Brave new world: the graduate’s guide to scholarships abroad

Graduates are leaving Ireland in their droves, some to find work but others are exploring the huge range of scholarship options open to them, writes PETER McGUIRE 

ONCE AGAIN, DISTANT shores are luring Irish graduates. The push factors are wearily obvious: lack of employment opportunities at home and the increased competition for dwindling postgraduate scholarship funds. The pull factors, however, are perhaps even stronger: opportunities to explore another country, meet international researchers, secure a prestigious scholarship award, and gain experience and employment opportunities abroad.

Graduates considering a move will be faced with a rather surprising problem: finding the right scholarship, fellowship, or internship among the thousands on offer.

There’s an almost limitless range, covering every possible subject area, including science, humanities, law, art, drama, sport, and medicine plus students can tackle them in English-speaking countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, or opt to learn a new language in far-flung destinations such as Argentina or Japan. Embassies and overseas third-level institutions, as well as various funding organisations, can provide further details.

A comprehensive list of international scholarships can be found on the International Financial Aid and College Scholarship Search (


The most prestigious and well-known scholarship for postgraduate study in the United States, the 2012-2013 competition will open for Irish students in September 2011.

Fulbright is open to scholars from all academic disciplines, who intend to enroll on a US Masters/PhD programme or conduct independent research as part of an Irish or European PhD programme. The award includes up to $25,000 plus insurance, a J-1 visa and the programme is for between six and 12 months of postgraduate study or research in the US. This year, 23 Fulbright scholarships were offered to Irish applicants. Fulbright also offers two awards for postgraduates, academics or professionals working through the Irish language in the US. For more information, see


The Rotary Foundation’s Ambassadorial Scholarships provide funding for year-long scholarships abroad, covering a range of subjects. Irish scholars would be expected to serve as goodwill ambassadors to their host country and give presentations about Ireland to Rotary clubs and other groups. In 2009, the organisation distributed approximately $16.2 million to nearly 700 recipients.


The IIE, a private, non-profit organisation dedicated to the international exchange of people and ideas, runs 20 international scholarship programmes for Irish students. These include:

– Acumen Fund Fellows Programme: a one-year programme focused on the development of leadership and social enterprise. Participants will use their operational and financial skills to create solutions to global poverty.

– KAUST Fellowships: offered by Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, the fellowships are offered to science, engineering and technology students who wish to pursue graduate study at the Jeddah-based institution.

– Alcoa Foundation’s Conservation and Sustainability Fellowship Programme: scholarships, grants, and fellowships offered across the world. The programme connects scholars with NGOs and the business community to develop practical solutions to environmental sustainability issues.

– The Russell Berrie Fellowship Programme: open to priests and laity carrying out research on inter-faith issues, leading to a license or doctoral degree with a concentration on Inter-religious Studies at the Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas. Deadline: March 18th, 2011

– The Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Centre: offers a residency for scholars and creative artists to attend the centre at Lake Como, Italy, between February 1st and mid-August 2011. Application process opens in March. The programme offers a serene setting for artists, policymakers, scholars, and thinkers to meet, develop connections, and focus on their area of interest in a scenic and serene setting.

For more information see


This programme provides scholarship funding on programmes offered by a consortia of higher education institutes which operate in at least two European countries. The programme covers all subject areas. Current research opportunities include places on:

– EMARO, the European Master on Advanced Robotics: an integrated Masters course conducted by three Asian and three European institutions, including the Warsaw University of Technology, Ecole Centrale de Nantes, and the Faculty of Science and Technology in Keio University, Japan.

– Global Studies, A European Perspective: an interdisciplinary Masters offered by five European universities in collaboration with six non-European partners.

– GLITEMA (German Literature in the European Middle Ages): an integrated Masters course run by three European universities and supported by 12 global higher education partners.

– European doctorate in Law and Economics (EDLE): offered by the universities of Hamburg, Rotterdam and Bologna, with the collaboration of the Indira Ghandi Institute of Development Research in Mumbai, India. This course provides the chance to study law and economics at PhD level in at least three different countries.

– International Relativistic Astrophysics PhD: joint doctorate programme involving universities from Europe and Asia, including Stockholm, Berlin and Rome, as well as observatories in India, China, and Estonia.

– for more information see


Many countries reserve scholarship places for Irish postgraduate students. Application is conducted through the country’s Irish embassy. These include Australia, Austria, Belgium, China, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Switzerland, and Turkey. Details and application for Finland can be found at, for France at the French Cultural Service (Tel: 01-6762197), and for Italy at the Italian Cultural Institute (Tel: 01-6620509). For all other countries, contact the relevant embassy in Ireland.


Many third-level institutions offer undergraduate and postgraduate scholarships to students with a proven track record in soccer, athletics, rugby, swimming or other sports. In return, the student is expected to represent their college in the chosen sport. The organisation pass4soccer offers a soccer scholarship consultancy service (


Third-level institutions worldwide offer scholarships and fellowships for international applicants. Students considering a Masters or Doctoral degree programme should begin by exploring which universities offer courses of interest. Log on to their website and see if they provide scholarships. Popular options for Irish postgraduates include the University of Wellington Victoria PhD Scholarships (New Zealand), the Utrecht University Excellence Scholarships (The Netherlands), and University of Edinburgh Scholarships (Scotland).

The Irish Times , in association with the organisation has just published the first comprehensive guide for school-leavers investigating the opportunities for studying abroad: Irish Times Study Abroad Guide For School Leavers




Subject to one final round of official confirmation, Ciara Thorne is due to commence the Government of Japan’s Monbukagakusho Scholarship later this year. She has a Bachelor of Arts from UCD.

“I taught English in Japan a few years ago and I’d always wanted to go back. I heard about the Japanese Government Scholarships through other Irish ex-pats in Japan and it seemed like a brilliant opportunity to combine two passions: education and travel.

The interviews took place at the Japanese Embassy in Dublin, and there were three applicants competing for two places. Japan offers a number of places to every country based on its population, so the United Kingdom or Germany would be awarded more places. I increased my chances by writing to find a supervisor in advance.

You can study any subject area, in any university, as long as it is related to Japan or could only be studied in Japan. I’m going to do a research project on Japanese literature at the University of Hokkaido, which can be transformed into a Masters after 18 months if I wish. But my main motivation is to study abroad and develop my language skills. I’ll spend six months on an intensive language immersion course that will be vital if I’m going to read Japanese literature.

For me, the recession wasn’t a factor in going to Japan. I’d already lived abroad and travelled extensively so this simply seemed like a good option for me. It’s a well-financed scholarship and it will allow me to live reasonably well. I won’t be in luxury but itll be far from penury too.”



Sandra Doherty is enrolled on a PhD in Marine Biology and holds a Victoria Doctoral Assistantship at the University of Wellington, New Zealand.

She is studying invasive mussel species in New Zealand waters – a subject with implications for biosecurity and conservation. “Id just finished my Masters at GMIT in 2008 and was hoping to convert to a PhD. Then the economy nose-dived and it became harder to get funding. Job opportunities in marine science were few and far between.

I had a clear choice: stay in Ireland and change careers, look abroad to stay in my field, or go on the dole. I left.

I looked into where there were other researchers working in my field, and what universities were carrying out research of interest to me. Wellington University jumped out at me, and luckily they have a scholarship programme for international students.

As an academic researcher – particularly from a small country like Ireland – it’s a good idea to gain experience in another country.

There are lots of postgraduate scholarship opportunities for Irish people abroad, and I notice a lot of international students here in New Zealand.

The research is going well, and I’m at the point I want to be at. I hope to stay in New Zealand with my husband and we have applied for residency.

I can’t see any major opportunities in Ireland for the next decade.”

The Irish Times – Tuesday, January 18, 2011

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