Higher Education Links Scheme

Progression Routes for Higher Education

The HELS (Higher Education Links Scheme) provides progression opportunities for learners achieving QQI-Fetac Level 5 and Level 6 major awards and who are interested in applying for Higher Education programmes through the CAO (Central Applications Office). Since its inception over a decade ago, the scheme has expanded progression routes to Higher Education programmes. Programmes leading to Level 5 and Level 6 Major Awards are available with providers who have programmes validated with QQI.

To get full details of the range of Higher Education institutions and programmes available under the scheme, please contact the admissions office of the individual Higher Education institution or visit www.cao.ie

Rules for Eligibility to the Higher Education Links Scheme

  • Progression requires a Level 5 or Level 6 major award, with at least 120 credits
  • Component awards, or achievement of less than 120 credits, will not suffice
  • The applicant is responsible for ensuring their provider applies to QQI for a Major Award prior to application to CAO

Applicants MUST check both the individual Higher Education institution and CAO websites to ensure they meet any special requirements including for example:

  • Achievement of particular component(s) award
  • Specific grades in individual components
  • Additional awards, such as mathematics
  • Whether the institution requires all credits be achieved in a ‘single sitting’

What does ‘single sitting’ mean?

A major award may be achieved over more than one year. Some Higher Education institutions require the achievement of 120 credits within a ‘single sitting’ between 1 August and 31 July of any certification year. Check the CAO and Higher Education institutions’ websites.

The Scoring System Work

The scoring system applies where all the requirements for the major award are met, ie when the specified component awards have been achieved, totalling 120 credits. To calculate your score, you must know the credit value of your component awards.

Achievement of each component award is graded as Distinction, Merit or Pass. Distinction grade is weighted at 3.333°, Merit at 2.222° and Pass at 1.111°.
This is then multiplied by the individual component credit value to a maximum 120 credits. For components with a credit value of less than 5 credits, multiply the credit value by 15. Components leading to the best 120 credits are scored and applicants are ranked accordingly. The best 120 credits come from component awards achieved with the highest grades. A score of 400 points is the most that can be achieved.

We calculate the best score obtained for each applicant and then forward these results to the CAO in July of each year.  

Practical steps to calculating your own score

  • List your component awards, ranking them in order of Distinction, Merit, and / or Pass to a total value of 120 credits. The best score is achieved through counting the highest grades up to 120 credits
  • For a component award that is not part of the Common Award System (CAS) with a credit value of less than 15, multiply the credit value by 15. For example, a component might have a credit value of 1, therefore 1x15=15.
  • Multiply the credit value by the grade weighting. It is simplest to do this by scoring 3 for Distinction, 2 for merit and 1 for Pass, multiplying the total by 10 and dividing by 9. View scoring examples below. 

Important Documents

Scoring Examples
Progression an Overview
Progression to Higher Education Courses - Linked Awards

Note: Applicants are advised to confirm linked awards, any additional module requirements, application processes and scoring systems with the Admission Offices of the participating higher education institutions or visit www.cao.ie

Note: All information relating to linked courses has been provided by the participating Higher Education institutions and every effort has been made to ensure it is accurate and current.