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Brain drain concern as more Irish studying overseas

A new brain drain could be looming after new figures showed a sharp rise in the number of third-level students going to college abroad.

A startling jump in the numbers of Irish undergraduate and post-graduate students at college elsewhere in Europe is revealed in a new EU education report.

The extent of the economic downturn in Ireland makes it difficult for graduates to return to a job at home.

The proportion of Irish students abroad almost doubled to 13.8pc between 2002 and 2006 -- way above the EU average of 2.6pc.

The comparable figure for the UK is 0.7pc, according to the Eurydice Key Education Data report, a snapshot of education trends in 31 European countries in 2006-07.


The reports suggest that almost 18,000 Irish students were studying for primary degrees or post-graduate qualifications elsewhere in Europe in 2006. There are also about 5,000 Irish students in the US.

About 16,000 Irish undergraduate and post-graduate students are in the UK, including about 3,300 in the North, but figures for other European countries are not available.

Much of the increase may be attributed to post-graduate students, the number of whom going abroad to study may rise even further because of the shrinking employment market.

An ongoing increase in funding for research in Ireland will provide some limited scope for post-graduate students to stay at home. And the jobs famine has increased demand for post-graduate study in Ireland this year, but not all applicants will succeed in getting a place.

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Among the other findings of the Eurydice report is that Ireland is above average in the proportion of the population with a third-level qualification.

A Higher Education Authority spokesman said the study showed there remained a huge demand for higher education.

"The fact that a significant number of our students also study abroad further highlights the level of that demand," he said.

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