What's driving Irish students to get their Master's abroad?
Rent prices in Barcelona may be equal to Dublin's but, King said the location is superior. Source: Shutterstock

High course fees and living costs, as well as a surge of English-language courses available in Europe are driving Irish students to get their Masters abroad.

For Philip King, the decision to pursue his Masters abroad came while he was still in his final undergraduate year. Top items under his consideration then were the reputation of the college and his course.

“I felt the course in Barcelona was superior to anything available in Ireland in my field. The reputation quality and the quality of the researchers (and their name recognition) are higher,” the Masters in Economics and Finance student at the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics student told Irish Times.

It helped that it was in Barcelona, known for its great weather and high livability.

Barcelona also had a reputation as a very nice place to live. And it didn’t hurt that the cost of living would be lower than in Dublin,” King said.

“The weather was the cherry on top.”

Compare that to a postgraduate education in Ireland. The Irish Times notes that masters degrees can cost between EUR4,000 and EUR12,000, depending on the course at Irish universities. Rent in Dublin is expected to hit EUR2,500 a month before tapering off, a new survey show. Tenants currently pay almost EUR400 more a month in rent than they were back in the days of the Celtic Tiger, when the Irish economy was booming.

King now pays just as much for rent as he did in Dublin, but he says it is at a “far better” location.

King. “Though locals complain about the property market in Barcelona, there is a lot of value to be found for Irish students on rent compared to Dublin. I’m paying roughly the same as I did in Dublin.

“I’m essentially living on College Green for Phibsboro prices (where I lived in Dublin). Pretty much everything else is cheaper, I think.”

He also pays higher tuition fees, at about EUR16,000 (a comparable degree back home costs around EUR10,000). But the price tag is justified, thanks to the lower cost of living and the higher standards of the masters degree, he says.

For Alannah McCartney, who is studying an engineering Masters of Science in Sustainable Cities in Denmark, her choice to pursue her Masters at Aalborg University in Copenhagen was due to sustainability being a relatively new field back home.

“As Copenhagen is quite a progressive city when it comes to sustainability, it was the natural choice for me to come here and study.”

EU students in Danish universities can also apply for a government grant if they have a part-time job, in addition to not being charged any other fees for EU students to study in Denmark. Having a job and a grant help cover the cost of rent and parts of living expenses.

“The only challenge is finding a job without speaking Danish. Lucky for the Irish, there are plenty of Irish bars wherever you go!”

Rent in Dublin has now more than doubled the legal limits last year. Source: Shutterstock

Both King and McCartney are confident they made the right choice to study abroad. McCartney cites the uncertain job market which means graduates’ CVs have to stand out more than ever before – and experience and qualifications abroad can help in this.

King would recommend his overall experience abroad to those thinking of getting a foreign degree.

“On a personal level, the experience of different cultures and friendships with a diverse, international group was well worth it.”

“With post-graduate studies, for me anyway, the vast majority of your time is spent in a room in the library. So you could argue that studying abroad or at home makes little difference. For me, it’s the people you study with that really matter. And I think I’ve found a more diverse group in Barcelona than I would have found in Dublin.”

*  EUR1 = US$1.24 at the time of writing.

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