Ireland National Overview

Updated in June 2018 by Deborah Kellerher, Director at Royal Irish Academy of Music

Overview of Higher Music Education System

Professional music training is embedded in the general higher education system in Conservatory/Academy/Schools of Music, in Universities, and in Colleges/Institutes of Education. Undergraduate and postgraduate music degrees in Performance are offered by a number of Conservatory/Academy/Schools of Music: CIT Cork School of Music (Cork Institute of Technology); DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama (Dublin Institute of Technology); Irish World Academy of Music and Drama, UL (University of Limerick); Royal Irish Academy of Music (RIAM awards are validated by Trinity College Dublin); WIT School of Music (Waterford Institute of Technology), BIMM Institute Dublin (Validated by DIT), and Newpark Music Centre (validated by Dublin City University).
These institutions provide specialised training in music performance as part of the curriculum leading to BA/BMus, MA/MMus and DMusPerf (RIAM only) qualifications in music performance. The titles of the awards vary across institutions. Undergraduate performance programmes are normally of four years duration and Masters Programmes vary from one to two years, depending on the institution. DMusPerf qualifications are normally awarded after a minimum of three years study. Performance can also be taken as a specialism in more general academic music degrees offered by some of the Irish Universities leading to awards of BA/BMus, MA/MMus

Total number of institutions
Seven specialising in performance: CIT Cork School of Music, Dublin Institute of Technology Conservatory of Music & Drama, Royal Irish Academy of Music, Dublin, Waterford Institute of Technology, Irish World Academy of Music and Dance (University of Limerick) BIMM Institute Dublin and Newpark Music Centre.
Total number of music students
Approximately 1500 students tudy music performance on the island of Ireland.
With the exception of the Royal Irish Academy of Music, Dublin (which receives both State and private funding) and BIMM and Newpark (each privately funded), each is state-funded through the Department of Education & Skills.
The curricula of courses offered by the CIT Cork School of Music, Newpark Music Centre and WIT School of Music are validated by the Quality and Qualifications Ireland; those for the Royal Irish Academy of Music by Trinity College Dublin. BIMM and DIT Conservatory of Music & Drama is validated by the Dublin Institute of Technology.
The RIAM, Newpark Music Centre and BIMM have an independent governance structure and are linked providers to their validating universities.
The RIAM’s Board of Governors numbers 24, with members nominated by Dublin City Council, annually elected members, staff members, and lifetime members of the Coulson Bequest, nominated on behalf of the founding philanthropist, Elizabeth Strean Coulson. Those elected serve for a three-year term and can be re-elected.
CITCSM is currently a School within the Faculty of Business & Humanities at Cork Institute of Technology, DIT and WIT are within faculties of larger polytechnic institutes and are managed through committees in those institutes, without separate governing authorities.
Classical/art music, Irish traditional music, Jazz, commercial pop music, world music, music theatre.
2-cycle system
Professional music training is organised in a two cycle system. Normally this means:
1st cycle: 4 years
2nd cycle: 1-2 years
1st cycle Bachelor
Specialisations: Performance Studies and a combination of Applied Musicianship Studies (e.g. Aural Skills, Composition, Conducting, Counterpoint, Orchestration), Historical Studies, Irish Traditional Music Studies, Ethnomusicology, Pedagogic Studies, Music Technology, Music Therapy Studies – according to institution and/or specialisation
2nd cycle Master
The titles of degrees vary across institutions. For example, some institutions offer BA/MA in Music Performance while others offer BMus/Mmus while some institutions offer BA, BMus, MA and MMus programmes. The title of the degree is not dependant on the length of study but on traditional practice within the individual institution.
Entry requirements 1st cycle
Entry is by application, performance audition, written entrance test and interview. In addition, students at Bachelor level must matriculate through the state school exams. The level of matriculation varies according to each institution.
Entry requirements 2nd cycle
Bachelor Degree (or equivalent) + audition
% of students who continue with 2nd cycle >10%
3rd cycle
The Royal Irish Academy of Music offers a DmusPerf and DIT offers a practice based research degree leading to a PhD. Artistic Research as defined by the AEC is conducted at doctoral level in these institutions.
Credit point system
All the institutions are using the ECTS credit point system.
All institutions are part of the Erasmus+ programme which involves staff and student exchanges. In addition institutions such as CITCSM have been involved in successful bids for Erasmus Project funding. Institutions such as the RIAM has engaged in multi-annual performance projects with the Juilliard school, the Guildhall school of Music and Drama and the Liszt Academy, Hungary.
Quality assurance
Most, if not all, institutions in Ireland are subject to an external quality review and/or accreditation procedure by the government. The responsible body is the Quality and Qualifications Ireland and under the current legislation, only the QQI or the Degree Awarding Body (the university) has the authority to manage such accreditations. Accreditation of programmes and music institutions take place usually every five years. The process is compulsory, confidential and nationally organised. It makes use of a self-evaluation report, visitations conducted by experts, questionnaires and interviews with stakeholders such as students. Internal quality assurance procedures are undertaken yearly. One aspect of quality assurance is to have external examiners on examination panels. QQI or the accrediting university trains the school’s management in how to select external examiners.
Graduates – at both Bachelor and Master levels – have traditionally enjoyed great success in gaining employment. It is generally recognised that only a small percentage of graduates will find fulltime employment in music performance and that many will develop careers combining performance, teaching and other areas. Other career opportunities open to music graduates include the Music Industry, Arts Administration, Music Technology and Recording, Journalism and Broadcasting, Composing and Arranging, Music Therapy.
Academic Year
September to June
Overview of the Pre-College Music Education System
The Department of Education and Skills funds a number of Conservatory/Academies/Schools of Music which provide instrumental/vocal tuition at first and second levels outside the primary/secondary school system. Two of these institutions are located in the capital, Dublin, while the other three institutions are all located in the south of the country.
There are also some limited local music services funded by the Education Training Boards in counties Cork, Kerry, Wexford, Wicklow, LaOIS, Kilkenny and Westmeath. Many parts of the country are disadvantaged in terms of state-funded provision for instrumental/vocal tuition.
In recent times a number of privately run schools of music have been developed across the country. There is also a considerable amount of private teaching undertaken by individual instrumental/vocal teachers who are not affiliated to any school or college. A government-funded report of a feasibility study conducted by Music Network (A National System of Local Music Services, 2003) presented a blueprint for the provision of a national system of local schools of music in Ireland. This has since been adopted to become ‘Music Generation’ a locally based music provision initiative sponsored by the band U2 and the Department of Education and Skills.
Basic Art Schools (also known as Elementary Schools of Art) offer arts education to children and adults. Most schools have three or four departments: music, dance, drama and painting (depending on the size of the school). There are around 488 schools situated all over the country. Basic Art Schools provide amateur music training, but prepare students for the entrance to conservatoires and higher music education as well. This type has nothing to do with the school, it is a kind of “extramural activity” (classes are organized in the afternoon and evening).
Children usually enter the preparatory class of the school around their 5th year of age after they have completed an entrance test; almost all students who apply are able to enter. Students study at Basic Art Schools until they are 16 (or more).
Basic Art Schools follow a national curriculum which is divided in two levels (primary and secondary); there is a different level for adults. Students have to take examinations every year. Curricula include instrumental lessons (mostly one-on-one tuition), orchestra and chamber music lessons and theory subjects. Most schools provide classical music education only, but some provide jazz and pop music lessons as well. Many graduates continue their education at conservatories.
There are a number of high-level Basic Art Schools that are well known for preparing students for conservatories. This mainly has to do with specific teachers.
The Ministry of Education has implemented an accreditation system. All accredited schools follow the national curriculum and receive state funding. Some schools may receive funding by the city or a church (as well). In all cases, students only pay a small tuition fee. Virtually all Basic Art Schools are accredited.

Types of Pre-College Education

There exist three types of music schools: General Music Schools, Specialised Music Schools, Secondary level educational institutions specialised in Music A. General Music Schools are aimed at both amateur training as well as preparation for professional music studies. Specialised Music Schools and Secondary level educational institutions specialised in Music A aim their education mainly at preparation for professional music studies, but provide some amateur training as well.
General Music Schools and Specialised Music Schools are affiliated to the IAMS.
There are private music schools too. They are not necessarily different from the music schools mentioned above, they just chose not become a member of the IAMS.
All music schools in Ireland charge a tuition fee. Financial support for those who cannot pay for tuition is possible. It is felt that tuition fees discourage students to take music lessons.
Every music school designs its own curriculum according to the current teaching staff, following the curriculum each particular teacher studied under. But individual teachers may differ in their teaching methods and material so it is done on an ad-hoc basis from school to school.
An average instrumental/vocal one-to-one lesson takes 30-60 minutes and is given once a week. The same goes for instrumental/vocal group lessons.

Additional Information

Music and Arts in General Education
The most recent Government supported initiative in performance music education is that of Music Generation, an initiative which seeks to offer tuition to young people in their own communities. To date, approximately 38,000 children have availed of this new stream of tuition. The emphasis in this programme is on inclusive, and largely group based, music making. This initiative is in response to a wider Irish Government objective captured in its Creative Ireland programme, which seeks to give every child in Ireland access to music, drama and arts tuition by 2022. The initiative is conceived as taking place outside the classroom, in non-formal education, although some initiatives are integrated into the school system. This was in a sense, a compromise to allow schools to continue with the ‘one teacher, one class’ principle where not all teachers were trained in music.
Those students who wish to progress to more detailed music performance tuition (who may be on the path to a music career) must still enter the conservatoire for such specialist training.
Students entering Higher Music Education
DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama, Dublin: Almost all the students come from private education; just a small amount of students come from general music schools or are international applicants.
Royal Irish Academy of Music, Dublin: Most of the students come from the junior department. A smaller amount of students comes from specialised Music schools, international applicants and just a few from private education.
CIT Cork School of Music: Students are coming, in equal proportion, from the junior department, private Music schools, private lessons and secondary schools which at best offer a nominal Music education. International applicants also apply.
Special Facilities for Talented Students at Pre-College Level
There are many facilities for talented students; there are competitions for all kinds of instruments, at different levels and for different age groups. There are also competitions for school orchestras and choirs.
Talented students at Basic Art Schools can receive more instrumental lessons.
Talented students can enter to HME institutions without having finished the secondary level (from the age of 15). Degree in Music is awarded after they finish their secondary level studies.

Overview of Music Teacher Education System

The main providers of training for instrumental/vocal teachers in Ireland are the Conservatoires, some of which are also involved in providing undergraduate training for secondary school music teachers in conjunction with the University sector. The main focus of the Universities is on secondary level teacher training at postgraduate level. There is no specialised training in primary level music teaching.

Instrumental/Vocal Music Teacher Education

Degree level qualifications for instrumental/vocal teachers, incorporating instrumental/vocal pedagogy along with a high level of music performance, are provided by the following institutions:
a. Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) Cork School of Music: BMus and BA in Popular Music
b. Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) Conservatory of Music and Drama: BMus (Pedagogy)
A one year Diploma in Music specialising in instrumental/vocal teaching and performance is provided by the following institution:
c. Royal Irish Academy of Music: Diploma in Music
Structure and Curriculum
For degree level programmes at CIT and DIT, students must have passed the state Leaving Certificate Examination (or equivalent) and meet the general requirements laid down by the CAO (central admissions office) for entry to third level education. In addition, all students must pass an audition/interview and written and aural tests conducted within the institutions. Applicants are expected to have reached at least Grade 6 level in their principal instrument, but this is only a guide.
The CITCSM BMus and BA in Popular Music are four year degree programme which have performance studies as an integrated feature throughout the programmes. They include academic components such as Composition, History, Analysis, and Aural Skills along with various elective modules. Students can specialise in Pedagogic Studies in years 3 and 4 when four modules in Instrumental Teaching are offered. These modules focus on instrument specific methodologies and psychology, and incorporate Teaching Practice (over a period of two semesters) involving external private teaching or placements in schools. Four modules in Musicianship class teaching are also offered.
The DIT BMus (Pedagogy) is a four year degree programme which has performance studies as an integrated feature throughout the programme and includes academic components such as Composition, History, Analysis, Aural along with various elective modules. Students can specialise in Pedagogy in Years 3 and 4. The pedagogy curriculum includes modules in Teaching Methods, Teaching Observation, Psychology of Music and Music Education, Philosophy of Music and Music Education, Educational Issues and Teaching Practice (over a period of two semesters) which takes place within the Conservatory.
The RIAM one year Diploma in Music has a primary emphasis on practical study and includes components in History, Harmony and Counterpoint and Aural Awareness along with an Education Issues course which focuses on teaching methodologies and philosophies of education.
Art music, traditional Irish music
The music teacher degrees and diplomas above are open to international students.
Instrumental/Vocal Teaching is not a regulated sector within music education in Ireland and there is no national music school system. Graduates find employment as private teachers and are employed in music schools and colleges, mainly on a part-time basis. Many graduates combine careers in teaching with performing and other areas of the music industry. Some graduates undertake further music studies at postgraduate level in areas such as secondary music teaching, performance, music therapy, music technology, arts administration.
Continuing Professional Development (CPD)
Such postgraduate study is also a common form of CPD for instrumental/vocal teachers, many of whom undertake further taught programmes leading to MA/Mus qualifications or engage in research at MPhil/PhD level at higher music education institutions. There are no taught postgraduate programmes in Ireland specialising in instrumental/vocal teaching but there are possibilities on offer in the UK including some distance learning options.
Many instrumental/vocal teachers in Ireland pursue further qualifications in teaching and in performance through the various external diploma/licentiate qualifications offered by examining boards such as the Royal Irish Academy of Music, and the UK based Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, London College of Music and Trinity Guildhall. Professional bodies such as EPTA Ireland (European Piano Teachers’ Association) also offer seminars, workshops, and master classes on an ongoing basis.
In 2016 the RIAM founded the RIAM Teaching and Learning Network, an online hub with live workshops which is designed to support the CPD of the private music teaching sector across Ireland.

Training for Music Teacher in General Education (primary and secondary school)


Primary level
There is no specialised training in primary level music teaching at either undergraduate or postgraduate level in Ireland. Primary curricular music is part of the programme of study for the BEd degree (primary teaching qualification) in the following institutions:
a. Church of Ireland College of Education
b. Marino Institute of Education
c. Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick
d. Dublin City University (St. Patrick’s Campus)

Secondary level
A four year conjoint BMusEd programme is offered in the following institutions:
e. DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama
f. Royal Irish Academy of Music
g. Trinity College Dublin
A four year B.Rel.Ed (Bachelor in Religious Education) programme, incorporating education, religion and music which specialises in the training of religious education teachers, but includes a music teaching methodology component in the music programme, is offered by:
h. Mater Dei Institute of Education
A one-year Postgraduate Diploma in Education offering music as an elective curriculum subject for secondary level teaching is offered by the following institutions:
i. NUI Maynooth (National University of Ireland)
j. University College Cork
k. University College Dublin
l. Trinity College Dublin
A one-year Graduate Diploma in Education (Music) is offered at the following institution:
m. Irish World Academy of Music and Dance (University of Limerick)

Structure and Curriculum
For undergraduate programmes, applicants must have passed the state Leaving Certificate Examination (or equivalent) and meet the general requirements laid down by the CAO (central admissions office) for entry to third level education. In addition, all students must pass an audition/interview and written and aural tests conducted within the institutions. Applicants for postgraduate programmes are required to have an undergraduate degree and some institutions also conduct interviews.
The four year BMusEd programme offered by DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama, Royal Irish Academy of Music and Trinity College Dublin combines music studies with music education studies. Music subjects covered include: Performance, Aural Perception, Keyboard Skills, Harmony and Counterpoint, History of Music, Irish Music and Practical Musicianship, Conducting. Music education subjects cover: Practice of Music Education; Educational Issues; Teaching Observation; Introduction to Music Technology; Psychology of Education; Sociology of Education; Sociology of Music; Curriculum, Assessment, Evaluation and Statistics; and external Teaching Practice placements in Years 1, 2 and 3.
The four-year B.Rel.Ed. programme offered by Mater Dei Institute of Education provides tuition in the technical and applied aspects of Musical Composition (Harmony, Counterpoint, Form and Analysis), History of Music, Performance and Music Technology. In the area of Education (Theory and Practice), the following areas are included: Instruction in teaching skills and methodologies; Guided practice of teaching in a controlled environment; Assistance in the preparation of teaching plans, resources and materials; School based Teaching Practice; Tutoring, supervision, profiling and feedback.
The Postgraduate Diploma in Education/Graduate Diploma in Education (Music) programmes are divided into two main areas: teaching placement and university experience. Students typically teach each morning in a recognised secondary school and attend lectures, tutorials and workshops in the university each afternoon. The curriculum generally includes a range of education based subjects along with curricular music and music teaching methodologies.
The undergraduate and postgraduate programmes referred to above are all recognised and accredited by the Teaching Council, the regulatory body for the teaching profession in Ireland. They are also widely accepted in other countries as signifying qualified teacher status. The majority of graduates obtain teaching positions in Ireland and abroad.
Continuing Professional Development (CPD)
A nominal amount of in-service training is provided by the DES (Department of Education and Science). The PPMTA (Post-primary Music Teachers Association) and the Association of Teacher/Education Centres both runs courses, seminars and workshops for teachers. Postgraduate study is also a common form of CPD for secondary music teachers many of whom undertake further taught programmes leading to MA/Mus qualifications or engage in research at MPhil/PhD level at higher music education institutions.