Universities of Applied Sciences: a route to employment
Until recently, a lot of the interest in studying in mainland Europe has been directed towards the research universities. Admittedly, these are excellent: all of the Dutch research universities, for example, are higher-ranked than all of the Irish universities. Their approach to teaching, though difficult for Irish students to adjust to in the first few weeks, with its focus on independent learning, has proven very popular with our students.
However, even with their informal style and different approach to teaching, the research universities are proving too academic for some of our students. Increasing numbers of Irish students are finding their way to Universities of Applied Science (UAS), particularly in the Netherlands, Germany, Finland and Denmark (where they are called University Colleges). UAS are equivalent to the Irish Institutes of Technology, except that they are invariably much better-resourced.
Programmes in the UAS are overtly employment-focused with a much more practical, hands-on, project-based style, usually including one or two internships. Irish students are now joining programmes in UAS in areas such as Physiotherapy, Game Design, Business, Art & Design, IT, Hotel Management and Engineering, where they are enjoying an approach to education that, though less academic and more practical, is still very high in quality.
Above: NHTV Breda
Entry requirements are reasonable – 6 passes at Leaving Cert (2 at H4): reflecting students’ right to an education in mainland Europe and sidestepping the need to obsess about Leaving Cert points. Importantly, students with a relevant QQI/FETAC Level 5 qualification qualify for degree programmes at a UAS.
Of course, tuition fees are on a par with the research universities: free in Denmark or Eur 2006 p.a. in the Netherlands (with a 35-year low-interest loan form the Dutch government). There are other loans/grants available for living expenses. Also, if you qualify for a SUSI Maintenance Grant, you can take it with you. This all ensures that it is often less expensive to study in places such as the Netherlands, than in Ireland. Maybe, groups of students who previously felt excluded from higher education, now have a wealth of opportunities opening up to them?
So, if you are interested in a programme that directly prepares you for the employment markets of the 21st century, programmes which you have the right to join and can afford to attend, it is certainly worth considering the Universities of Applied Sciences.
for advice on programme choice, to clarify whether or not you have the entry requirements for these programmes and for support in your application to these programmes.