Last week, this column looked at an overview of the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) and why it is important for students and their parents to understand it, in order to assist them in making decisions about course applications to the CAO and elsewhere.
This week, we will look at two levels in more detail.
A Level 8 degree is also known as an honours degree. This is what many people think of when they think of a traditional university degree. They are generally four years in duration, with some notable exceptions. Medicine, for example, is five or six years and arts degrees are often three years. Students mainly apply for these courses through the CAO, with some private colleges offering Level 8 courses outside of the CAO system.
Leaving Cert. students are required to meet the minimum entry requirements, in terms of grades and subjects, for these courses, and then compete with other students on CAO points to win a place.
In previous years, the minimum requirements for all Level 8 courses were two higher level C3 grades (HC3) and four ordinary level D3 (0D3) grades, with the exception of Trinity College Dublin, which required three higher level C3s and three ordinary level D3s.
This year, there are new Leaving Cert. grading and points systems. Students will still be required to present at least six subjects to the CAO. Under the new system, these must include two H5 grades (minimum 50pc) and four O6/H7 grades (minimum 40pc at ordinary level or 30pc and above at higher level). Trinity will continue to require three H5 grades and minumum grades of O6/H7 in three other subjects.
CAO points for Level 8 courses in 2016 were as high as 595 depending on supply and demand. Level 8 degrees are offered at universities, institutes of technology, private colleges and training colleges.
Level 7 degrees are known as ordinary degrees. They are generally three years in duration and students mainly apply for these courses through the CAO, while some private colleges offer Level 7 courses outside of the CAO system.
Once again, Leaving Cert students are required to meet the minimum entry requirements in terms of grades and essential subjects, and then compete for places on CAO points. Many institutions require a student to achieve five O6/H7 grades for entry to Level 7, although there are some exceptions.
Essential subject requirements are also lower for Level 7 courses. For example, a student wishing to study engineering at Level 8 in DIT will require a H4 in maths, while engineering courses at Level 7 in DIT require an O4/H7 in maths.
Level 7 degrees are offered at universities, institutes of technology and private colleges. CAO points last year ranged from AQA to 460. The majority of Level 7 degree courses contain an option of an add-on year. This makes it possible for students to complete one extra year and receive a Level 8 qualification.
In order to identify if a Level 7 course offers an add-on year to achieve a Level 8, students can check the CAO handbook. If the course offers an add-on year, the third column of the handbook will contain the letters 'DG+HD'. DG indicates that the course is a degree while +HD indicates that an add-on year is available to achieve an honours degree.
CAO applicants should bear in mind that with the changes this year to the Leaving Certificate grading and CAO points systems, it is impossible to predict the cut-off points for any CAO courses in 2017.
Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin
Q. Under the new Leaving Cert grading/points systems, will there still be a Foundation Level and will points be awarded?
A Maths and Irish will continue to be available at foundation level. Many colleges may accept foundation maths if there is no ordinary or higher level maths requirement for a particular course, but most do not award points — one example is DIT. A small number award points for certain courses. Applicants should check the arrangements in each college. One that does award points for foundation level maths for Level 7/6 courses is Dundalk IT.
Students who achieve an F2 (over 80pc) will be awarded 12 points and an F1 grade (over 90pc) will attract 20 points. Students should aim to take the highest level possible in every subject. This is particularly true for maths, as many colleges require it for entry. However, a student at risk of failing ordinary level maths may find themselves with more opportunities from achieving a high grade at foundation level than failing ordinary level.
Ahead Better Options fair - O'Brien Centre UCD
Mature Student Evening - Cork IT
Open Evening - Griffith College Cork
Open Day - Griffith College Dublin and Limerick
Open Evening - ICHAS
Open Day - NCI
Open Day (2pm-7pm) - Open University, Holles St, Dublin
UCD Agri/Food Science Info Evening - Newpark Hotel, Kilkenny
CMETB Career Event - Monaghan Educ. Campus
Info Evening - Colaiste Dhulaigh
Portfolio Clinic - DIT
Mature Student Evening - IADT
Mary Immaculate College Info Evening - St Patrick's Campus Thurles
Architecture Open Day - UCC
Open Day (2 Days) - Athlone IT
Open Day (2 Days) - IADT
Open Day - GMIT Letterfrack
Open Day - IT Carlow (Wexford Campus)
Open Day -Letterkenny IT
LMETD Adult CAO Workshop - Navan Alpha Student Hub
Open Day (2 Days) - Maynooth University
Open Day (2 Days) - Pontifical College Maynooth
Drop in Day - Cavan Institute
Geology Workshop - UCD
Open Day/Evening - IT Blanchardstown
EUNICAS - Fota Island Resort Hotel Cork
Parents Info Evening UCC - Brandon Hotel Tralee
Maths and BAFS Open Night - UCD
Open Day -NCAD
UCD Agri/Food Science Info Evening - Clarion Hotel Cork