial data is released on an annual basis by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) and, normally, by the Department of Education and Skills (DES). Summary visa data is published by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS). What were previously annual reports from Education in Ireland and UNESCO were both last published in 2012.
Sadly, there is no single, comprehensive dataset covering all international students in Ireland. Details of the main datasets - and some of their strengths and weaknesses - are given below.
Language school enrolments, which are often short-term, are the most limited area for statistics. Some data was historically collated by Fáilte Ireland, although no data release has been identified by ICOS since 2011. In early 2016, Marketing English in Ireland announced an increase in English language student numbers at their member schools, including some outline data. It should be noted that figures for adults may not be disaggregated from those for school pupils in any release of English language statistics.
Outline of Main Datasets
The HEA is the funding authority for the universities, institutes of technology and a number of designated higher education institutions in Ireland and provides student statistics for these institutions. The latest data, covering the 2016-2017 academic year, is available for download here. Data from preceding years is also available here. It is important to note that this data provides only a partial picture of Irish higher education, as there are several significant providers outside the state sector that do not figure in the data. It should also be remembered that this is 'snapshot' data from the spring of the academic year and will therefore not fully capture part-year students (e.g. semester 1 study abroad students).
The richest data-source specific to Ireland can be accessed through the Central Statistics Office's website, which provides individual-level data on the " Domiciliary Origin of Students Enrolled in Full-time Third Level Institutions by Domiciliary Origin, Type of Institution and Year". This data does not take in international students enrolled in the further education and language sectors.
The Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) maintain statistics on the issue of visas and residence permissions to non-EEA students and release limited data in the form of an annual Immigration in Ireland Review.
Other immigration data releases tend to be made in response to questions in the Irish parliament. These tend to provide general snapshots, lacking in significant detail (e.g. countries/regions) and potentially with comparability issues between different datasets. It is important to understand that what is being measured by immigration service data is only non-EEA students registered with Irish immigration authorities. The figures exclude international students who are EU nationals and others not required to register because of their short-length of studies. However, INIS data can provide a useful guide to the number of long term English language and Further Education students in Ireland who are non-EEA nationals. Planned releases are often supplemented by useful data in response to parliamentary questions (see links above).
Historically, Education in Ireland produced a report entitled 'International Students in Irish Higher Education', with the most recent being the 2012 release. Those for previous years can be accessed under the Education in Ireland publications tab. Unlike the HEA data, this report includes data from independent/private colleges and seeks to capture the entire number of students at an institution during the academic year, rather than a census style snapshot. These figures include students registered in Irish HEIs but studying overseas e.g. on branch campuses or on joint degree programmes.
In 2012, Education in Ireland noted that some confusion remained in recording between domicile (country of residence) and nationality such that the available figures from institutions might not hone in with complete accuracy on those students who have crossed a national border to study. Efforts were ongoing to improve data quality in this regard.
As international branch campuses become more common for Irish higher education institutions, it will be increasingly important that users of data are clear whether or not this cohort is included in a particular dataset.
Occasionally, statistical information accompanies a particular government report, proposal or answer to a parliamentary question and these may provide more up-to-date student figures than the above sources.
Key Datasets and Data Releases
HEA Higher Education 2016/17 - Key Facts and Figures (January 2018) View PDF
HEA Higher Education Factsheet: Internationalisation - Irish Educated, Globally Connected (December 2017) View PDF
HEA Higher Education 2015/16 - Key Facts and Figures (November 2016) View PDF
DES data on domiciliary of full time students 2014/15 (see Table 6.2) Download spreadsheet
Non-EEA student registrations and country of origin at February 2015 (released April 2015*) Visit page
Non-EEA student registrations and renewals - March data for 2009-2014 (July 2014*) Visit page
Education in Ireland: International Students in Irish Higher Education 2012 (December 2012) View PDF
* Data released in response to a written question in the Irish parliament.