University Access Courses

University Access Courses

Access Courses are specially designed courses which help adult learners prepare for university. Sometimes called Return to Learning, or Foundation courses, University Access Courses equip mature students with the skills and confidence required to take the next step to selected degree courses.

University Access Course Resources

Some examples of university access courses are listed below. There are also many others available throughout the country.

  • Trinity College Dublin runs a Foundation Course for Mature Students. This is an access course that prepares mature students, both personally and academically, to go on and study for a degree. The course was set up in 1997 to tackle educational disadvantage. It offers another route to third-level education for mature students whose social, economic and cultural experiences have prevented them from going to college. More information about the Trinity College Foundation Course can be viewed at
  • University College Dublin (UCD) Access & Lifelong Learning offer Access to Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences and Law and Access to Science, Engineering and Agriculture courses to mature students. These are Special Purpose Awards, Level 6, which equip mature students with the skills and confidence required to take the next step to a Third Level course in UCD. The UCD access courses guarantee entry to a number of degree programmes in UCD once course assessment criteria are met. More information available at
  • NUI Galway offers a Diploma in Foundation Studies. This Access Course is a 1 year course that aims to provide mature students with the opportunity to prepare personally and academically, for an undergraduate course of full-time study of at least 3 years duration at NUI Galway. The course is designed to meet the learning needs of the adult student and provide individual attention and assistance where appropriate. Participants who successfully complete the Access Course receive a Diploma in Foundation Studies (Level 6 30 ECTs) from NUI Galway and are eligible to apply for direct entry via the CAO to full-time University degree courses in the Colleges of Arts, Business, Public Policy and Law, Social Sciences and Celtic Studies, Science, Engineering and Informatics. In certain instances, interviews with the Department Head or School Head may also be required. More information is available at
  • Maynooth University runs a Certificate in Return to Learning.
    This Certificate level course is designed as a stepping stone for those who wish to return to study but have not studied in any formal way for a number of years. Participants are given an opportunity to sample a number of academic subjects so that they can make a more informed choice when selecting subjects later. More information available at

Other third level colleges also run access programmes so it is worth while contacting a college of interest and enquiring if they run these courses or other return to learning course options for mature students. A mature student is usually classified as being at least 23 years of age on January 1 of the year of entry to a course.

Access courses are usually offered on a part time basis a couple of evenings a week, and in some cases on Saturday mornings over two semesters. Students must achieve a minimum attendance rate and achieve a certain grade to proceed further. The access guarantee usually refers to the year of completion, though deferrals may be arranged in some circumstances.

Students attending access or foundation courses that are on the Department of Education’s approved list of post-leaving certificate courses may be eligible for funding under the Student Grant Scheme. However, students attending a foundation or access course in any other college or university will not be eligible for funding. An access or foundation course is considered to be a second-level course for the Back to Education Allowance. For more specific details or options regarding access courses, students should contact the university of choice or local Education and Training Board.