Third Level Qualifications & Grades

Attendees at CAREEROSPHERE talks will hear references to things like undergraduate, Honours Bachelor's degrees, two-one’s, Masters degrees and so on. This post is to clarify what these are.



The diagram below shows the National Framework of Qualifications, which sets out the hierarchy of educational awards in Ireland.

The term Undergraduate refers to third level qualifications between Levels 6 and 8, but most often in our seminars we would be referring to a Level 8 Honours Bachelor’s degree. An Honours Bachelor's degree is equivalent to what was simply known as a Bachelor's degree before the NFQ was introduced. Postgraduate refers to qualifications at Level 9 or 10, such as a Masters or PhD (Doctor of Philosophy, also known as a doctoral degree or a doctorate).

The vast majority of undergraduate degrees awarded by the seven Irish universities are Honours Bachelor's degrees, and all of the Institutes of Technology offer Honours Bachelor's degrees also. The IT’s also offer numerous Higher Certificate and Ordinary Bachelor's degrees. The majority of Masters and PhD qualifications are awarded by the Universities.


Grading systems

The table below shows the grading systems used in five of the seven universities.

As you can see, the five universities are consistent for first class honours (often referred to as a “first” or a “one one”, and written 1.1 or 1H1), second class honours grade one (“two one”, written 2.1 or 2H1) and second class honours grade two (“two two”, written 2.2 or 2H2). The only difference is that DCU and TCD don’t have a ‘pass’ grade and refer to everything between 40% and 49% as third class honours. Note that 70% may seem low for a first class honours result, but getting 70% or over in exams at third level is generally much more difficult than in secondary school.

UCD use an American-style GPA system and UL use a QCA system. The UCD GPA system expresses a student’s result as a number between 0 and 4.2, while the UL QCA system expresses the result as a number between 0 and 4.0. We won’t be referring to either system in our seminars so I won’t elaborate any further on them here.