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Adult learning is any kind of learning that adults do after they finish their basic education and training.


There are many different choices for adults who want to start learning again. They can go for a university degree or take night classes. These are just a few examples of what adult learners can do.

Across Ireland, many people are going back to study to improve their skills in reading, writing and maths. They might be people who feel they missed out on some education when they were younger, parents who want to better assist their kids with homework, or someone who simply wants to write a letter home. 

If you're someone looking for this kind of help, there's a free and confidential service available for you. The Adult Basic Education (ABE) service operates in about 126 locations nationwide. They offer both individual and group help in a casual setting. You can use these programmes to brush up your reading, writing, spelling, maths and computer skills. What's best, these classes won't cost you a cent, and they're easy to get to because they're often at local centres in your community. These learning experiences are fully focused on what you need as a learner, and they give you the opportunity to get advice about your learning.

For more details, contact your local Adult Education Officer (AEO) at your closest ETB ( You can also call the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) for free at 1800 20 20 65 to get more support and information about where you can find help. You can also check out their website at

Right now, there are loads of chances for adults who feel they didn't make the most of their first go at learning. Over the last few years, several courses have been developed to offer second-chance and further education options that give learners another chance at learning in a friendly and welcoming setting that's all about the student. These programmes feel an adult and friendly field. Your needs are looked after in a personalised and considerate way.

Various schools, colleges and community education groups provide a big range of courses during the day, in the evening, full-time and part-time for adult students. The courses on offer vary from ones that help you explore a hobby or interest, right up to ones where you can get a qualification after you've left school.

'Return to Learning' or 'Access Courses' are designed for mature students, who for social, economic or educational reasons have not yet realised their full educational potential, but who have a deep desire to continue their education at third level, on either a full-time and or a part-time basis. Access courses are primarily aimed at adults who have been away from formal education for several years and would like to improve their skills, confidence and knowledge to access a third level course. Access courses familiarise students with the structure and requirements of third level education. You should contact the Access Officer in your higher education institution.

The decision to return to third level education after a break from formal learning or entering it for the first time as a mature student is a significant one. Mature students bring life experience and determination with them. There are a wide range of options open to learners wishing to return to third level education.

Universities, technological universities and private colleges offer courses at higher level. The main qualifications to be gained are those included in the National Framework of Qualifications at levels 6 - 10. These include Higher Certificates, Ordinary bachelor’s degrees, Honours bachelor’s degrees as well as several other certificates and diplomas. Courses are available on a full-time and part-time basis. If you are over 23, you are generally regarded as a mature student. Entry requirements (you may not need your Leaving Certificate) vary from course to course and from institution to institution.

The Central Applications Office (CAO) manages entry to undergraduate courses at Irish universities. Most higher education institutions (HEIs) will require you to apply through the CAO, some colleges require you to apply directly and others may require you to do both. Many HEIs also require prospective students to attend an interview. Click here for a full list of CAO courses.

For further information contact the Mature Student Officer in the institution where you are planning to take your course or alternatively download the Mature Student Admission Requirements Booklet published by Mature Students Ireland (MSI) here. This includes comprehensive information on the entry routes and application processes at a glance, as well as access and foundation courses run by third level colleges in Ireland.