The Common Awards System

The Common Awards System (CAS) is an evolving system of awards at NFQ Levels 1 to 6. It was first introduced by the Further Education and Training Awards Council (FETAC) for Further Education and Training (FET) and is now maintained by QQI.

Designed to emphasise educational and training goals represented as minimum expected learning outcomes, it is aligned with the NFQ in order to: 

  • support learner mobility;
  • help recognise learning where it is due; and, in particular, 
  • ease the recognition of prior learning.


CAS Terms

As with QQI Awards, the CAS makes use of the NFQ’s four main award classes (major, minor, special purpose and supplemental). In addition, however, the terms 'compound' and ‘component’ are also often used to characterise CAS awards. 

Essentially, the Common Awards System is made up of:

  • certificate specifications for compound awards (major, supplemental or special purpose awards), and
  • component specifications (for minor awards).

It also includes regulations on how these awards specifications are to be applied.


CAS Award Specifications

Award specifications in the CAS include not just the minimum expected learning outcomes, but also additional information such as:

  • the purpose of the award,
  • articulation and progression arrangements, 
  • assessment requirements, and 
  • estimated learner effort.

Some of this additional information is learner or programme dependent as distinct from being concerned exclusively with learning outcomes.

It is important to note that certificate and component specifications of CAS are intended for use in programme design rather than as teaching aids. In a similar way, embedded statements of minimum expected learning outcomes are not designed for use as assessment criteria: they are benchmarks for minimum intended programme learning outcomes or, in the case of component specifications, for module learning outcomes.

Each certificate specification includes an integrated statement of the standard of knowledge, skill and competence to be achieved before the relevant compound award may be made. It also expresses an implicit standard through the certificate requirements and the linked component specifications.

This prescription of component awards in certificate requirements helps regulate the way in which learning is accumulated through the completion of modules or units leading to component awards, in order to achieve the standard prescribed for a compound award. Component awards also have an intrinsic value.

It is of key importance that programmes of education and training prescribe intended programme/module learning outcomes that are fit for purpose as well as consistent with the relevant CAS compound and/or component specifications.

Programmes developed using CAS certificate and component specifications must be validated by QQI to ensure that they enable learners to achieve the required standard of knowledge, skill and competence required for the award(s) to which the programmes lead.