In this paper we present a theoretical model of higher education participation in Ireland. Utilising the Living in Ireland Survey data we model the impact of costs (direct and indirect), the estimated life cycle returns, environmental and parental influences and also household credit constraints on the higher education participation decision. We find that foregone earnings and youth employment rates have a negative impact on this decision; this suggests weaker labour markets for young people may have a positive impact on higher education participation. The insignificance of credit constraints in the shape of household income and maintenance grant eligibility from our estimations can also help draw some tentative policy conclusions. Our results also show that life cycle returns and parental educational level may influence participation in higher education in Ireland.