The Higher Education Links Scheme (HELS)

The HELS provides progression opportunities through the CAO for QQI award holders at level 5 and level 6 award holders to the first year of Higher Education programmes. A scoring system will apply to all QQI level 5 and level 6 awards listed on the CAO and Higher Education institutions websites. (For more information see  Please be aware that meeting the entry requirements of the course does not always guarantee a place on the course, as quotas may apply to certain courses.
Applicants submit their third level applications to the CAO by the 1st February (1st May for late applications).  In July, results are issued to the CAO. The maximum number of points that can be achieved from a QQI level 5 or level 6 award is 390 points.

Universities and Institutes of Technology both offer places on the scheme but in slightly different ways. Universities only offer places from a reserved quota for QQI award holders. Institutes of Technology generally accept applications based on any QQI award in open competition with Leaving Certificate candidates; however they may also offer places through reserve quotas for QQI applicants only, for example to some Nursing Degree programmes.

There are 38 institutions offering progression links to 3rd level via level 5 and some level 6 awards; for details of participating institutions please view
Some programmes in higher education institutions require achievement of specified grade, component awards, or additional awards such as mathematics or a language.  Applicants are advised to confirm details of any specific requirements with the CAO and the admissions office of the individual institutions.