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About ICOS

Our mission:

To be the leading independent organisation advocating for the rights of international students in Ireland. ICOS will collaborate with its members, student organisations and government agencies to ensure that international education policy and practice in Ireland is quality driven and remains firmly focused on the educational and social needs of all students.

Who we are:

The Irish Council for International Students (ICOS) is an independent non-profit network of educational institutions, NGOs and individuals interested in international education and working with government and other agencies to promote good policies and best practice in relation to the recruitment, access and support of international students in Ireland.

Key Aims:

  • Promoting the rights and entitlements of international students
  • Promoting good practice and professional standards in the quality of service offered to international students in Irish Educational Institutions
  • Promoting the role of international education in contributing to global understanding and human development.


The organisation's main activities in pursuit of these aims include policy, research and advocacy work in International Education and the provision of training and information services, including mediation and advice to students in difficulty. ICOS is fully independent in this core work, for which we raise our own funds rather than receiving state funding.

Throughout its history, ICOS has also been invited to provide practical and administrative support to a number of study fellowship programmes bringing international students to Ireland. In particular, ICOS has played a long-standing role in managing aspects of the Irish Aid Fellowship Programme on behalf of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Such work has complemented and been enhanced by ICOS' on-going dedication to its original mission to promote the rights and welfare of all international students who choose Ireland as a study destination and to support staff in colleges who work with international students.


ICOS has more than two dozen institutional members, including all seven universities in the Republic of Ireland, many of the Institutes of Technology and all the major independent third level colleges. Its membership also includes the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) and a small number of individual founders as honorary members.

Members decide on broad strategy, policy and membership issues but delegate day-to-day management to a professional staff based in Dublin, overseen by an elected Executive Committee/Board of Directors.

Beginnings and Development

ICOS was established by the universities and churches in 1970 in consultation with, and financially supported by, the Department of Education, under whose auspices it initially operated. It identified the need and set about the provision of a broad range of services to support international students and international educators in Ireland, primarily in the third level sector. In 1975, ICOS was invited to administer the Irish Aid Fellowship. Programme funding was consequently switched to the Department of Foreign Affairs' Bilateral Aid Programme whilst ICOS became self-supporting for our advice and information work.

Originally known as the Irish Council for Overseas Students, ICOS assumed its present name on 1st January 1997 while retaining the acronym. The switch came shortly after the organisation celebrated its 25th anniversary and was seen to better reflect its role, scope and the changed environment in which it was operating.

Amid steadily rising international student numbers in Ireland, a 2005 strategic review steered the organisation toward the provision of increased services to members, a more pro-active stand on policy issues and stronger advocacy around the rights and welfare of international students.

These themes are further developed in our 2012-16 Strategic Framework.

Code of Conduct on Images and Messages 

Dóchas Code of Conduct on Images and Messages logo

ICOS has signed the Dóchas code of conduct on images and messages - please send your feedback to code@icosirl.ie. If you are not satisfied with ICOS' compliance with the code, you have a right to complain to this address giving specific details of your concerns and, if not resolved to your satisfaction, to raise your complaint with Dóchas.