You may feel a little daunted or confused by some of the terminology that is used when describing the recognition of prior learning process. In this section we will try to offer clarity on some of the most commonly used terms. 

National Framework of Qualifications

The National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) is a 10-level system used to describe qualifications in the Irish education and training system.  The NFQ shows how General Education Awards, Further Education and Training and Higher Education Awards are mapped against the 10 levels of the framework. Each level is based on nationally agreed learning outcome standards. 


The University structures all of its learning pathways into courses which vary in duration of length. NoteThe words ‘course’ and ‘programme’ are sometimes used interchangeably. Some courses take four years to complete while others might just take one year to complete. Each year of a course has a defined number of modules that must be successfully completed before you move into the next year of the course or graduate. Universities set out specific rules determining which modules you need to complete each year to graduate with the relevant award title.


A module can be described as a distinct block of learning. It is an examinable portion of a course, for which learners attend lectures and/or tutorials and carry out assignments. Each module has a unique module code made up of two or three letters and three or four digits. e.g. ECS3103 Understanding Childrens' Early Learning, MK8104 Negotiation Skills etc. Core modules are compulsory modules that must be taken as part of a course. Optional modules are modules that learners choose (subject to availability) when they register online. Each module will have a set of Learning Outcomes associated with it. All modules at University of Galway are specified in terms of ECTS credits. ECTS stands for European Credit Transfer System. ECTS credits are a measure of the work that a student must complete in order to achieve the learning outcomes on a specific module. Each module is assigned a number of credits e.g. 5, 10, 15. Generally, the maximum number of credits that can be achieved on a full-time undergraduate degree course is 60 credits per academic year.


ECTS stands for European Credit Transfer System. As you browse course information, you will notice that courses or their modules are often referred to in terms of ECTS (i.e. European Credit Transfer System) weighting. ECTS credits are used on a European-wide basis to place a value or size on the learning contained in a course of study. ECTS credits represent a standard number of class contact hours and average workload for every module on your course. As students progress through a learning pathway they will accumulate ECTS credits. At the end of each learning pathway a student is expected to have acquired a certain number of ECTS credits. When that target has been achieved a student will then be eligible for an award.  

Learning Outcomes

Learning outcomes are clear statements of what a learner is expected to know, understand and/or be able to demonstrate at the end of a period of learning. Module level learning outcomes will be specific to the learning that takes place in a module. Programme level learning outcomes are high level learning outcomes, expressing the knowledge, skills or attributes a graduate of an entire course should be capable of demonstrating.

All certified programmes and modules are expected to define a number of learning outcomes.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Are learner centred;
  • Specify what the learner should be able to do on completion of the course;
  • Identify what level of performance is expected from the learner;
  • Specify the cognitive, behavioural and affective scope of learning;
  • Guide the content of the training/teaching materials;
  • Determine delivery methods;
  • Identify learning environment conditions;
  • Provide directions for evaluation and assessment.

Click here to see an example of the learning outcomes for the modules on the part-time Diploma in Management.