Common Awards System

The Common Awards System a coherent and structured award system, which is consistent with the National Framework of Qualifications. It is outcomes based. By 2014 every FETAC award will be part of this system. This means that all awards will share common characteristics including:

  • a common format. Awards Specifications make it easy to see the requirements and the standards for each award
  • explicit reference to the award types and level indicators of the National Framework of Qualifications
  • breadth and balance within the structure so that learners achieve specific expertise alongside general knowledge, skill and competence in line with the National Skills Strategy
  • a focus on outcomes of learning - what learners will be able to do on achievement of the award. Standards
    of knowledge, skill and competence are expressed as learning outcomes, facilitating flexibility for providers and programmes
  • a credit system, reflecting the typical amount of learning required, which enables learners to accumulate recognition over time
  • a clear relationship with other FETAC awards to help plan access, transfer and progression
  • a unique six digit code, signalling the level and award type
  • accessibility for all registered providers

For details view the information leaflets A Common Awards System for Further Education and Training and The Common Awards System.....making the moves...as easy as A,P,C.

Award Types

There are four types of Common Award - major, minor, special purpose and supplemental. Award types are an important feature of the National Framework of Qualifications. A major award reflects a significant volume of learning. It is the principal class of award within the Framework. Special purpose awards recognise specific relatively
narrow ranges of learning, typically required for particular jobs. Supplemental awards recognise learning which up-skills or updates previous achievement, again typically in an employment context. All these awards are made up of one or more minor awards.

Minor awards recognise small volumes of learning that are coherent and relevant in their own right, but also link to one of these award types. Minor awards are the building blocks for FETAC awards. Minor awards are also known as components.

Award Specifications
The requirements of common awards are outlined in award specifications. Specifications outline:

  • how an award is structured
  • the purpose of an award
  • the learning outcomes for the award and
  • the appropriate assessment techniques


Award specifications will be available for all major, minor, supplemental and special purpose common awards.

  • certificate specifications, special purpose specifications and supplemental specifications set out the requirements for awards, including the named minor awards
  • component specifications set out the requirements for a minor award

Programme Validation

Any programme leading to a common award must be validated by FETAC, prior to commencement of the programme. Only registered providers, who have agreed quality assurance systems with FETAC may submit programmes for validation. Consult Awards for Validation at Level 1 and Level 2 and Awards for Validation at Levels 3, 4, 5 and 6.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer System (CATS)

  • common awards each have a credit value. Major, special purpose and supplemental awards each state the overall volume of credit that is required; credit is accumulated through the achievement of minor awards
  • credits reflect the amount of learning that is required, based on a notional learning time for typical learners relevant to each level. Notional time includes directed, self-directed learning and effort. One Credit reflects a notional 10 hours of learner effort. Credits are consistently applied at each level. This assists the practical planning and management of programmes
  • credits can be accumulated over time, through the achievement of minor awards. The Credit Accumulation and Transfer System (CATS) creates new opportunities for learners to make all their achievements count more easily across the growing range of transfer and progression opportunities. Providers will be able to improve access arrangements to programmes because for the first time, all further education and training providers in
    Ireland will use a common credit system to describe achievement
  • for detailed information on credits at each level, view www.fetac.ie/fetac/documents/cats2010.pdf
  • the Common Awards System is also compatible with ECVET. ECVET is a European initiative promoting mobility
    for learners, using credit as a common currency. It makes learning achieved abroad count in Ireland, and our
    achievements more easily understood in other countries
  • any CAS major award at level 5 or 6 can be used as a basis for progression to higher education through the
    Central Applications Office (CAO) on the basis of a consistent scoring mechanism. For detailed information
    view www.fetac.ie/fetac/documents/casL56score2010.pdf