Third-Level Alternatives: Real Talk

So you didn’t get the Leaving Certificate results you’d hoped for, but can’t see yourself going back to repeat? Don’t despair, where there is a will there’s a way, let’s talk options…

The vast majority of Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses are now accredited by QQI (previously FETAC and HETAC) and are primarily aimed at students interested in pursuing technological or vocational professions.

PLC courses can be a great alternative to a degree for students not yet ready for the pressures of university life and indeed for early school leavers.

According to the National Framework of Qualifications, QQI award 4 and 5 accreditation is comparable to the Irish Leaving Certificate cycle.

Typical courses offered at this level include: Art and Design, Childcare Studies/Special Needs Assistant (SNA), Media Studies, and Travel and Tourism.

Students who go on to successfully complete their course have the option to progress to a level 6 award or try for entry into a third level institute.

An example of this would be Trinity College Dublin offering level 5 holders the opportunity to progress to General Health Nursing, Mental Health Nursing, Science or Midwifery degrees if they have earned distinctions in 5 modules.

This system has become increasingly popular in recent years with a great number of universities holding places open specifically for PLC applicants.

For more information on what PLC courses are available in your area click here.

Often third level institutes will offer an Access Program course to students who don’t meet existing university requirements and are socio-economically or culturally disadvantaged.

The University of Limerick offers a 1 year Mature Student Access Programme (MSAC) which, if completed satisfactorily, guarantees entry to 19 of UL’s undergraduate courses.

The pre-degree course enables students to undertake a foundation level of academic study and is held on campus, enabling students to achieve an integrated college experience.

The MSAC places a heavy emphasis on developing good study and I.T skills. Students are also given the option of following the Science, Humanities, Business or Engineering course streams.

For more information on the MSAC check out UL’s Mature Student Access Brochure.

The University College Dublin Adult Education Centre are also offering an access programme for applicants aged 22 and over.

Lastly, there’s a multitude of reasons as to why someone might choose to study abroad, easier entry requirements for medicine or veterinary could be among them.

While it can be fairly crushing to find out the CAO points for the course needed to secure your dream job are crazy high here in Ireland, you shouldn’t despair.

As an EU citizen, you are entitled to study in any EU country under the same conditions as nationals and entry requirements are often far lower than they are here at home.

In recent years, studying in Poland, Budapest and Czechoslovakia has become an incredibly attractive prospect for many Irish students due to the lower cost of fees, living expenses and more reasonable entry requirements.

Studying abroad invariably brings with it its own set of quagmires, but ultimately, if it offers you the opportunity to pursue the career of your dreams, it’s worth it.

Have you ever considered moving abroad to study or looked at the many access courses available in Irish universities? Let us know in the comments.

*This article first appeared on



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