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Access is gaining entry to and participation in education and training institutions or programmes. In certain circumstances before admittance is granted certain criteria may need to be fulfilled. Some examples may include a requirement for a particular qualification (award), education level, skills or work experience etc. from the awarding body.


Qualifications (awards) of professional bodies and awarding bodies based in other countries may be “aligned” with the NFQ (a similar, but less specific, term is “recognised through the Framework”). For example, some awards made in Ireland by awarding bodies from the UK, such as City and Guilds and the Open University, are aligned with the NFQ.


An award is conferred by the awarding body when you have successfully completed a programme of study.   An example of an award is an Honours Bachelor Degree.

Award- type

An award-type is a category of named awards which have common features and the same NFQ level. Examples of award-types include: Junior Certificate (NFQ level 3), Advanced Certificate (NFQ Level 6), and Honours Bachelor Degree (NFQ Level 8). There are 16 major award-types in the NFQ. Award-types can reflect a mix of standards of knowledge, skill and competence which is independent of any specific field of learning.


The Bologna process is a voluntary agreement currently involving 46 countries (both EU and non-EU). Within the EU, the Bologna Process aims to create a European Higher Education Area by 2010. To achieve this, the Framework for the European Higher Education Area or the ‘Bologna Framework’ was developed to introduce a three cycle system (bachelor/master/doctorate). This system will make the recognition of qualifications (awards) easier, thus allowing citizens to travel more easily between countries for employment purposes or to pursue additional studies. The compatibility of National Qualifications Frameworks to the Bologna Framework will eventually be verified by each member state. Ireland completed this verification process in 2006.

Credit: European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS)

A credit system is a systematic way of describing an educational programme by attaching credits to its components. The definition of credits in higher education systems may be based on different parameters, such as student workload, learning outcomes and contact hours. For further information on credit, please click here

The European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) is a tool which enables students to collect credits for learning achieved through higher education. ECTS is a learner-centred system with 60 ECTS credits attached to the workload of a full-time year of formal learning (academic year) and the associated learning outcomes

Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT)

The Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) is a recognised higher education awarding body in Ireland and has the authority to make its own awards at NFQ Levels 6 - 10. Please see for more information.

European Qualifications Framework (EQF)

The European Qualifications Framework for Lifelong Learning is an overarching qualifications framework linking countries’ qualifications systems, acting as a translation device to make qualifications more readable and understandable across different countries and systems in Europe. It addresses the full range of learning from NFQ Level 1 to Level 10.

The NFQ remains the most significant reference for individuals holding qualifications.


The Further Education and Training Awards Council (FETAC) ( is the single national awarding body for further education and training in Ireland.    Awards made by FETAC are included in the framework from levels 1-6.  FETAC does not deliver the programmes itself but they are delivered by a number of bodies in both the public and private sector of education and training.


The Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC) ( is a national awarding body for higher education and training.  It is also a quality assurance agency for the Institutes of Technology, (other than the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT)) and other higher education and training providers outside the university sector.  Its awards are included in the National Framework of Qualifications from levels 6 to 10. 


Awards (qualifications) made by Irish awarding bodies with a statutory basis, which are designed to include the features and learning outcomes associated with the NFQ, are “included” in the NFQ (a similar, but less specific, term is “recognised through the Framework”). For example, awards made currently by the State Examinations Commission (for schools), FETAC, HETAC, DIT and the Irish universities are included in the NFQ.

Institutes of Technology (IOT)

The Institutes of Technology (IoT) are designated under State legislation. They provide programmes leading to awards at NFQ Levels 6 - 10. The Institutes of Technology make their own awards at specified levels under delegated authority from HETAC. A list of the IoTs is available via the following link:

Learning: Formal learning

Formal learning takes place through programmes of education or training delivered by education and training providers. It is assessed and can lead to awards.

Learning: Informal Learning

Learning that takes place through life and work experience, which may also be referred to as experiential learning.  Often it is learning that is unintentional and the learner may not recognise at the time of the experience that it contributed to his or her knowledge, skills and competence. 

Learning: Non-formal Learning

Learning that takes place alongside the mainstream systems of education and training.  It may be assessed but does not normally lead to formal certification.  Examples of non-formal learning are: learning and training activities undertaken in the workplace, voluntary sector or trade union and in community-based learning

Learning outcomes

Learning outcomes describe what a learner is expected to know, to understand and / or be able to do following successful completion of a period of learning. Awards in the NFQ are based on learning outcomes.


There are 10 levels in the NFQ. Each level sets out a range of standards of knowledge, skill and competence. For example, FETAC awards at NFQ Levels 1 and 2 recognise basic learning; the Leaving Certificate is placed at NFQ levels 4 and 5; an Honours Bachelor Degree is placed at NFQ Level 8; a Master Degree at NFQ Level 9.

Lifelong Learning

Lifelong learning includes all learning activities undertaken throughout life.  The term recognises that learning is not confined to childhood or the classroom, but takes place throughout life and in a range of situations.  As such it not only enhances social inclusion, active citizenship and personal development, but also competitiveness and employability.

National Awarding Bodies

An awarding body is a national body that has the power to give you a qualification (award) for your learning. There are six national awarding bodies that have their awards placed in the Framework. However many other awarding bodies such as professional bodies or UK awarding bodies have also had their awards included in the NFQ.


Many awards (qualifications) which existed before the NFQ have been “placed” on the NFQ. These awards may not have been described in terms of learning outcomes or may not entirely match current awards included in the NFQ. However, it is important that individuals holding such awards have recognition of their value (a similar, but less specific, term is “recognised through the Framework”). For example, the National Skills Certificate and National Diploma have been placed on the NFQ.

Programme of Education and Training

Programme (of education and training) means any process by which learners may acquire knowledge, skill or competence and includes courses of study or instruction, apprenticeships, training and employment.


The process by which learners may transfer from one programme of education and training to another where each programme is of a higher academic level than the preceding programme.


QualifaX is the National Learners’ Database. It provides the most comprehensive source of information on courses available across all types of learning. Courses leading to awards recognised through the NFQ are clearly indicated by NFQ level. There are also a range of useful related tools to help you to make informed decisions about your education and training options. Visit the QualifaX website (


 A qualification is the award an individual has acquired as a result of a period of formalized training or education. The acquisition of an educational qualification therefore implies the successful completion of a course of training or education programme.


This is the process whereby holders of a foreign qualification can have their award compared to a level on the National Framework of Qualifications of Ireland. Recognition of a foreign qualification means that the qualification is understood in the Irish context; this assists the award holder when seeking employment or access to education in Ireland.

Recognition of Prior Learning

Recognition of learning that has taken place, but not necessarily been assessed or measured.  Such prior learning may have been acquired through formal, non-formal, or informal routes. 

State Examinations Commission (SEC)

The State Examinations Commission is under the aegis of the Department of Education and Science.  It is responsible for the development, assessment, accreditation and certification of schooll examinations of the Irish State and these include the Junior Certificate at Framework level 3 and the Leaving Certificate placed across levels 4 and 5 of the Framework.


The process by which learners may transfer from one programme of education and training to another programme having received recognition for knowledge, skill or competence acquired.


A university is an institution which offers higher education programmes leading to qualifications which are recognized through the NFQ.  



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