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Tertiary Education System Ireland

The creation of a unified tertiary system is one of the priorities of the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science. The Department’s “Statement of Strategy 2021 to 2023” outlines six strategic goals, one of which centres around developing talent and skills. Crucial to the achievement of this goal is the provision of diverse and progressive pathways for learners, enabling progression across and between different institutions.

The publication of the funding and reform framework for higher education, “Funding the Future” highlighted the creation of a unified, balanced and integrated knowledge and skills system as one of its five priority strands of work. The system will be characterised by clear and extensive pathways for learners, and an expansive qualifications frameworks aligned to current and future knowledge and skills needs.

The vision for “Progressing a More Unified Tertiary System for Learning, Skills and Knowledge” outlined the creation of more diverse and better aligned learning and development opportunities as well as more extensive pathways will enable students’ personal growth, the development of talents, and the promotion of lifelong learning; recognising that pathways and transitions between sectors required further development and expansion.

The SOLAS “Transforming Learning Strategy 2022-2024” also highlighted the need for transitions within FET and from FET to HE as a strategic priority. This coupled with a dedicated focus to support the PATH3 funding scheme for the FET & HE sectors would result in a cohesive approach to developing the FE-HE links further in the FET sector.

National Tertiary Office

The commitment to the realisation of these priorities and the creation of diverse and progressive pathways  through increased collaboration and stronger co-operation in the tertiary education system is being led by the National Tertiary Office (NTO). The establishment of the National Tertiary Office was a significant development in Ireland’s further and higher education landscape and plays an important role in shaping the future of the country’s tertiary education system.

The National Tertiary Office is responsible for coordinating and supporting the development of policy in relation to further and higher education progression pathways for students. Working with the Higher Education Institutions and the Education and Training Boards the NTO is advancing a strategic approach to enhancing the pathways between the Further Education and Training and Higher Education sectors in a number of specific programme areas. These collaborations between Higher Education Institutions and Education and Training Boards will see students commence their third level experience in further education and complete it in a partner higher education institution. The National Tertiary Office is jointly managed by the HEA and SOLAS. Dr. Fiona Maloney is the Director of the National Tertiary Office.

Tertiary Education Partnerships and Programmes

Tertiary Degrees developed by the Education and Training Boards and Higher Education Institutions provide transitioning pathways from Further Education to Higher Education which are:

  • Driven by the career you want; not the points you get
  • Look beyond educational attainment and grades
  • Focused on acknowledging your full talent and potential
  • Enabling of personal growth, development of talents, and the promotion of lifelong learning
  • Progressing a More Unified Tertiary System for learning, skills and knowledge
  • Learner-centric, with a defined learner journey through to professional practice / industry placement.

Transition from Further Education to Higher Education will be completely seamless, through the development of shared curriculum, teaching collaboration, programme co-design and co-delivery within shared space and shared student experience.


Twitter: @NTOIreland
Instagram: NTOireland

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