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Qualifications in Ireland and Northern Ireland - comparisons

Information applies to: All

There are many different types of awards and qualifications available in Ireland and Northern Ireland.  When travelling between the two jurisdictions whether to live, work or study, it is useful to know how your qualifications translate in the other jurisdiction.

The Irish awarding bodies and qualifications authorities and Northern Ireland awarding and qualifications regulatory bodies undertook an exercise to align/cross reference the qualifications frameworks in the UK and Ireland.

National authorities

UK & Northern Ireland


UK NARIC external website is the UK’s National Academic Recognition Information Centre and provides services for individuals and organisations to compare international qualifications against UK qualification framework levels. It is a Government service, managed by ECCTIS Ltd.

The organisation offers products and services in 3 main areas:

  • Services for individuals: provides comparison statements for people with international qualifications planning to work or study in the UK.
  • Services for organisations
  • Consultancy

The Northern Ireland Department for Employment and Learning (DELNI) provides advice to non-national clients who wish to have their qualifications checked.  See Are your country's qualifications recognised in the UK? external website for further details.


Quality and Qualifications Ireland

Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) external website was established in November 2012 under the Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) Act 2012 as a new integrated agency under the ageis of the Department of Education and Skills (replacing the Further Education and Training Awards Council, the Higher Education and Training Awards Council and the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland and incorporating the functions of the Irish Universities Quality Board).  QQI is responsible for the external quality assurance of further and higher education and training (including English language provision) and validates programmes and makes awards for certain providers in these sectors. QQI is also responsible for the maintenance, development and review of the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ). external website

Qualifications Recognition Service

Qualifications Recognition external website, based at Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) provides advice on the academic recognition of foreign qualifications which can be used for the purpose of access to employment and / or further study.

Qualifications Recognition acts as the Irish centre in an international network known as ENIC-NARIC (European Network of Information Centres / National Academic Recognition Information Centres). This Network shares information on qualifications and education systems around the world.  
Further information and contact details for each centre are available at external website

The fourth edition of the leaflet entitled 'Qualifications can cross boundaries – a rough guide to comparing qualifications in the UK and Ireland' was published by QQI in 2013. The leaflet is a ready reckoner for employers, learners and other interested parties, designed to enable broad comparisons to be drawn between qualifications and their levels In Ireland and Northern Ireland. The leaflet is available to download at external website

This section of the Qualifications Recognition website also provides advice on how Northern Irish qualifications such as those below compare to Irish qualifications

  • General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE)
  • General Certificate of Education (GCE) A level / General Certificate of Education (GCE) AS Level
  • Higher National Diploma (HND) / Higher National Certificate (HNC) / Foundation Degree

Features on the Qualifications Recognitions Service

  • International Qualifications Database: work is ongoing on preparing country profiles which describe the education and qualifications systems in specific countries.  These profiles are designed to help employers, institutions and individuals understand foreign qualifications and check their comparability in Ireland.
  • Irish Country Education Profile: a detailed description of the Irish education and training system is available to help understand recognition advice provided and to help in ensuring fair recognition of Irish qualifications abroad.

National Framework of Qualifications

In 2003, the National Framework of Qualifications was introduced. It provides a way to compare qualifications, and to ensure that they are quality assured and recognised at home and abroad.

The Framework is a 10 level structure accommodating qualifications gained in schools, the workplace, the community, training centres, colleges and universities, from the most basic to the most advanced levels of learning Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) is responsible for leading the development and implementation of the Framework.

The NFQ website external website contains useful information for Learners, Employers, Providers and Advisors.


The Europass initiative, launched in 2005 aims to help people make their skills and qualifications more clearly and easily understood in Europe, thus facilitating the mobility of both learners and workers. The Europass portfolio comprises 5 documents which have been designed in such a way as to help people chronicle their skills and competences in a coherent manner, whether they are planning to enroll in an education or training programme, looking for a job, or getting experience abroad.

The Irish National Europass Centre (NEC) is located at Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI). Further information is available at external website

In Northern Ireland please contact the UK National Europass Centre (NEC) - external website

Professional qualifications

Under the EU Directives for the Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications external website provisions are made whereby professionals qualified in one (home) Member State can seek professional recognition of their qualifications in another (host) Member State for the purpose of practising their profession in that host Member State.

These Directives apply only where the profession is regulated in the host Member State i.e where the practice of the profession is confined by law, regulation or administrative procedure to persons who hold specific qualifications, or registration/recognition from a specific competent authority or professional body.

There are a number of professions which are regulated in the south. Examples of such professions include teaching, medicine and physiotherapy. Access to regulated professions is regulated by law and in order to work in that profession in Ireland, you need the approval of the designated competent authority.

Recognition of professional qualifications

See also:

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Permalink: Qualifications in Ireland and Northern Ireland - comparisons
Themes: Work, Study
Categories: Employment, Education
Life Events: Going to third level education (Studying), Going back to education, Working
Target Groups: Job-seekers, All, Frontier workers, People in training, Students, Workers, Migrant workers
Last updated: 16 April 2014

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