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EW Interview: Brendan Ward, ambassador of Ireland in India

May 23, 2022
Reshma Ravishanker

Brendan Ward, the ambassador of Ireland in India, in an interview with EducationWorld, gave insights into the Indo-Ireland collaborations in the sector of higher education, students’ preferences, trends and more. Brendan Ward was appointed as Ambassador of Ireland to India in August 2019. He concurrently is also the Ambassador to Nepal, Maldives, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh.

About 5,000 Indian students visit Ireland to pursue undergraduate and postgraduate degrees each year. With a high application acceptability rate for Indians at 85%, the Ireland government anticipates a steady inflow of Indian students to their higher educational institutions.

Excerpts of the interview are below:

Which is the most sought-after course by Indian students in Ireland?

There is a steady demand for graduates of specialized disciplines in Ireland, particularly those pursuing STEM subjects such as science, ICT, technology, finance and mechanical, software and electric engineering. Job prospects are especially promising for those looking to grow in the IT sector which is the backbone of Ireland. Indian students usually gravitate towards popular courses like Engineering, Biotechnology, Computers, Marketing, Business, Pharmacy, Nursing, Law, and Communications. More recently, there has been an increased interest in courses that focus on emerging technologies such as AI, AgTech, Data Analytics and Science, and Cyber Security.  It is anticipated that applications for Design, Digital media, Hospitality, Animation, Cloud computing, and Aeronautics will see a surge in the coming years.

What was the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the number of Indian applicants?

Starting from 100 students over a decade ago, by 2019 this number had shot up to 5000 students. While the pandemic brought this number down marginally in 2020, there is definitely a recovery with numbers touching 5000 again for the 2021 academic year. We expect the number of students traveling to Ireland will rise steadily by 10% a year.

During the pandemic what support did Ireland offer to Indian students? Have they all returned to on-campus learning post-pandemic?

A weekly compensation was assured for students who lost their part-time jobs due to the pandemic. A key element of the government’s reopening plan last year was welcoming students, Irish and international, back to campus. In 2021, the country removed India from its list of ‘designated states’ lifting all quarantine requirements for arriving students. Following that, even short-stay visa processing re-opened for India which allowed family members to visit students in Ireland.  Once students arrived in Ireland, they were welcomed with a ‘greet and transfer service’ at the airport. Since September 2021 we returned to offline teaching.

What drives Indian students to apply for universities in Ireland?

Students have the option of choosing from among 5000 diverse courses in Data Science, Big Data, Humanities, Computer Science, Cyber Security, Cloud Computing, Digital Marketing, Software Engineering, and Artificial Intelligence that are globally recognized. Return on Investment it offers is a primary driving factor. The chances of a career boost following their graduation is great. Ireland believes in providing a comprehensive education with theoretical learning and an emphasis on practical aspects, which greatly add to one’s employability factor. All the top 10 Global IT Companies have their presence in Ireland. Also, 9 of the Top 10 Global software companies have a strong foothold in Ireland

India is implementing NEP 2020 from this year in a phased manner. What does this mean to you?

The implementation of the NEP is a welcome move. This should involve the introduction of new, innovative modules and courses. Programmes will also be more practical, which means that overall, the curriculum, will be more closely aligned with Ireland’s high education institutions.

Tell us about the applications received for the current year? Which streams/ courses are most sought after this year? Do you notice any emerging trends?

Ireland has seen a continuing rise in the number of Indian students in the past few years, which has contributed to the student export increase by 86%. Students show interest across diverse fields of study and for both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. Traditionally popular courses like Business, Medicine, Science, and Engineering witnessed a high demand, but over a period, new-age courses like biomedicine, veterinary sciences, pharmaceuticals, sustainable engineering, car designing, animation and gaming have emerged as preferred options amongst Indian students.

Also read: Interview: Giles O’Neill, Head, Education in Ireland

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