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Framework Levels & Award Types

NFQ Levels

The National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) is a system of ten levels. Each level is based on nationally agreed standards of knowledge, skill and competence i.e. what an individual is expected to know, understand and be able to do following successful completion of a process of learning. It recognises through the framework learning from the very initial stages to the most advanced stages and all such learning may be achieved in schools or colleges at work or in the home or community. The agreed broad descriptions of each level can be found here.

Award Classification / Category

As well as this 10 level structure, the NFQ includes different classes or categories of awards.  These are different because they reflect a mix of standards of knowledge, skill and competence. This gives the learner the freedom to build their qualifications in ways that suit their needs.  

There are four classes/categories of award-types:

Major Awards are the main class of award made at a level. You may have heard of some of these, for example the Leaving Certificate, the Advanced Certificate or the Honours Bachelor Degree.  There are 16 major awards in the Framework which can be seen in the ‘fan’ diagram.

The following three classes/categories of award are often collectively referred to as non-major awards:

  • Minor Awards provide recognition for learners who achieve a range of learning outcomes but not the specific combination of learning outcomes required for a major award. These awards allow learners to build up units of learning at their own pace to meet their own needs. For further details, please see this Minor Award description. PDF Document

  • Special Purpose Awards are made for very specific purposes. An example of a Special Purpose award is Driving - Heavy Goods Rigid. For further details, please see this Special Purpose Award description. PDF Document

  • Supplemental Awards are for learning which is additional to a previous award. They could, for example, relate to updating and refreshing knowledge or skills, or to continuing professional development. For further details, please see this Supplemental Award Description. PDF Document

Major Award types

The following sixteen Major Award Types have been defined for inclusion in the NFQ:

 

Level 1 Certificate

  • What is this?
    Level 1 Certificates comprise of a number of components - often in basic literacy and numeracy.

  • Example
    An example of a Level 1 award is the Level 1 Certificate in Communications (major).

  • Awarding Body
    The awarding body for this award was the Further Education and Training Awards Council (FETAC). This award is now made by QQI.

    Further Details

 

 

Level 2 Certificate

  • What is this?
    Level 2 Certificates comprise of a number of components, - often in basic literacy and numeracy.

  • Example
     An example of a Level 2 award is the Level 2 Certificate in General Learning (major).

  • Awarding Body
    The awarding body for this award was the Further Education and Training Awards Council (FETAC). This award is now made by QQI

    Further Details

 

Level 3 Certificate

  • What is this?
    Level 3 Certificates enables learners to gain recognition for, specific personal skills, practical skills, and knowledge.

  • Example
    An example of an award at Level 3 includes a Certificate in Keyboard and Computer Skills (major).

  • Awarding Body
    The awarding body for this award was the Further Education and Training Awards Council (FETAC). This award is now made by QQI.

    Further Details

 

Level 3 Junior Certificate

  • What is this?
    The Junior Certificate is an award given to students who have successfully completed examinations from the junior cycle which is the first three years of secondary education.

  • Example
    Junior Certificate.

  • Awarding Body
    The awarding body for this award was the Further Education and Training Awards Council (FETAC). This award is now made by QQI.

    Further Details

 

Level 4 Certificate

  • What is this?
    The Level 4 Certificate enables learners to gain recognition for the achievement of vocational and personal skills.  This award may lead to progression to a programme leading to a Level 5 Certificate and employment at an introductory vocational level.

  •  Example
    An example of an award at Level 4 is the Certificate in Pharmacy Sales (major).

  • Awarding Body
    The awarding body for this award was the Further Education and Training Awards Council (FETAC). This award is now made by QQI.

    Further Details

Level 4/5 Leaving Certificate

  • What is this?
    Leaving Certificate and its various programmes is placed at Levels 4 and 5.   It is the final course in the Irish secondary school system.  It takes a minimum of two years preparation, but an optional Transition Year means that for some- students it takes place three years after the Junior Certificate Examination. This award may lead to progression to a programme leading to a further education and training award at Level 5 or at a higher level or to a higher education and training award at Level 6 or higher.

  • Example
    Leaving Certificate

  • Awarding Body
    The awarding body for this award is the State Examinations Commission (SEC).

    Further Details

Level 5 Certificate

  • What is this?
    A Level 5 Certificate enables learners to develop a broad range of skills, which are vocational specific and require a general understanding of the subject matter. The majority of certificate/module holders at Level 5 take up positions of employment. Holders of certificates at this level also meet the minimum entry requirements for a range of higher education programmes. 

  • Example
    An example of a Level 5 award is the Level 5 Certificate in Restaurant Operations (major).

  • Awarding Body
    The awarding body for this award was the Further Education and Training Awards Council (FETAC). This award is now made by QQI.

    Further Details

Level 6 Advanced Certificate

  • What is this?
    An Advanced Certificate award enables development of a variety of skills which may be vocationally specific and /or of a general supervisory nature.  The majority of Level 6 holders take up positions of employment.   A Certificate holder at this level may also transfer to a programme leading to the next level of the framework. 

  • Example
    An example of awards at Level 6 includes Advanced Certificate Craft-Electrical.

  • Awarding Body
    The awarding body for this award was the Further Education and Training Awards Council (FETAC). This award is now made by QQI.

    Further Details

Level 6 Higher Certificate

  • What is this?
    The Higher Certificate is normally awarded after completion of a programme of two years duration in a recognised higher education institution.   A Certificate holder at this level may transfer to a programme on the next level of the framework. 

  • Example
    An example of awards at Level 6 Higher Certificate is a Certificate in Business Studies.

  • Awarding Body
    The awarding bodies for this award is the Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC) the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) and the Institutes of Technology (IOT) with delegated authority.

    Further Details

Level 7 Ordinary Bachelor Degree

  • What is this?
    The Ordinary Bachelor Degree is normally awarded after completion of a programme of three years duration in a recognised higher education institution.   Progression routes include an Honours Bachelor Degree or progression to a Higher Diploma. 

  • Example
    An example of an award at Level 7 is a Bachelor degree in Human Resource Management. 

  • Awarding Body
    The awarding bodies for this award is the Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC) the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), the Universities and the Institutes of Technology (IOT) with delegated authority.

    Further Details

 

Level 8 Honours Bachelor Degree

  • What is this?
    The Honours Bachelor Degree is normally awarded following completion of a programme of three to four years duration in a recognised higher education institution.  Progress and transfer routes include transferring to programmes leading to Higher Diploma / Masters Degree / Post-graduate Diploma or in some cases programmes leading to a Doctoral Degree. 

  • Example
    An example of an award at level 8 is an Honours Bachelor Degree in Business Studies. 

  • Awarding Body
    The awarding bodies for this award is the Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC) the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), the Universities and the Institutes of Technology (IOT) with delegated authority.

    Further Details

Level 8 Higher Diploma

  • What is this?
    The Higher Diploma is normally awarded following completion of a programme of 1 year duration in a recognised higher education institution.  Entry to a programme leading to a Higher Diploma is typically for holders of Honours Bachelor Degrees but can also be for holders of Ordinary Bachelor Degrees.  Progress and transfer routes include transferring to programmes leading to Higher Diploma/Masters Degree/Post-graduate Diploma or in some cases programmes leading to a Doctoral Degree. 

  • Example
    An example of an award at level 8 Higher Diploma is a Higher Diploma in Management.

  •  Awarding Body
    The awarding bodies for this award is the Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC) the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), with delegated authority the Universities and the Institutes of Technology (IOT) with delegated authority.

    Further Details

 

Level 9 Masters Degree

  • What is this?
    There are two types of Masters Degree in Ireland: taught Masters Degrees and research Masters Degrees.  The taught Masters Degree is awarded following completion of a programme of 1 to 2 years duration.  Entry to a programme leading to a Masters Degree is typically for holders of Honours Bachelor Degrees, however in some cases entry to such programmes can be permitted for those with Ordinary Bachelor Degrees.  Some of the progression and transfer routes include progression to programmes leading to Doctoral Degrees or to another Masters Degree or to a Post-graduate Diploma. 

  • Example
    An example of a Masters Degree at Level 9 is a Masters in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy

  • Awarding Body
    The awarding bodies for this award is the Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC) the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), the Universities and the Institutes of Technology (IOT) with delegated authority.

    Further Details

 

Level 9 Post-graduate Diploma

  • What is this?
    The Post-graduate Diploma is normally awarded following completion of a programme of 1 year duration in a recognised higher education institution.  Entry to a programme leading to a Post-graduate diploma is typically for holders of Honours Bachelor Degrees but can also be for holders of Ordinary Bachelor Degrees. Progression and transfer routes include exemptions from a programme leading to a Masters Degree.

  • Example
    An example of a Level 9 post graduate diploma is the Post Graduate Diploma in Human Resource Management.

  • Awarding Body
    The awarding bodies for this award is the Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC) the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), the Universities and the Institutes of Technology (IOT) with delegated authority.

    Further Details

 

Level 10 Doctoral Degree

  • What is this?
    Entry to a programme leading to a Doctoral Degree is typically for holders of Honours Bachelor Degrees.  The general model is that a holder of an Honours Bachelor degree with a high classification enters initially on to a Masters research programme, and transfers on to a Doctoral programme after one year on the Masters research programme.  Various models for Doctoral Degree programmes now exist, ranging from the traditional research doctorate to professional and practitioner doctoral programmes which have substantial taught components.

  • Example
    Doctoral Degree in Theology

  • Awarding Body
    The awarding bodies for this award is the Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC) the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), the Universities and the Institutes of Technology (IOT) with delegated authority.

    Further Details

 

Level 10 Higher Doctorate

  • What is this?
    This award largely recognises excellent and distinguished contributions to learning. It may be used for career progression to advanced levels of academia and research. This award is never based on a provider’s programme and, as such, is not subject to validation but is assessed by the awarding body for each individual learner. Normally, the learner already holds a first doctorate or equivalent for some period of time prior to becoming a candidate for the higher doctorate

  • Example
    Doctor in Music

  • Awarding Body
    The awarding bodies for this award are the Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC) the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), the Universities and the Institutes of Technology (IOT).

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

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