When considering studying for an undergraduate degree in another country, it is important to understand how degree programmes are structured in different countries and how they may differ from your home country.
1. How long does a Bachelor degree take to complete at NUI Galway?
The duration of Bachelor degree programmes vary by discipline. Some Honours degree programmes in disciplines such as Arts/Humanities, Business and Law[i] for example be completed in three years of full time study however, students who either opt to, or who are required to, undertake a period studying abroad or a placement off campus as part of their degree, will normally require to study for four years before graduating.
Honours degree programmes in Science and Engineering are all four years in length while professional degree programmes such as Medicine are a minimum of 5 years.
2. How are Bachelor degree programmes structured in Ireland?
The structure of Bachelor degree programmes can also vary by discipline. Bachelor degree programmes are based on a credit system known as the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS). A typical degree programme consists of 60 ECTS credits per year, or 30 ECTS credits per semester. Each degree programme in turn consists of a number of modules (classes). A typical class consists of between 5 and 10 ECTS credits.
For example, a student undertaking a Bachelor degree can expect to take between 6-8 classes (modules) per semester which would work out to about 15 – 20 teaching hours per week plus your additional independent study and coursework.
The terms ‘major’ and ‘minor’ are not generally used in Irish higher education. In Ireland, students generally decide their preferred area of study (e.g. Arts, Science, Engineering, Business etc.) when first applying to university before deciding to specialise in one or two subjects by their final year.
3. Do I need to know what I want to major in when I start university in Ireland?
At NUI Galway and other Irish universities, undergraduate degrees are generally more specialised than for example countries such as the United States.
Whereas in the United States and other countries that follow the US model, students can enter university ‘undecided’ and not pick a major until their junior year, undergraduate students in Ireland focus on a general area of study from their very first year e.g. Arts/Humanities, Business, Engineering or Science, etc.,
In the US system, students choose classes from across a wide variety of subjects including general required classes, required (major) courses and electives wihin their major. In Ireland however, students generally only take classes from their general area of study e.g. Arts/Humanities, Business, Engineering or Science, etc.,
Therefore, while you don’t need to know what particular subject you wish to study, (e.g. History or Chemistry) you do need to know what are of study you wish to focus on when applying as the programme you are admitted to will determine the classes (subjects) you will study at university.
For example, students enrolled on a Bachelor of Arts degree typically choose subjects from within the Arts, Humanities, Languages and Social Sciences, whereas students taking a Bachelor of Science degree focus purely on the physical and life sciences.
Applicants must therefore put a good deal of thought into the specific programme they wish to apply to when applying to NUI Galway, as the programme you are enrolled on will determine the choice the type of subjects you will study as part of your degree.
4. Can I switch degree programmes during my studies?
It is not usually possible to switch degree programmes during the course of your studies without having to start over from the beginning. This is because, as outlined above, the classes students take in their first year of study vary considerably by programme.
While switching between degree programmes is not usually possible without starting over, students do have more flexibility choosing classes within their area of study.
The Bachelor of Arts (Omnibus) for example is an interdisciplinary degree programme that allows students to students to explore interests across a broad range of subjects within the Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences and Modern Languages in their first year, before choosing two subjects to specialize in to degree level.
Other programmes such as the Bachelor of Science (Undenominated) and Bachelor of Commerce, similarly enable students to study a broad range of subjects in first year within these respective areas of study, before specialising by their final year.
These types of ‘open’ degree programmes are particularly suitable for students who know generally what area of study they wish study at university, be it Arts/Humanities, Business, Science or Engineering, but who may not as yet know which particular subject(s) within that particular are of study they wish to focus on.
5. How are programmes delivered?
Undergraduate degree programmes are delivered through a combination of lectures, tutorials and laboratory classes (where relevant).
Lectures are normally held in large auditoriums or lecture halls and consist mainly of a one-way presentation by a Professor or Lecturer. Lectures outline the subject matter and lay the foundations on which you are expected to explore further through your independent reading and study.
Lectures are usually supplemented by tutorials or seminar classes, which provide an opportunity for discussion in a smaller group setting. Unlike large lectures, tutorials and seminars provide more opportunities for discussion and interaction amongst students.
In addition, students in disciplines such as Science, Technology and Engineering are required to attend laboratory classes include practical demonstrations.
The academic culture at NUI Galway involves a good deal of independent learning and students are required to undertake self-directed study outside of regular teaching hours. Attendance at lectures is not usually monitored so students are required to take responsibility for their attendance at lectures and for handing in assessments etc.
6. How will I be assessed?
While Continuous Assessment is increasingly used, you may find that the academic culture at NUI Galway is more heavily geared towards formal end of term examinations compared to your home country.
Depending on the discipline, you can expect that most modules (classes) require an end of semester exam (usually 2 hours) which may count for approximately 70-80% of your grade for that particular class. Some classes are assessed entirely by the end of term exam. Attendance at lectures or class participation do not usually form part of your grade.
In the absence of regular testing, students are required to undertake a good deal of self directed study throughout the semester in order keep up with their study or assessments.
The grading system at Irish universities may also vary to your home country. Rather than a GPA or letter grade system used commonly in the US and other countries that follow the US model, official exam results are normally presented using a numerical scale from 100-0.
The pass mark for most classes at NUI Galway is usually 40. This again is different to countries such as the United States and China, where for example students are usually scored between 100 and 60. As NUI Galway uses a wider scale, top performing students usually range between 70 and 100. In the United States however, the equivalent score would typically range between 94 and 100.
Overall degree results are expressed using the Honours system, which is determined by a student’s average marks for individual modules (or subjects). For more information about the NUI Galway assessments and the grading system, please refer to our previous blogs, Teaching, Learning and Assessment at NUI Galway and Making the Grade.
7. What is the cost of tuition and the full cost of attendance?
Non-EU Undergraduate Tuition fees 2012-13
|Arts/Business/Law (per year)||€12,750|
|Science/Engineering (per year)||€13,750|
The following table gives an indication of the monthly cost of living in Galway as a student. These costs are an approximation only as monthly costs will depend on each person’s individual needs.
|Books and Study Materials||60|
|Total per month||1,000|
International students are not eligible for financial aid in the form of grants from NUI Galway or the Irish government however, the University may offer part scholarships each year to high caliber applicants by way of a tuition reduction. Please contact the International Affairs Office at NUI Galway for more information. International students should also explore scholarship opportunities from private sources in their home country.
Note – Federal Aid (US Students): NUI Galway is approved by the US government to certify financial aid under the William D. Ford Direct Loan Program. US citizens attending NUI Galway as full time degree seeking students can arrange private or Federal Direct Loans to finance their education. The NUI Galway School Code for Federal Aid is G12766.
8. What are the entry requirements?
The entry requirements for undergraduate degree programmes vary by country. Please refer to the Your Country section of our website or contact the International Affairs Office at NUI Galway for more information.
Entry requirements also vary by degree programme. Students who do not meet the requirements for one particular programme may therefore be considered for other degree programmes.
9. Can I transfer from a different country?
While we very much welcome applications from international students, transferring credits from an overseas college is extremely difficult. This is mainly because of the different way degree programmes are structured in different countries around the world.
In particular, degree programmes in Ireland other European countries generally focus on a narrow area of study from the first year. Also, students here apply to specific degree programmes when applying to university. Each programme is structured firmly around a series of distinct and sequential modules (courses), which is set out by the University.
This is quite different to the more flexible system in the USA, and other countries that follow the US system of higher education, where students earn their degree by accumulating credits in both their ‘major’ subject but also in their general education classes and other electives and where students can switch from one major to another.
The earlier specialisation and more structured curriculum here means that a student who has completed a year or two at a US college will rarely (if ever) have sufficient credits to match the curriculum of the first or second year of a degree programme at NUI Galway.
10. How do I apply?
Students applying from outside the European Union (EU) for full undergraduate degree programmes (other than Medicine) should apply directly to the International Affairs Office, NUI Galway.
Non EU applicants can expect a decision usually within 4-6 weeks of submitting a complete application.
Students applying from other European Union (EU/EEA) countries should apply via the Central Applications Office (CAO). Please refer to www.cao.ie for details.
[i] Bachelor degrees in Law are offered at undergraduate degree programmes in Law schools in Ireland and the United Kingdom. Admission is highly competitive. Students who intend to practice Law are also required to complete additional qualifications and undergo formal legal training upon completion of their initial Law degree.