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When looking to study abroad both England and Ireland may be top of your list. So how do international students choose between England and Ireland? Here we compare some of the main talking points to help you decide.

Qualifications Explained

Qualifications in England and Ireland vary. However, there are common points across the two regions. The two countries have a mutual agreement which aligns qualifications in the UK and Ireland. Qualifications can cross boundaries.


The GCE advanced level exam (A levels) is the main secondary-school leaving qualification in England.


The Leaving Certificate is the main secondary-school leaving qualification in Ireland.

Benchmarking undertaken by UCAS and the Irish authorities, has seen the Irish Higher Leaving Certificate being established as, the equivalent to two-thirds of an A level for the purposes of entry to higher education in the UK.

What is the difference between IFY and A-Levels?

The International Foundation Year is recognised as an equivalent standard to the A– Levels for University admission purposes, however, the programme is delivered just over 7-9 months, rather than 2 years for A-Levels.

Similar to the A-Levels, you will study three academic modules relevant to your study plan, in addition to English for Academic Purposes.

University Qualification Comparison Chart

QualificationIreland (*NFQ level)England (*FHEQ level)*EQF Level
Doctoral degrees1088
Master’s degree
Postgraduate diploma
Postgraduate certificate
Bachelor’s degree with honours866
Bachelor’s degree (ordinary)76
Higher cert/diplomas655


The National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) is a system of ten levels. Each level is based on nationally agreed standards of knowledge, skill and competence. These standards help define what an individual is expected to know, understand and be able to do following successful completion of their study.


The Framework for Higher Education Qualifications is the qualifications framework used across the UK, that defines the levels and values of different qualifications.


The European Qualifications Framework (EQF) is a European-wide qualifications framework which joins the qualifications of different EU members together. In a way, it is a translation of different national qualifications which makes qualifications in different EU countries easier to understand.


England V Ireland: Cities & Universities


London: has more universities than any other European city boasting the likes of St Georges’s University and the University of East London. London is wildly recognised as an international city and as an international student you would fit in perfectly.

Manchester: the capital of the north of England, is home to the well renowned University of Manchester. This vibrant young city is known for its love of sport and music as well as its immersive cultural and historic learnings. Manchester is home to the renowned Manchester United football club.


Dublin: just like London has it all for someone looking for an international experience while studying abroad; lifestyle, diversity and its own unique culture, making it a true learning experience. It is Ireland’s largest city and the most diverse, with a vast number of cafes, restaurants, social clubs, historical sites and museums. You just have to take a walk across the famous Ha’Penny Bridge and wander around Temple Bar!  It is also home of Dublin City University, Dublin Institute of Technology and the Royal College of Surgeons (RSCI).

Cork: sits in the southwest region of Ireland on the banks of the River Lee and just like Dublin and London it is home to numerous international students and University College Cork. Cork will not be found wanting for its international arts, cafes, restaurants, markets and boutiques. A must do is a trip out to kiss the Blarney stone to be forever blessed with the gift of the gab.

Galway: known as the home of the Tribesmen is located on the west coast. Galway hosts numerous cultural events and festivals throughout the year and is the festival capital of Ireland. The National University of Ireland is a popular study abroad destination as it epitomises modern and historic architecture, as is the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology. Galway is one of largest cities in Ireland and International students make up 13% of the population.


England V Ireland: Culture & Daily Life


As well as its sporting powers, England has made significant contributions to literature and cinema, such as Shakespeare and giving the world Harry Potter and James Bond. The Beatles and Rolling Stones also hail from England. Spending time in England is a learning experience.

In daily life, the English are famous for their dry and sarcastic humour and this can take a bit of getting used to, but before you know it you’ll fit right in.


The Emerald Isle of Ireland is like England in many ways but is internationally recognised for having its own distinct culture and history, speaking of which, one memory you will never forget will be experiencing first hand St. Patricks day in Ireland. Ireland is also an explorer’s paradise with its magnificent landscapes and scenery.

England V Ireland: Cost of Living & Scholarships

Fees and living costs in Dublin are around 35-40% less than in London.

An Average Year in Dublin or London

Foundation Course Fees€13,600€18,600
Living Costs (9 months)€9,000€18,500
Total for year€22,600€37,100

It’s no secret Dublin is the more economic option when compared to London. However, if cost is high on your priority list you might want to consider studying in Cork, where you can expect to pay approximately 10-20% less than in Dublin.

You can also save up to €2,500 by choosing your Foundation Year in Cork with DIFC. Click here for more info.

The trick is to be smart and take advantage of discounts and special offers. Always keep an eye out for student discounts, these can be on transport, food, clothes etc, just ask!

Transportation will be key during your time in England or Ireland, as you will need it for getting to/from college, nights out and exploring what the countries have to offer. When you compare the costs, Ireland is the cheaper option for getting around, for example when you compare London to Dublin, a one-way ticket on local transport is 3.84% higher in London, while a monthly pass is 23.37% higher in London. The starting price for at taxi on the normal tariff is 6.55% higher in London.

If you are looking to stay fit and in shape in-between lectures, a month’s gym membership is on average 35.18% higher in London.

Fees for Undergraduate Students in Irish Universities/Colleges

Business Degree (3 years) €10,000-€16,000 p.a

Engineering/Science Degree (4 years including 1-year internship) €10,000-€16,000

Fees for Undergraduate Students in English Universities/Colleges

In England the tuition fees are more expensive than they are in Ireland. Take London for example, full time undergraduate courses start at around £14,000 p.a which is over €15,500.

Engineering/Science degree £23,885 (€26,822) p.a with a college fee to be added to this as well.

(The fees quoted are a guide only. They are subject to change.)

Both England and Ireland have a lot to offer any student wanting to study abroad. Ireland caters for the student who is budget conscious and wants to study in a smaller city where they get to know their way around quickly. Whereas for a student with a larger budget and who wants to have a bigger city to explore England is the perfect option for them. Both with their own unique cultures, no matter where you decide to go students will have to adjust to a new way of living but DIFC will be on hand to give students the support they need as they settle into a new country.

For a full list of DIFC partner universities, click here. With DIFC, each student who successfully passes their International Foundation Year, receives a university place. Contact us today for more information.

To apply for a Foundation or Pre-Masters programme, just click here, complete the application form and we will be in touch shortly.

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