Including awards on the NFQ

Currently, only qualifications issued by certain national awarding bodies can be included within the National Framework of Qualifications. These are the Irish universities, technological universities, QQI and the Department of Education and Skills. QQI is currently developing processes to allow other categories of providers to have their awards recognised on the NFQ.


Designated awarding bodies

Universities have their own statutory degree-awarding powers. Universities, technological universities, and the institutes of technology are classed as designated awarding bodies. This designation respects the autonomy of these institutions, their self-accrediting status, and the principle of academic freedom.

A joint sectoral protocol between designated awarding bodies and QQI was developed and endorsed in 2022 by QQI, the universities, the technological universities, the institutes of technology and RCSI.

This protocol allows for awards made by designated awarding bodies to be included in the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ). The operation of this protocol is designed to meet the requirements of Section 55B of the Qualifications and Quality Assurance Act (2012) as amended. It is the result of collaboration between Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI), the designated awarding bodies and their representative bodies. It is informed by the awarding practices of designated awarding bodies; existing internal and external quality assurance arrangements; sectoral advice on the implementation of the NFQ; and relevant international developments.

Listed awarding bodies

There are, however, many other qualifications offered in Ireland that are widely used to meet the needs of learners. These include qualifications made by professional bodies in the areas of law and accountancy, vocational and technical qualifications issued by UK awarding bodies such as City and Guilds, and qualifications made by international organisations or sectoral bodies often linked to specific industries, technologies or occupations.

QQI has been enabled to create a new category of those 'listed awarding bodies' that are interested in voluntary, regulated access to the National Framework of Qualifications.

The relevant legislation enabling the LABs scheme is expected to be commenced in early 2024. The LABs scheme is expected to open for applications in the course of 2024 with a phased opening. It is likely that higher education awarding bodies and professional bodies will be prioritised initially, with FET awarding bodies planned for early 2026.

The fees and charges associated with the LABs scheme are currently being considered and will be published prior to the opening of the scheme.

Questions about the LABs scheme can be emailed to 


QQI has published a series of White Papers relating to the development and implementation of the Listed Awarding Bodies (LABs) Scheme. The White Papers can be viewed on our Current Consultations page here.