Higher Education Links Scheme

Higher Education Links SchemeIn 2013, FETAC (now QQI) introduced a wide range of major awards with new features, many of which provide links to higher education through the CAO. These awards are part of a national awards system for further education and training known as the Common Awards System (CAS).

A major award reflects a significant amount of learning and creates an opportunity for progression to higher education. A new scoring system for CAO applicants to higher education was also introduced called the Higher Education Links Scheme (HELS), which continues to develop and grow and incorporates the CAS awards with other QQI awards. It provides progression opportunities through the CAO for further education award holders at level 5 and 6 to the first year of higher education programmes.

The HEL scoring system applies to level 5 and 6 awards listed on higher education institutions’ websites. Application requirements are as follows:

  • Progression is on the basis of achieving a major award which provides 120 credits. Scoring is on the basis of credits and component awards or achievement of less than this will not suffice.
  • The applicant must make sure that their QQI registered centre applies to QQIfor a major award prior to application to the CAO
  • A major award may be achieved over more than one year, however applicants should check with individual institutions to confirm.
  • Some programmes in higher education require achievement of specified component awards or additional awards, such as a language, and applicants are advised to check with the CAO and the individual institutions.
  • Results are scored on the best achievement of component awards to a value of 120 credits.

Universities and IT’s both offer places on the scheme but universities only offer places from a reserved quota for QQI award holders. IT’s generally accept applications on the basis on any CAS or QQI (NCVA) award in open competition with Leaving Certificate applicants, however, some programmes, such as some Nursing Degrees, have reserve quotas for QQI applicants only.

Applicants are advised to check all progression opportunities and details of course entry requirements, including additional requirements with the CAO website www.cao.ie and with the Admission Office of individual institutes.


More information about the Higher Education Links Scheme can be viewed on the following link; http://www.qqi.ie/Articles/Pages/Higher-Education-Links-Scheme-(HELS).aspx

Author: Fiona McBennett

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