In Ireland, qualifications (QQI) are on a scale from Level 1 to 10 of a National Framework of Qualifications (NQF) – The higher the number, the higher the qualification.
In the image below you will see that the Junior Certificate is Level 3, the Leaving Cert is Level 4 and as you move along the arch, you can see Degree is Level 7 or 8, heading towards to Level 10 (PHD!)
QQI Level 5 & Level 6 are usually done in a College of Further Education. QQI Level 7 – 10 are normally done in IT or Universities.
How to use your Level 5/6 to move onto Level 7/8 – The Ladder of Progression
The ladder system of progression is where add-on qualifications are used to build up from a level 5/ 6 all the way onto Level 8 honours degree and further!
New Scheme – Alternative third level route for specific courses/ careers
These third level degree courses do not require students to apply through the CAO System. These Degrees are designed to provide seamless transitioning pathways from Further Education to Higher Education. At present, this scheme is for specific courses/ careers. Here are two examples:
- General Nursing degree which will start for one year in a College of Further Ed (PLC) in Donegal, Sligo or Mayo and finish up in either ATU Donegal/ ATU Mayo or St. Angelas, Sligo for 4 years.
- Immersive Media Degree that Years 1 + 2 will be primarily based in Ballyfermot College of Further Education (BCFE) or Bray Institute of Further Education (BIFE) and Year 3 & 4 will finish in Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design + Technology (IADT),
Students will not go through the traditional progression route system, to see if they get a college place from a PLC for these specific course. They will be guaranteed access subject to passing exams. More information.
How to use your Level 5/6 to move onto Level 7/8
- Step 1: You need to complete your QQI level 5 or 6, before you can be accepted on to a Level 7/ 8 course progression route option.
- Step 2: To find out which Higher Education Courses accepts your Level 5 or 6 course, you can check the college website or use the Careersportal Higher Ed. links tool to find the CAO courses that are offer progression opportunities to students with a Further Education (QQI level 5/6) Award.
- Remember, it is the course code of your course, rather than the course name, that you use. Here is an example of a College of Further Education progression pathway chart: BFEI Higher Education Links Chart
- Step 3: If you have a specific college or course in mind, contact the access officer in the college – they would be really happy to help you understand the progression route in their college.
- Step 4: Apply through the CAO – you are placed based on your performance in your Level 5/6 QQI Award. Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) e.g. Technical Universities (TUs) & Universities, offer special entry to students who successfully complete a QQI Level 6 (sometimes 5) Awards. Competition for these places are separate from all other applicants.
- Step 5: Get accepted onto a Level 7 or 8 and continue your education journey right up to Level 10!
CareersPortal.ie website is a great place to start:
- CareersPortal.ie Guide to PLC Progressions routes CareersPortal.ie has produced a Comprehensive Guide & Video on progression to Higher Education from a PLC course.
- CareersPortal Higher Ed. links Use this tool to find CAO courses that are available to students with a Further Education (PLC) Award.
- Careersportal Calculations Tool Use this tool to calculate if you have got enough credits from your course to put towards applying to a Level 7 or 8 Course.
Funding your progression through education
You must be increasing (progressing) your QQI level to be considered eligible for a grant (e.g. from QQI level 6 to a level 7 or 8)
You must be attending an approved course that –
- leads to a higher level of qualification than any you may already hold,
- is at a higher level than any course you may have previously attended,
- is progressing from one year to the next and not repeating a year (save in exceptional circumstances)
- full information from SUSI website
If you are not progressing, you may still be considered eligible for funding as a “second chance” student – it is well worth checking your own situation out, by contacting SUSI directly or we can help you do it.
Returning to Education Social Welfare payments (VTOS or BTEA)
If you are getting certain Social Welfare Payments and you wish to return to education, there are financial supports available to you.
Contact us or your local Intreo Centre and ask about the ‘return to education’ supports available – Make sure that you get a definitive answer from the local Intreo Centre, who make the decision on what you are eligible to apply for depending on your individual circumstances.
If you have been deemed eligible for a ‘Return to Education’ Social Welfare Payment – it is possible to continue to receive them as you progress through your qualification levels – once again, you should check this out in your local Intreo Centre.