Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) is a state agency established by the Quality Assurance and Qualifications (Education and Training) Act 2012. QQI is an amalgamation of the previously operational 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).

QQI are responsible for a number of areas including:

  • Developing of awards and standards
  • Validating Education and Training programmes
  • Reviewing providers of education and training
  • Maintaining the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ)
  • Authorising the use of the International Education Mark
  • Developing Quality Assurance
  • Facilitating Qualifications Recognition


Qualifications, Standards, Awards, Recognition

In the area of qualifications, they are responsible for maintaining the ten-level NFQ (National Framework of Qualifications).

QQI are also an awarding body and set standards for awards we make in the NFQ.

QQI validate education and training programmes and make extensive awards in the Further Education and Training sector including in the Education and Training Boards.

QQI also make awards in Higher Education mainly to learners in private providers. The universities and institutes of technology largely make their own awards.

They also provide advice on recognition of foreign qualifications in Ireland and on the recognition of Irish qualifications abroad.

As a new function of QQI, they will publish a directory of providers and awards in the NFQ.


Quality Assurance

In the area of quality assurance, we are responsible for reviewing the effectiveness of quality assurance in further and higher education providers in Ireland.

This includes the universities, institutes of technology, Education and Training Boards and providers in the private further and higher education and training sectors (availing of QQI awards).

They publish the outcomes of these external reviews on this its website – www.qqi.ie.



Another new function of QQI is to authorise the use of an International Education Mark (IEM) for providers.

This will be awarded to providers of education and training (including English language training) who have demonstrated compliance with a statutory code of practice in the provision of education and training to international students.


The Common Awards System (CAS)

“The Common Awards System (CAS) is a system of linked FET (Further Education and Training) awards specifications at NFQ (National Framework of Qualifications) Levels 1 to 6 inclusive”. (QQI, 2015)

These specifications contain the minimum expected learning outcomes to be met in order to gain an award. These awards standards reflect the knowledge, skill and competence to be achieved by the learner in order to gain their award.

At present there are approximately 1,600 active awards specifications in the CAS.


Types of QQI FET Awards

The Common Awards System makes use of the NFQ’s four main award classifications:

Major Awards

A major award is the principal class of award made at each level. It represents a significant volume of learning outcomes. Major awards usually comprise of 8 minor awards / modules. The CAS Specification for each major award lists the mandatory modules which must be completed along with the elective modules which are required to make up the overall specified credit value of the award. The default credit values for Major awards are as follows:

Level Default Credit Value
1 20
2 30
3 60
4 90
5 120
6 120


Minor Awards

Minor awards are also commonly referred to as component certificates. These awards are single modules which can be completed and certificated individually. All minor awards are linked to a major award which allows learners the opportunity to build on their minor awards and work towards gaining a major award. It is important to note that minor awards are achievements in their own right. Learners wishing to focus on one specific area or gain a specific skills e.g. Digital Marketing, Team Leadership etc. may find that completing a minor award in that area is much more appropriate that completing a major award which may be too broad to meet their specific needs. The default credit values for component awards are as follows:

Level Default Credit Value
1-2 5
3-4 10
5-6 15


Special Purpose Awards

A special purpose award is an award type developed for specific areas of learning that have a narrow scope. All special purpose awards comprise one or more components. This means that the credit value of this type of award will be higher than that of a minor award but significantly lower than a major award.  An example of this type of award is the Special Purpose Awards in Training and Development 6S3372. This 30 credit special purpose award is a specific award in Training and Development and consists of two mandatory components / modules at level 6 each with a credit value of 15.


Supplemental Awards

A supplemental award is an award which recognises learning concerned with updating/up-skilling and/or continuing education and training. They are occupation related awards and they consist of  one or more components. An example of this type of award is the Level 6 Supplemental Award in Gas Safety which consists of one component with a credit value of 20.


Ten-level system



The National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) is a ten-level system (1–10) giving an academic or vocational value to qualifications obtained in Ireland.

NFQ levels help indicate how an award can be used for training, education and employment opportunities (see fan diagram).

Each level is based on nationally agreed standards of what a learner is expected to know and be able to do after receiving an award.

QQI is Ireland’s guardian of the NFQ system. We are responsible for the quality assurance of providers of education and training. We also have responsibility for the validation of qualifications and also make some awards ourselves.

NFQ serves several purposes.

  • It ensures awards obtained in Ireland are quality-assured and recognised internationally
  • It is part of a system for comparing Irish and international awards
  • It supports lifelong learning by recognising knowledge and skills within a comparative framework even if they are not recognised by a formal award
  • It provides a system of establishing eligibility in learning processes for access, transfer and progression
  • It recognises awards made by professional bodies (see Qualifications Recognition Service below)



NFQ is linked to similar frameworks in Europe. This helps people considering employment or study opportunities outside Ireland.

There are two qualifications frameworks at European level:

  1. The Framework for Qualifications of the European Higher Education Area also known as the ‘Bologna Framework’. This deals with higher education awards (NFQ 6-10)
  2. The European Qualifications Framework (EQF), which deals with all NFQ levels including schools, Further Education and Training, and Higher Education


Qualifications Recognition Service

QQI offers a free Qualifications Recognition Advice Service for those seeking guidance on the academic recognition of awards obtained outside the Irish system. We have also developed a system for professional bodies to have their awards recognised in the NFQ.


The Open College is Ireland’s Largest dedicated provider of QQI FET awards by distance learning, attendance learning and eLearning. We have over 90 QQI awards on offer. To view our full catalogue of QQI Major, Minor component and Special Purpose awards please click here…..