Should you do your postgraduate course abroad?

Doing a postgrad degree abroad can be cheaper while also offering valuable international experience

Irish students have always gone abroad for college, lured by cheaper fees and a lower cost of living.

As well as it being a potentially cheaper option, looking beyond the courses on offer in Ireland opens up a wider range of options for learners, and the move toward more blended and online options means that much of the work could be done without leaving Ireland.

As the cost of living soars and even those who can afford the high rents in and around Irish college towns and cities despair of finding a place to live, should postgraduates consider study abroad as well?

New research by Credit Summit into the relative cost of college in Europe and beyond, which looked at accommodation costs, college fees, loan availability, average rent and food costs, suggests that Dublin is the most expensive place in the EU to attend college, with London second and Munich and Berlin, respectively, the third and fourth most expensive places to attend college. Galway, meanwhile, was ranked by Credit Summit’s debt experts as the sixth most expensive spot.


“There hasn’t traditionally been large numbers going overseas for a postgraduate,” says Sinéad Brady, a career and coaching psychologist. “Where people have, it is often for a professional qualification: for instance, many have gone to the UK to convert their undergraduate to a professional title in speech and language therapy, as they get work experience and early career development built in. There’s also certain courses that aren’t [widely] available, such as luxury fashion and its supply chain, or courses in sustainability, where people may go abroad.”

Brady warns, however, that anyone going abroad to study for a professional qualification should first ensure that their qualification will be accepted here; if it is not, they may not be able to get work in their chosen area without further study in Ireland.

Brady says that, beyond these courses, there are good reasons to head overseas.

“Somebody may want to develop their language skills and be culturally embedded in a different country, or those who did their undergraduate while still living at home may enjoy the experience of going away for college.”

Others may look beyond Irish shores to build out their international experience.

“If, for instance, they’re interested in a particular subject matter, such as renewable and sustainable energy, it can be helpful to go to a country with a [well-developed] network, such as Norway. Or, if they’re interested in advances in artificial intelligence, they may look to MIT, Harvard or the University of Texas in Austin.”

Donjeta Pllana works with, an AI-driven platform that helps match students with the right postgraduate course, and their database contains 65,981 postgraduate courses that people can browse for free when they register on the platform.

Erudera also contains overview information and facts on different national education systems, including fees and costs, work opportunities, accommodation information and the application process.

Pllana says that the UK is the preferred study destination for Irish students, followed by the US, and their data suggests that, while the numbers leaving Ireland for a postgrad remain relatively low compared to undergraduate courses overseas, they are growing.

Pllana says that, as well as broadening horizons in a new culture, a study programme in a non-Irish institution can sometimes be a better fit for your career goals.

“The only thing that holds students back from studying abroad is not having enough funds to cover tuition fees and living expenses, but there are many scholarship programmes available and most public universities in Europe are either free or very affordable.”

While the cost of living in Ireland is relatively high, anyone looking at an overseas postgraduate is well-advised to research whether countries of interest are really going to be all that much cheaper.

Before 2020, online learning was in its infancy but, as the pandemic hit and courses became virtual, university departments switched rapidly.

“Many top-ranked universities offer online master’s degrees, especially after the pandemic that pushed universities online,” says Pllana.

“Some universities and institutions offer both online and on-campus. The pros are that online courses are very flexible, usually less expensive and, often, more up-to-date.”

On the downside, says Pllana, some postgraduates miss the lack of in-person interaction and there’s less access to resources and student supports.

Students who choose an online or mostly online postgraduate option also miss out on the experience of campus life. Normally, this is not a consideration because they will have had their college experience during their undergraduate, but for anyone who attended college between 2020 and 2022 and may feel robbed of their best college years due to lockdowns, a postgraduate experience might be their chance to recapture that time – particularly by attending an overseas third-level that allows them to experience life in a different country.

“Studying for a postgraduate degree overseas can be a big change and a lifetime experience,” says Pllana.

“In today’s world, getting a degree from another country is important for doing well in many jobs. Although you may get homesick and have to adapt to language and cultural differences, as well as adapt to a new education system, you will enhance your academic development, learn more about other cultures, see the world, become more attractive to employers, enhance your network, discover career opportunities abroad and, in general, shape into a [more] well-rounded individual.”