Do not write off add on degree option


FOR MANY Leaving Certificate students the most desirable unit of third level currency is the degree. This writes off most of the courses offered by the regional technical colleges, some of the courses offered by the Dublin Institute of Technology and the single diploma offered by the University of Limerick. Or does it?

Would be degree holders who reject certificates and diplomas as unworthy of their notice are in fact writing off that growing phenomenon - the add on degree. These one or two year courses allow diploma students to progress to a degree, if desired.

At this stage it should be said that certificates and diplomas are valid qualifications in their own right, as well as acting as stepping stones to degrees. Indeed, some diplomas are the only professional qualification recognised for certain careers.

For instance, if you want to become an optometrist (the new word for the more familiar optician) you must go to DIT Kevin Street and study for the four year full time diploma in optometry.

To progress directly from certificate to diploma, students need to obtain a merit in their exams. But if they obtain a pass, a year's relevant work experience is an acceptable qualifier for a diploma course.

Some colleges may be even more flexible and accept a high pass alone.

To get on to a degree programme, students must achieve a merit in their diploma exams. Some courses, such as the Bachelor of Business Studies in Galway RTC, also require students to take some bridging exams.

Some add on degrees take four years in total from certificate to diploma to degree but, more usually, students do a two year certificate, a one year diploma, and a further two year add on degree.

Although this means spending five years in college, the system has the advantage of a built in flexibility which allows students to leave with a qualification after two or three years.

The free fees scheme applies throughout the five years and students are also eligible to apply for maintenance grants throughout.

Another advantage of the building block approach to a degree is that students may be able to change direction as they progress. For instance, Sligo RTC offers a two year add on degree in quality assurance which is open to graduates of engineering and science programmes. Students can begin a certificate in one college, transfer to another for a diploma and, perhaps, go to a third for their degree.

Eligibility criteria vary. For instance, in Sligo RTC a relevancy factor is applied to a student's score so that certificates might be ranked from highly relevant to not so relevant but still appropriate.

Many of the RTCs have informal links with British and Irish universities and certificate diploma students may complete their studies in these colleges. Some have more formal transfer arrangements.

It is possible, for instance, for students in Carlow RTC to go to Essex University in England to study for a degree in physical optoelectronics or environmental and industrial biochemistry.

Points are generally lower for certificate and diploma courses so it often happens that a student who would not have got a place on an ab initio degree course in a university can obtain a degree, of equal value, by stages in the RTC system.

The following is a list of add on programmes offered by the various regional technical colleges:

Athlone RTC: The college offers two Bachelor of Science degrees - a B.Sc in applied chemistry and a B.Sc in toxicology. It also has a Bachelor of Business Studies and a degree in tourism and hospitality management as well as a B.Eng in software engineering and a BA in accounting and finance.

Students who have completed the diploma in social care now have the option of applying for a new add on degree in applied social studies in social care.

The college has a transfer arrangement with the Camborne School of Mines, Cornwall, England, and the University of Portsmouth, England, for graduates of the mineral engineering diploma.

Carlow RTC: Completion of an appropriate diploma in science can lead to a B.Sc in industrial biology or software engineering. A Bachelor of Technology in production technology and a BBS in services marketing are available.

There are formal transfer arrangements between Carlow RTC and Essex University, England, for the B.Sc in physical optoelectronics and the B.Sc in environmental and industrial chemistry.

Cork RTC: BA degree courses in fine art and in applied social sciences are available. The B.Sc in biomedical science is offered in conjunction with UCC.

A B.Sc in analytical chemistry with quality assurance, a B.Sc in applied physics and instrumentation and a B.Eng. in structural engineering are on offer. A Bachelor of Design in ceramics is open to those who have completed the diploma in design (products).

Dundalk RTC: Eighty per cent of certificate and diploma courses have an add on degree option. It is possible to advance from any of the college's four business studies certificate courses through a diploma to the one year follow on Bachelor of Business Studies.

A B.Sc in computing is available to students who have completed the appropriate diploma. A B.Sc in building surveying can be taken on completion of the diploma in construction studies. A B.Eng in product design is available for the first time this year.

Galway RTC: Students who have completed the diploma in business studies must take some bridging exams in order to be eligible for the BBS programme. A B.Sc in furniture technology is available.

The school of science offers a B.Sc in software development to those who attain a distinction or merit in the diploma in computing, while a B.Eng in digital and software engineering is also available.

Limerick RTC: Offers a number of one year add on degrees in graphics, fashion, ceramics, fine art (painting, print making and sculpture), and design, as well as a B.Sc in information systems. Holders of some diplomas may be able to transfer to the college's B.Sc in chartered surveying.

Letterkenny RTC: The degree in Business Studies is the only follow on option available in the college. Students who have completed any one of a number of business related diplomas and certs, including the certificate in office information systems, are eligible to apply.

Sligo RTC: A Bachelor of Business Studies (marketing and accounting options) is offered after completion of the diploma in business studies. A B.Sc in computing and a BA in applied social care are available.

Holders of national diplomas in engineering, science or technology may apply for a B.Sc in quality assurance. The follow on option after the certificate in engineering (civil) or the diploma in engineering (water) is the Bachelor of Engineering (civil).

Holders of a national diploma in science may continue their studies for a B.Sc in environmental science or environmental chemistry.

Holders of the RTC's national diploma in science (analytical chemistry or pollution assessment and control) can apply for transfer to the final year of the B.Sc in applied biology or applied chemistry in the University of Coventry, England.

Similarly, holders of the national diploma in pharmaceutical science may transfer to the B.Sc in pharmaceutical science in Coventry.

Tallaght RTC: The college offers a BBS degree in marketing and languages with options in German, French, Spanish and Japanese. There are two other business studies degrees, with options in management and accounting.

The college also has a B.Sc in computing (Information Technology) and a degree in manufacturing engineering. From next September, follow on options in science and electronics will be available.

Many of these add on degrees are available through the college's continuing education programme on a part time or full time basis.

Tralee RTC: Students may take a BBS in accounting or marketing after completing a national diploma in either area. There is also a B.Sc in computing available to those have finished the diploma in computing.

A BA in Information Systems Management is open to students who have completed the diploma in Business Studies (information systems management). There is a transfer arrangement with the University of Limerick for students who pass the advanced certificate in business studies.

Waterford RTC: The college - offers nine follow on degrees, mainly BAs. Students can study for a BA in business and financial studies, recreation and leisure, applied social studies in social care, legal and business studies and in applied languages.

There is an option to study for BSc degrees in chemistry with quality management, commercial software development and applied biology with quality management. A Bachelor of Technology in computer aided manufacturing is open to those who have completed one of the engineering diplomas.

CAO handbook changes: The CAO handbook is the ultimate reference manual for third level applicants - in effect, their bible. Unfortunately, several colleges have cancelled courses or added in new courses after the handbook went to print.

This means students could lose out on one course option if they list a cancelled course and, equally, they could well miss the new additions entirely. This is hardly satisfactory from the point of view of the applicants who are struggling to deal with a huge amount of information already.

The CAO has notified guidance counsellors about the changes and we list them below.

There is one further complication. Galway RTC has cancelled one further course - industrial maintenance, GA035, and has not yet notified the CAO.

Cancellations notified to the CAO: DN013, commerce (evening) in UCD; DT403, catering management in the DIT; GA164, hotel accommodation and languages in Galway RTC. Ten courses in the NCIR have been cancelled: NC 107 and NC207; both business studies courses in Bray Institute of Further Education, NC104 and NC204, chartered accountancy commencement courses, NCI 18, NC108 and NC218, social studies courses, and NC109 and NC209, enterprise studies courses.

If you list any of the above courses, you are wasting one of your options.

New courses notified to the CAO: PT404 social care, in St Patrick's College, Carlow (course ref: SOC)

WD066, computer applications in Waterford RTC (course ref: CAPP);

WD067, multimedia applications development, in Waterford RTC (course ref: MMD);

WD071, business studies with marketing, in Waterford RTC (course ref: BMKT).

A final brushstroke: The National College of Art and Design's first year core includes fine art (painting, sculpture and printmaking) as well as craft design, fashion design, textile design and visual communication.

Additional research by Emmet Oliver

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