Education for Refugee, Humanitarian Leave To Remain, & Subsidiary Protection

Primary and secondary school education

It is the law in Ireland that all children and young people are entitled to free primary and post primary education. Children can receive free primary school education at one of the many state aided national schools which do not charge fees. There are a small number of private national schools which do not receive state aid, therefore fees are charged. The vast majority of children in Ireland attend the state-aided national schools. You can find details on choosing a school and the schools in your area on the Citizen's Information website.

On completing primary education students move on to post primary or second level education. The Junior Cycle lasts three years ending with the Junior Certificate. The Senior cycle lasts between 2-3 years and ends with the Leaving Certificate.

For further details on the education system in Ireland and your education entitlements, please visit the Citizen's Information website.

All children are required to be educated from the age of 6 to 16 (or until they have completed 3 years of second level education). Find a school.

Third Level Education

If you are a refugee, have humanitarian leave to remain or have subsidiary protection, you have the same right to education and training as an Irish citizen, under the International Protection Act 2015.

The Higher Education Authority (HEA) provides the Free Fees Initiative, which provides eligible refugees free third-level education*, once living in Ireland (or within the EU/EEA/Swiss State/United Kingdom) for 3 or more years in the preceding 5 years. Please note that if you have leave to remain as parents of an Irish-born child, you do not have entitlement.

*According to the HEA website, eligible students are required to pay a contribution charge of €3,000 per academic year. Students may apply to SUSI for a grant towards their contribution.

There are six types of major award available in Ireland’s third level education system, full details of which can be found here.

  • NFQ Level 7 = Ordinary Bachelor Degree (3 years duration)
  • NFQ Level 8 = Honours Bachelor Degree (3-4 years duration)
  • NFQ Level 8 = Higher Diploma (1 year duration)
  • NFQ Level 9 = Postgraduate Diploma (1 year duration)
  • NFQ Level 9 = Masters Degree (1-2 years duration)
  • NFQ Level 10 = Doctoral Degree (approximately 4 years duration)

If you currently hold a professional qualification and require information on recognition of your qualification in Ireland, Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) has an International Qualifications Database.  This database allows you to access information about how your qualification may be recognised in Ireland as well as the mutual recognition of professional qualifications. You can also find information on the Citizens information website Recognition of professional qualifications in Ireland.

Further education

  • Springboard is a government and EU funded initiative which offers free education opportunities in certain identified sectors where upskilling is required. The education levels offered are from Level 6 (Leaving Certificate level) to Level 9 of the national education framework. The courses are offered in private institutions. Full details of eligibility and availability can be found on the link above.
  • Approved ‘Post-Leaving Certificate’ (PLC) courses - accessible to those with refugee status, subsidiary protection, humanitarian leave to remain or leave to remain as parents of an Irish-born child. Further information can be found on the Citizen’s Information website.
  • Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS) - accessible to those with refugee status, subsidiary protection, humanitarian leave to remain or leave to remain as parents of an Irish-born child, once normal VTOS requirements are met (mainly that you are: over the age of 21, unemployed and in receipt of certain welfare payments for 6 months). For further information and to apply, click on the link above.

English Language Courses

There are many English language classes for adults provided in Ireland.  Some are provided by Government agencies, some by Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) and there are a large number available through private language schools.

  • Government agencies: Adults may have access to free English language classes and to adult literacy which are provided by the local Education and Training Board (ETB). The availability and duration of these classes is decided by the local ETB. Visit to find the relevant ETB in your area.
  • NGOs: Some Non-Government organisations offer free English language training. For example, Doras has been providing free English classes to people from a migrant background in Limerick city since the year 2000. Please note that these classes are limited in numbers to 35 so early enrolment is advised.
  • Third Age Ireland provides free English classes in several locations around Ireland. Visit for full details of classes in your area.
  • Private English language schools are widely available in Ireland, however the costs of these can vary. Follow the link for a full list of recognised language schools.

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