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National Framework of Qualifications

National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) is a single national system of assessment criteria that is recognised internationally around the world. It was introduced in 2003 and it defines the relationship and transition between different stages of education and training. The Framework consists of 10 levels which resemble awards from secondary school to University postgraduate studies.

These 10 levels are separated into two sectors with levels 1-5 being school certificates and 6-10 being further and higher education levels. There are two school awards, at level 3 and levels 4-5, that are granted and assessed by the State Examinations Commission. The first award is the Junior Certificate which is granted on a successful completion of the first three years of secondary education. After further two (with an optional transition year - three) years of preparation there is the second award, Leaving Certificate which is the final in secondary education. It allows students to move to further education, training and higher education.

Further Education Training and Awards (FETAC) is the national body that controls and oversees further education institutions. FETAC offers programmes covering levels 1-6 of the NFQ whereas universities and colleges cover levels 7-10 and these programmes are mostly vocational although with provision of general knowledge. After finishing a FETAC course students are able to go into the work market unless they want to continue studying which is also possible at this stage.

At level 6 there are two awards - Advanced and Higher Certificates with the former being awarded by FETAC and the later by Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC),  Dublin Institutes of Technology and Institutes of Technology. While Advance Certificate would most likely lead to pursuing a job, Higher Certificate would lead towards continuing education to the the next level on the framework.

Levels 7-10 are covered by Ireland Universities and some Colleges and Institutes of Technology recognised by HETAC. Level 7 refers to the Ordinary Bachelor Degree, level 8 - Honours Bachelor Degree, level 9 - Master's Degree and level 10 - Doctorate Degree. More about University education can be found .