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Home » Education » Tertiary degrees in Ireland offer an accessible alternative to traditional pathways

Fiona Maloney

Director, National Tertiary Office

Irish education is shifting, with 40+ new tertiary degrees enhancing accessibility, streamlining registration processes and offering comprehensive support.

Irish education providers have started making crucial, fundamental changes to how students can access courses. Students who hope to pursue a third-level degree no longer only have the option to apply via the traditional Central Application Office (CAO) route; students can now apply for university outside of the Leaving Certificate points system.

New tertiary degrees available nationwide

The groundbreaking new tertiary degrees, developed by the National Tertiary Office (NTO) and partner institutions across the country, mean students have an additional pathway to get their desired degree, by starting studies at their local Education and Training Board (ETB).

At the launch last July, Taoiseach Simon Harris, then Minister for Further and Higher Education, described tertiary degrees as “the single biggest transformation to education access in decades.”

What are tertiary degrees?

Tertiary degrees are a new way for students to get the course and, ultimately, the career they want. The final award is the same: a bachelor’s or honours degree (level 7 or 8 on the National Framework of Qualifications). However, the traditional delivery model and entry requirements have been redesigned to increase and widen access to higher education.

Tertiary degree students start studies at their local ETB before continuing their degree at a Higher Education Institution (HEI). The local start at an ETB means smaller initial class sizes and more hands-on support. In the second or third year of study, students move to the campus of the partner university full-time to finish their degree and graduate.

Tertiary degrees are a new way for students to get the course and, ultimately, the career they want.

Seamless, dual-registered tertiary education

The progression from further to higher education is seamless, thanks to close collaboration between the providers sharing resources and expertise when designing courses. A ‘best of both worlds’ approach has been implemented for student support. From the first day, tertiary degree students are registered at both the ETB and the HEI. This dual registration allows them to access services and facilities at both institutions, including libraries, sports centres and academic, health and wellbeing supports.

In 2024, there are over 40 courses available, ranging from animation, business, construction management, nursing, social work, IT and sustainable engineering.

Why Ireland needs this new model

The NTO has been tasked with bringing together partners across the sector to create opportunities for students who want to move from further to higher education. These collaborations mean this generation of school leavers, and mature applicants hoping to return to education, can now enrol without needing to use the traditional points system.

To ensure that third-level education is accessible to everyone, no matter where they are and regardless of their financial standing, tertiary degrees also have a range of student financial supports available.  

Tertiary degrees will have a massive impact on how students access our colleges, universities and workplaces. They facilitate wider participation, ultimately enhancing diversity across professions. The first programme of its kind in Europe, tertiary degrees are levelling the playing field in third-level education.

Available and upcoming tertiary degrees

There are already 40+ tertiary degrees on offer from Letterkenny to Cork, but the goal is to increase the number and geographical spread each year. As more ETBs and HEIs partner, the NTO will always look for unique ways to put the learner at the heart of education.

To stay up to date as new degrees are announced, follow our social media: @ntoireland.
View the full list of courses on and find answers under FAQs.
Prospective students can email: [email protected]

 Applications for 2024/25 are open from now until September at

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