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Study in Ireland, Work in Europe: Ireland's National Framework of Qualifications

Do you want to work around Europe? With Ireland's National Framework of Qualifications system, the knowledge, skill and competence per qualification and education level are clearly defined. This allows other countries to see how Ireland's qualifications fit in with theirs, making it easier for employers to pinpoint your skills sets and competence.

Jennifer Aranda, Maximino Soliman Aquino | Originally posted on June 7, 2017; updated June 7, 2017

Study in Ireland, Work in Europe: Ireland's National Framework of Qualifications

Ireland developed and has been implementing a National Framework of Qualifications (or NFQ) system since 2003.  Ireland's NFQ has 10 levels of learning, each culminating in measurable achievements. 

With the NFQ system, the knowledge, skill and competence per qualification and level are clearly defined.  As an international student, you gain a clear understanding of what you are supposed to accomplish to successfully complete an education level and how to advance from one qualification to another.   

This national framework of organizing any number and variety of qualifications being developed or studied by over 150 countries, including Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.  With a National Framework of Qualification and education standards in place, your qualifications may be recognized in other countries running a similar system.

Awarding Bodies

An awarding body is a national body that is authorized to bestow a qualification on a student in recognition of his learning achievements. 

This is different from award recognition or a license to practice.  Professional organizations exist in Ireland that are authorized to make their own rewards such as the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland, An Bord Altranais (for nurses and midwives), Law Society of Ireland and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland, to name a few.

Most courses may lead to Irish qualifications though there are some programs that lead to non-Irish awards.  Examples of these are  those from international bodies or national awards from other jurisdictions such as the UK.

Ireland's awarding bodies are:

  • Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) which makes awards in further and higher education and training. The QQI is responsible for  It is responsible for developing, promoting and maintaining the Irish NFQ.  QQI also facilitates the recognition of foreign qualifications;
  • State Examinations Commission or SEC, which makes secondary school awards including the Junior Certificate (NFQ Level 3) and the Leaving Certificate (NFQ Levels 4 and 5);
  • Institutes of Technology or IoTs, of which there are 13, make awards to varying levels on the NFQ (and at least up to Level 8) by QQI.  The Institutes of Technology are:
    • Athlone IT;
    • IT Blanchardstown;
    • Cork IT;
    • IT Carlow;
    • Dundalk IT;
    • Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology;
    • Letterkenny IT;
    • Galway-Mayo IT;
    • Limerick IT;
    • IT Sligo;
    • IT Tallaght;
    • IT Tralee; and
    • Waterford IT.

Major awards are the main class of award made at a level in the NFQ. There are 16 major awards in the NFQ as follows:

NFQ Level

Certificates/Diplomas/Degrees

Awarding Bodies

1

Level 1 Certificate

QQI

2

Level 2 Certificate

QQI

3

Level 3 Certificate

QQI and SEC

Junior Certificate

4

Level 4 Certificate

Leaving Certificate

5

 

 

Level 5 Certificate

Leaving Certificate

6

Higher Certificate

QQI and Institutes of Technology

Advanced Certificate

7

Ordinary Bachelor Degree

QQI, Institutes of Technology and Universities

8

Honours Bachelor Degree

Higher Diploma

9

Masters Degree

Post-Graduate Diploma

10

Doctoral Degree

Higher Doctorate

Qualifications Frameworks within and outside Europe

Even more importantly, qualifications can and do cross borders. In fact, the NFQ of Ireland is compatible with the European Network of Information Centres/National Academic Recognition Information Centres (ENIC-NARIC).

The European Qualification Framework (or EQF) links the qualifications framework of various European countries together.  It covers qualifications at all levels and in all sub-systems of general and adult education, vocational education and training, and higher education. 

As qualifications and standards are understandable across different systems, employers find it easier to pinpoint an applicants' skill sets and competence.

The European Higher Education Area (EHEA) has 48 member countries whose emphasis is on learning outcomes.  There is a three-cycle system for the undergraduate/postgraduate degree structure: bachelor, master and doctorate degrees for the following countries:

  • Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan;
  • Belarus, Belgium French and Flemish Communities, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina;
  • Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic;
  • Denmark;
  • Estonia, European Commission;
  • Finland, France;
  • Georgia, Germany, Greece;
  • Holy See, Hungary;
  • Iceland, Ireland, Italy
  • Kazakhstan;
  • Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg;
  • Malta, Moldova, Montenegro;
  • Netherlands, Norway;
  • Poland, Portugal;
  • Russian Federation, Romania;
  • Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Serbia, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia;
  • Turkey;
  • United Kingdom, Ukraine.

The Irish NFQ has been verified as compatible with the EHEA qualification framework or QF-EHEA making higher education and training qualifications from Ireland consistent with the EHEA bachelor, master and doctorate cycles.

If you intend to study elsewhere in Europe after your sojourn in Ireland, see how your Irish qualification stack up agains the Irish NFQ with the EQF and QF-EHEA:

NFQ Level

Irish Certificates/Diplomas/Degrees

European Qualification Framework Level

QF-European Higher Education Area Level

1

Level 1 Certificate

1

 

2

Level 2 Certificate

3

Level 3 Certificate

2

 

Junior Certificate

 

4

Level 4 Certificate

3

 

Leaving Certificate

5

Level 5 Certificate

4

 

Leaving Certificate

6

Higher Certificate

5

Short Cycle Qualification

Advanced Certificate

7

Ordinary Bachelor Degree

6

First Cycle Descriptor

8

Honours Bachelor Degree

6

Completion of the First Cyle

Higher Diploma

9

Masters Degree

7

Second Cycle

Post-Graduate Diploma

10

Doctoral Degree

8

Third Cycle

Higher Doctorate

Knowing all this, check out the requirements to apply for an Irish student visa.

Authors & Contributors

Jennifer Aranda

Jennifer Aranda

Jennifer S. Aranda is the COO of IVC Immigrant Visa Center, Inc.

Maximino Soliman Aquino

Maximino Soliman Aquino

Maximino Soliman S. Aquino IVC's Human Resources officer and part of the AMSG.

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