For many adults, returning to learning may be daunting. It is important, therefore, to consider returning to education at a level which best suits you and your life circumstances.

QQI Level 3

A QQI Level 3 General Learning course could be your first stepping stone back into education. At this level there are no examinations, with all assignments marked on a continuous assessment basis. Modules can include communications, mathematics, computer literacy, preparation for work, office procedures, personal and interpersonal skills amongst others. There is usually a high level of tutor support for learners.

QQI Level 5

Other adult learners may prefer to attend a QQI Level 5 course, in a more specific area of study e.g. engineering studies, childcare, office skills and so on. Such courses are offered at various centres e.g. Further Education Centres or Post-Leaving Certificate Colleges (PLC).

VTOS and BTEI centres can also offer QQI Level 5 modules but more specific entry criteria must be satisfied.  Please check with the individual centres for their course eligibility requirements.  For some learners studying for a QQI Level 5 course may be useful in making a future application for a course at a third level institution as a mature student.  For others it may be to develop skills in a specific area to find employment.

Single Modules

Some adult learners may wish to study individual modules of third level degree programmes. Learners may sit the assessments and exams in these modules.  This provides the opportunity for adults to gain an understanding of what is to be expected if they were to undertake a full time degree programme. If you are interested in this form of study you will need to contact the Admissions Office in the Higher Education Institution directly.

Preparatory Courses – Third Level

Many potential mature learners opt for, or are required to take, a ‘preparatory course’ either in a Third Level Institution or in a Further Education Centre which is linked to the Third Level Institution, before embarking on a degree programme. These courses re-introduce learners to the world of learning, while providing opportunities for gaining various important academic skills e.g. note taking, reading, writing, research/library skills and IT skills. Learners can also sample a range of academic subjects, the aim of which is to encourage learners to make more informed choices regarding course selection at third level.

These courses may also be called foundation certificates and can carry QQI Level 5 accreditation. Assessment is carried out in a number of ways, including attendance, class participation and written assignments which may include essay writing, keeping a learning journal and/or research projects. Assignments are normally submitted throughout the year and individual support can also be available to learners.

Carlow Institute of Further Education has a Third Level Link Programme to courses in Carlow College.  It also has a co-operation agreement with the Institute of Technology Carlow and with Waterford Institute of Technology for learners considering progressing to higher level courses.