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Information to assist course providers in submitting proposals in 2020

This Question and Answer document aims to support prospective Springboard+ and Human Capital Initiative (HCI) Pillar 1 course providers in preparing proposals for this year’s Call. In the event of further queries from providers, this document will be updated, and new versions will be flagged by the appropriate date (this version = 12 February 2020).

Providers should review all of the information circulated by the HEA for the Call Process.

All questions on the Call(s) should be directed to springboard@hea.ie for Springboard+ or hci@hea.ie for the Human Capital Initiative (HCI) Pillar 1.


Can an individual school/department in a college register as an Administrator on SkillsDirect, the online proposal submission system?

SkillsDirect provides for a single, coordinating ‘Administrator’ per college who has the facility to register an unlimited number of others on the system as ‘Users’.

Can two people in our institution get logins for the Skills Direct portal for the Springboard+ & HCI submissions?

The first person to register from an institution is assigned the role of ‘administrator’. Other people can be added in that institution, however they must be added as a user by their administrator. If your institution has already been registered, then the user is not allowed register but should ask their administrator to register for them.

My login details from last year are not working. How can I logon to skillsdirect.hea.ie?

You will need to register again for the new year so you will create a new password when you do that. You can ‘Click here to read the Call requirements and to Register’ at the bottom of the page to register. If you are the first person to register for your institution, you will act as the administrator for your institution and it is then possible to add other users.

We are leading a consortium proposal with two other institutions. Is there a way for them to see the proposal on SkillsDirect?

No. Only the consortium lead will be able to view, edit or submit a proposal on SkillsDirect. It is vitally important that the consortium lead liaises with their partners to ensure that they are aware and agree to the details in the proposal (Including the title, award, NFQ level, numbers of credits, etc.). Proposals can be download and printed off SkillsDirect. It is advisable that consortium leads share the completed proposal with their partner institutions.

Springboard+ 2020:

For Springboard+, can I get access to course proposals my college submitted in previous years?

The proposals submitted under Springboard in previous years are still accessible through http://skillsdirect2015.hea.ie/ (2015), http://skillsdirect2016.hea.ie/ (2016), http://skillsdirect2017.hea.ie/ (2017), http://skillsdirect2018.hea.ie/ (2018) and http://skillsdirect2019.hea.ie/ (2019). You will need your username and password from that year to gain access.

Where can I see information on Springboard+ course costs in previous year(s)?

Information on average costs is available in the evaluation of Springboard+. All evaluations published to date are available at www.springboardcourses.ie/reports. The average costs per 10 ECTS for courses funded in previous years of Springboard+ can be found on the table below.

We have a Masters in Computer Science (2 year programme). It is a conversion course with graduates who could work in the private sector. Would this course be appropriate to submit under Springboard+ (as an ICT Skills conversion course) or would it not meet the eligibility criteria?

No, it would not be eligible as an ICT skills conversion course. For 2020, courses at level 8 Higher Diploma and level 9 Postgraduate Diploma will be considered for funding as ICT Skills conversion courses. Courses with a Masters award will not be considered for funding as ICT Skills conversion courses.

Are industry letters of support and also Statements of Support from the Regional Skills Managers are required again this year for each programme application? If so, Is there a template to be completed this year?

Proposals will need to demonstrate clear evidence of engagement with enterprise/industry partners and Regional Skills Fora Managers in the development of the programme. Letters from local and regional employers showing that there is skills demand can support applications. A template to be complete by Regional Skills Fora is not a requirement for the call.

We are planning a joint proposal with another HEI in our region. I understand that only one HEI can submit a proposal, but can you please let me know if there is a way for both institutions to have visibility on AMS if the course is successful?

If a consortium make a successful application for Springboard+ funding, they will be able to individually open applications on the AMS (Applicant Management System) and process applications to their own institution through the website AMS. However, only one HEI can submit the proposal for the consortium through SkillsDirect.

Can you submit one programme for funding for both HCI & Springboard funding.

No. Any course that is funded will need to meet the eligibility criteria for Springboard+ or HCI.

Can I please clarify the contact hours required for Springboard and HCI Pillar 1? I read on the call document that as Springboard is part-time, contact hours should be less than 17 hours per week. However, when I read the HCI Pillar 1 call for full-time programmes, the stipulation is a minimum of 10 hours per week. Is this correct?

Yes as they are two separate calls and as such have different criteria that must be adhered to. Springboard programmes are all part-time programmes that are less than a year in duration. They must not exceed 17 contact hours a week. Courses that have significantly less than 17 contact hours a week may still be eligible for Springboard. HCI Pillar 1 provides funding for full-time graduate conversion courses. These courses must be between 60 and 90 ECTS and 9 to 18 months in duration. HCI Pillar 1 courses need to be a minimum of 10 contact hours a week, however courses that have significantly more contact hours may still be eligible.

We were wondering if there was any guidelines or rules around the proposed number of students that we want to apply for? Is there any advice you would have around how to secure more places or how is that decided?

This is a matter for each provider to consider as part of their application. The number of places approved will be determined by the expert panel. There are no specific guidelines or rules around the proposed number of students that an institution may apply for. The institution would however have to demonstrate that they have the capacity to accommodate the amount of places requested without it having an impact on the quality of the course being delivered.

I am from a university proposing a new course under Springboard so this is not subject to the same approval process for QQI. In the event that the proposal is successful, the university academic approval process for the course will be completed in advance of the course accepting applications. In the event that the academic approval process requires a change in programme title or programme content, will this be permissible?

Small amendments would be permitted, such as an incorrect course level being included in the application or a minor name change. No changes to the approved content or agreed funding level of a course will be permitted. Providers should be aware that Springboard+ courses may be subject to audit by the European Commission as the programme is co-financed by the European Social Fund. Any changes or deviations from the original proposal may be scrutinised as part of an audit.

Human Capital Initiative (HCI) Pillar 1:

A department has recently developed a PG Dip which has been validated but never run. Would this be eligible under Pillar 1 as a submission?

Yes. Courses must be newly developed specifically for this call. But in the case of an existing course being submitted evidence of significant change to the content of that course must be provided to ensure eligibility for funding.

Is there a minimum/maximum number of contact hours for the students to participate in per week, and is it possible for these contact hours to be delivered online to students or are they required to participate in classroom sessions only?

The minimum number of hours is set out in the call document as 10 hours. Contact can be multi-mode and the delivery mode(s) should be outlined in the application.

Can I confirm that in Pillar 1 even though it is HCI there isn't €2,500 per each additional learner place, the course cost is covered or partially covered as per the call document? It is unlike Pillars 2 and 3?

Funding to successful providers will be on the basis of the course fee by reference to the number of credits to be provided. Payment will not be made on the basis of a set fee for each additional learner.

Can you confirm if additional students funded under Pillar 1 will receive the additional €2,500 for each student and that this additional funding comes from Pillar 3 funding or does it also come from Pillar 1 funding?

Pillar 1 funding to successful Providers will be on the basis of the course fee by reference to the number of credits to be provided. We will not be providing €2,500 in additional funding for each student. Additional places on courses where funding is provided through Springboard+, Pillar 1 or Pillar 2 of the HCI are not eligible to be included for additional places under Pillar 3 even if impacted by the approved project outcomes

Will this Pillar be open to applications again in 2021?

At present there is no plan to do so. However, the HEA reserves the right to run another call process in future years.

If there is an eligible course commencing in 2021 or 2022, when do you make an application under HCI?

You must make the application in this call and provide information of the proposed number of intakes with start and end dates for each intake.

If we have a Masters programme with a Postgraduate Diploma option, is the Postgraduate Diploma option eligible for funding under Pillar 1?

No, courses at level 8 Higher Diploma and level 9 Postgraduate Diploma on the National Qualifications Framework will be funded under this Pillar. Masters courses at level 9 are not eligible.

We are a private training institute partnered with a university who have been offering Springboard+ Programmes for a number of years – are we eligible to apply for HCI Pillar 1 and/or HCI Pillar 3 as we are not specifically listed in the appendices?

For Pillar 1, providers who are eligible to submit applications under Springboard+ 2020 are eligible to submit proposals. For Pillar 3, Privately funded HEIs whose quality assurance procedures have been approved under the 2012 Act8 (re-engagement/QA approval processes) by the date of the HCI Pillar 3 letter of award offer (expected June 2020) are eligible to apply. (See appendix 1 for those currently approved). A letter from QQI confirming the above will be required prior to allocation of funding.

Could you please clarify that the 10 hours per week, is relating to directed learning (e.g. 10 hours in classroom, so does not include study time or other additional undirected online supports)?

Ten hours contact time is face to face time with a lecturer, either via the classroom, online, or another learning environment, where learners can question, converse with, and receive instant answers from, a lecturer/instructor in real time.

This pillar says course proposals are invited on a minimum of 10 hours per week and the “employed” are eligible as under Springboard+, however it also says funding will be provided for courses on a full-time basis. Are part-time programmes, suitable for this in employment, eligible for funding under this initiative? If so – is the requirement of a minimum of 10 hour per week contact hours still relevant.

10 hours contact time is a minimum requirement for all courses with multi-mode delivery. Provision must be on a full- time basis.

Are courses delivered on a block learning basis eligible? We have a brand new Postgraduate Certificate which is best delivered on a block learning basis e.g. 2 full days per month. Is this eligible?

No. If the course does not have minimum of 10 contact hours per week it is not eligible.

Will institutions be able to claim RGAM funding for students who come in under HCI Pillar 1?

No. Institutions will not be able to claim RGAM funding for students who are supported under HCI Pillar 1. The full cost of these students will be included if the programme is successful under this call. The exception will be students in employment and recent graduates who will pay 10% of the course cost.

The document does not stipulate when the Pillar 1 graduate conversion course(s) need to start – could you confirm the HEA is not mandating the courses start at any particular time, but that funding will obviously not follow until the students are registered on the course(s)?

The HCI Call states that ‘funding will be awarded on a multi-annual basis for a maximum of 3 years’. Courses that do not start in the 2020/21 academic year will not receive funding for the maximum three years. Funding will only flow to institutions once the courses start. Information should be provided in the application on proposed start and end dates for each intake.

Programmes will receive funding for a 3-year period if approved but I am wondering if the number of places also remains the same for the 3 years. For example, if we receive funding for 30 places in year 1 and have a waiting list of applicants can we request an increase in the student numbers for year 2?

No, as things stand an increase in numbers beyond set targets will not be funded. However, if funding becomes available this may be reconsidered. A failure to achieve target numbers may also result in funding having to be returned to the HEA and/or be withdrawn by the HEA.

Our School of Mathematics and Statistics have a query about the definition of Data Science. They note that you didn’t use the code for statistics 0542 which they have said is the core of data science and data analytics. They wanted to ask if you view Stats as very different from Data Analytics and Data Science.

The main aims or objectives of the HCI Pillar 1 courses is to provide full time graduate conversion courses to meet skills needs in various skills areas including data science and data analytics. Data Science like Statistics is by its nature inter-disciplinary but despite the two being interconnected it could be argued that they provide different results and pursue different approaches. However, as long as the course is the right combination of modules which give students the possibility to apply their acquired knowledge as data analysts or data scientists then it is possible to submit a proposal under Pillar 1 HCI which includes statistics components with ISCED code 0542. Nevertheless, the course must be a newly developed full-time course and must lead to a level 8 Higher Diploma or level 9 Postgraduate Diploma in Data Science or Data Analytics and not a Diploma in Statistics.

Is it possible to submit a programme for the HCI Pillar 1 that is subject to validation?


If a course has only been submitted for validation, what do we put on Appendix 4 of the application?

Nothing at the point of application. Appendix 4 is only to be submitted when the course is verified by QQI. Applicants are reminded that all courses should be submitted for validation before or at the point of submitting the application.

Is it necessary to have submitted a programme to QQI for validation prior to making an application to HCI Pillar 1? (This is the case with Springboard+)

Courses should be submitted to QQI for approval prior to or at the same time as submission to HCI to ensure adequate time for validation.

Can 1 intake be split into 2 cohorts?

Yes, but this should be made clear in the application.

If a programme is submitted for HCI pillar 1 under this call and the Institute does not plan to have an intake until 2021, when does it need to be validated for?

Answer: Courses must be submitted for validation on or before the deadline for application submissions and validated prior to the course start date before any payment can be made. Please note that courses that do not start in the 2020/21 academic year will not receive funding for the maximum three years. Funding will only flow to institutions once the courses start. Information should be provided in the application on proposed start and end dates for each intake.

If a course is successful under the HCI initiative, will we receive the auto-calculated course fee, either 90% with 10% coming from the student, or 100% through HCI?

Yes. You will receive 90% of the fee for recent graduates and for people in employment; the other 10% is paid by the participant. You will receive 100% of the fee for returners or students in receipt of DEASP payments.

Could you please confirm that funding described in the call document is the full extent of the funding under Pillar 1?


We are likely to apply for funding now but do not wish to commence the programme until 2021, is that permitted?

If the programme does not commence until 2021 you will only receive funding for 2 years as the Call states that ‘funding will be awarded on a multi-annual basis for a maximum of 3 years. Courses that do not start in the 2020/21 academic year will not receive funding for the maximum three years.

Average costs per Skills Category and NFQ Level

Appendix 1