The Irish Education System

Currently, responsibility for education lies within the Department of Education and Skills. It administers all aspects of education policy including curricula, syllabi and national examinations. Attendance at full time education is compulsory in Ireland from six to fifteen years of age and is free in the majority of schools, and at undergraduate third-level. Education is considered a fundamental right under our constitution.

Until 2001 there were several different awarding bodies involved in certifying programmes of education and training. These include FÁS, NCVA, Teagasc, Fáilte Ireland, NCEA, the Institutes of Technology, DIT and the Universities. All of these bodies offered opportunities for learners to get qualifications – yet it wasn’t always clear how one award or qualification related to another. This made it more difficult for learners to get access to a particular programme, or to transfer from one programme to another as their learning progressed.

The National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ)

The NFQ was introduced in 2003 as a system of 10 Levels. The 10 Levels encompass all learning, from the very initial stages to the most advanced. The 'fan diagram' PDF Document. Link opens in a new browser window illustrates the 10 levels and the 'Major Award types' that are included in it.



School, further education (FETAC awards) and higher education (DIT, university and HETAC awards) are all included. For instance, the Junior Certificate is at Level 3, apprenticeship qualifications are at Level 6, the Honours Bachelor Degree is at Level 8, the Doctoral Degree is at Level 10.
The NFQ has introduced new qualifications to the Irish education and training system, such as the Advanced Certificate at Level 6 and the Ordinary Bachelor Degree at Level 7. It has revolutionised further education through the development of Levels 1-6 qualifications.

The Further Education and Training Awards Council (FETAC)

The term " Further Education" embraces education and training which occurs after second-level schooling but which is not part of the third level system. Post Leaving Certificate courses (PLCs) are run by a wide range of both public and private colleges and institutions and lead to awards validated by the Irish government's awards agency - Further Education and Training Awards Council (FETAC) , as well as awards validated by a range of Irish, UK and other international awarding bodies. PLC courses take place in schools, colleges and community education centres around the country. The courses are full-time and last for one or two years. Post Leaving Certificate courses adopt an integrated approach, focusing on technical knowledge, core skills and work experience. They are designed as a step towards skilled employment and, as such, are closely linked to industry and its needs. The qualification you receive at the end of your training will depend on the type of course you have chosen. Many of the one year PLC courses offer FETAC accreditation at level 5, while other more advanced courses may offer FETAC level 6, which can lead to further studies at third level.

QQI - Amalgamated Functions

QQI (Quality and Qualifications Ireland) is a state agency established by the Quality Assurance and Qualifications (Education and Training) Act 2012 with a board appointed by the Minister for Education and Skills. Its functions include those previously carried out by the Further Education and Training Awards Council (FETAC); the Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC); the Irish Universities Quality Board (IUQB) and the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland (NQAI).


More information on education in Ireland can be found here.