There are thousands of courses run all over Ireland to suit the requirements of people of all ages. These courses are provided at many schools, colleges and community education groups and offer a wide variety of daytime, evening, full-time and part-time courses for adult learners. They range from one day hobby courses to those more aimed at improving general education. Most of these courses are fee paying - the amount charged being set by the course providers, and usually reflects the duration of the course.
Day and Evening Courses
There are nearly 10,000 courses run throughout Ireland with opportunities for anyone who wants to return to education, regardless of age, and there is a huge range of subjects on offer. Classes are of varying duration, from 6 weeks to 2 years. Some will offer professional certification, while others provide new skills, crafts or help to develop or further your interests.
Professional development courses help to develop skills and knowledge for both personal development and career advancement. Courses range from college degrees to formal coursework, conferences and informal learning opportunities situated in practice. A wide variety of people, such as teachers, health care professionals, lawyers, accountants and engineers engage in continuous professional development.
People participate in professional development because of an interest in lifelong learning, a sense of moral obligation, to maintain and improve professional competence, enhance career progression, keep abreast of new technology and practice, or to comply with professional regulatory organisations.
Nightclasses take place during school terms, usually starting in September and January in VEC centres, schools and colleges throughout the country. The courses on offer vary from centre to centre so it is worth looking around if you have a particular interest you would like to pursue.
Search for Lifelong Learning courses here (includes Repeat Leaving Cert courses)
Upskilling & Short Courses
These courses are mostly undertaken by individuals looking for some upskilling in their area of work or as a method of improving their skills for any future work. These courses are of less than 6 weeks duration and cover such topics as accounting, word processing, acting, Health and Safety, ECDL and personal development, to mention a just a few!
Search for short / upskilling courses here
Mature Students & Access Courses
The decision to return to third level education after a break from formal learning or entering it for the first time as a mature student is a significant one. Mature students bring life experience and determination with them. There is a wide range of options open to learners wishing to return to third level education.
Universities, Institutes of Technology and private colleges offer courses at Level 6 and above on the National Framework of Qualifications. Courses are available on a full-time and part-time basis. If you are over 23, you are generally regarded as a mature student. Entry requirements (you may not need your Leaving Certificate) vary from course to course and from institution to institution.
The Central Applications Office (CAO) manages entry to undergraduate courses at Irish universities. Most Higher Education Institutions (HEI's) will require you to apply through the CAO, some colleges require you to apply directly and others may require you to do both. Many HEI's also require prospective students to attend an interview.
For further information contact the Mature Student Officer in the institution where you are planning to take your course.
'Return to Learning' or 'Access Courses' are designed for mature students, who for social, economic or educational reasons have not yet realised their full educational potential, but who have a deep desire to continue their education at Third Level, on either a full-time and or a part-time basis. Access courses are primarily aimed at adults who have been away from formal education for a number of years and would like to improve their skills, confidence and knowledge in order to access a third level course.
Access courses familiarise students with the structure and requirements of third level education. Some of these courses prepare the learner for specific courses such as Engineering or Science while others provide a general preparation for courses in Humanities and Social Science.
The following Third Level institutions offer Access courses to mature students:
- Athlone Institute of Technology: Foundation Certificate
- Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology: Foundation Course
- Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology: FETAC Foundation Course
- Institute of Technology Blanchardstown: Foundation Course
- Institute of Technology Tipperary: The Highway Programme
- Institute of Technology Tralee: Foundation Certificate
- Institute of Technology Waterford: Access Programme
- Letterkenny Institute of Technology: Foundation Certificate
- Mary Immaculate College Limerick: Adult Education Access Programmes
- NUI Galway: Access Course Mature Students
- NUI Galway and Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology
- NUI Maynooth: Science and Engineering Foundation Year
- NUI Maynooth: Return to Learning
- St Angela‟s College Sligo: Access Course
- Trinity College: Trinity Access Programme (TAP)
- University of Limerick: Mature Student Access Certificate Course
- University College Dublin: Access/Foundation Course
Search for Mature or Access courses here
Distance or Online Learning
Distance Education is learning which is not linked to a physical location at fixed times throughout the academic year. It is fast becoming a new trend in education circles. Open learning, On-Line Learning and Distance Learning all qualify as types of Distance Education. The main advantage of this type of learning is that it can be combined with domestic and work commitments.
Distance Education invariably involves learning at a distance from the tutor, with the help of packaged learning materials. Programmes and entry requirements often parallel those delivered by traditional methods. Learners often work in isolation from other learners and tutors, but receive telephone and web-based guidance and support.
Generally Distance Education programmes are based on lifestyles and are chosen as an alternative to attending traditional classes. Study can be done at the learner's own pace and can be combined with domestic and work responsibilities. Classes can sometimes be taken at weekends or part-time and may involve online, televised or campus lectures. Students need to be very well disciplined and take responsibility for allocating the appropriate amount of time to their studies. Unfortunately Distance Education doesn't qualify for free fees although some courses do qualify for tax-relief.
Search for Distance Learning courses here
Search for Online Learning courses here