Aspiring Leadership Programme

Applications are now closed for September 2020. If you wish to be included in our Enquiry List for programme updates please email

Download Full Programme Details
Centres Nationally
18 Months, Part-Time, NFQ Level 9
Next Programme Start: Autumn 2020

Why This Course

Prepare to lead

The Postgraduate Diploma in School Leadership (PDSL) / Dioplóma Gairmiúil i gCeannaireacht Scoile (DGCS) is designed to prepare aspiring leaders with the knowledge, skills, confidence and qualifications for senior school leadership positions.

Progress your career

This programme addresses the areas of leadership capacity published by the Department of Education and Skills in Looking at our School (2016)

Learn from experienced educational leaders

Delivered by leading lecturers in Irish education as well as tutors with extensive experience in educational leadership

Robust mix of academic & practical learning

In addition to learning about the theory and practice of leadership, participants will also experience two leadership visits over the duration of the programme. During these visits they will gain insights into leadership in action both within and outside the education setting.

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”

John F. Kennedy, former President, USA

Delivery Partners

The programme is a collaboration between the Schools of Education at NUIG, UCD, WIT and UL - and supported by Graduate and Professional Studies at UL and is taught by key academic team leaders and researchers.

Course Structure

18 months, Part-Time, Blended Learning

The Postgraduate Diploma in School Leadership is a part-time, blended learning programme consisting of 6 taught modules delivered in 12-week semester-long blocks during the academic year. Students attend an induction day in the University of Limerick prior to commencement in year 1.

Semester 1: Sept. - Dec
  • Induction - University of Limerick
  • Leading Learning and Teaching in the Irish context
  • Professional Growth and Development
Semester 2: Jan - May
  • Leading School Transformation: Looking in Our Schools
  • Mentoring and Coaching
  • Leadership Visit 1
Semester 3: Sept. - Dec.
  • Leading School Development: Continuity, Change and Capacity Building
  • Building Culture, Capacity and Teams
  • Leadership Visit 2
Participants are expected to devote time each week for engaging with module content and class interaction as well as independent study.

For detailed module descriptions and delivery schedule

Course Delivery

Flexible & Progressive

Blended Learning Model

Lectures will be released online on a weekly basis for students to view at their convenience.


Linked to each module's lectures, there will be eight face-to-face sessions and four online tutorials. Sraith Gaeilge will differ and will be delivered predominantly online with some face to face meetings.

Sraith Ghaeilge an Chúrsa

Beidh sraith ar leith sa chlár do cheannairí uaillmhianacha i scoileanna lán-Ghaeilge an Dioplóma Gairmiúil i gCeannaireacht Scoile (DGCS). I ndearadh agus i dteagasc na sraithe seo, beidh sé tábhachtach go mbeidh tuiscint dhomhain ag mic léinn ar na heochairchoincheapa agus saincheisteanna i litríocht na ceannaireachta agus go mbeidh ar a gcumas iad a chur i bhfeidhm i gcomhthéacs an oideachais trí Ghaeilge. Ceann de príomhaidhmeanna na sraithe Gaeilge ná éascú agus saibhriú a dhéanamh ar phlé na ceannaireachta ionas go ndéanfaidh rannpháirtithe an plé agus cumarsáid trí Ghaeilge sna ranganna teagaisc le feidhm a bhaint as a gcuid taithí sa chómhthéacs lán-Ghaeilge.
Cliceáil anseo chun na sonraí ar fad trí Ghaeilge a íoslódail

All modules and course activities will be scheduled during out-of-school hours i.e. evenings & weekends.

National Programme

A partnership of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) has been established for the purpose of delivering this course, achieved by having distributed centres for the delivery of teaching and tutorial support nationally. Please register your interest by emailing your contact details including your school roll number to

Designated centres are located nationally. 

  • Sraith Ghaeilge (ar líne, go príomha)
  • Dublin North - TU Dublin Blanchardstown
  • University College Dublin
  • Laois Education Centre
  • Donegal Education Centre
  • Mayo Education Centre
  • National University of Ireland Galway 
  • University of Limerick
  • Cork (Cork Institute of Technology)
  • Tralee Education Centre 
  • Online Pilot (** specific criteria apply)

Students will be asked to specify their 1st & 2nd preference centres when applying. ** Specific criteria apply to the online pilot. These include the applicant's school must be at least 80 mins (one way) travel time by car.

Entry Details

Qualifications and Experience

Applicants for this programme must meet the following eligibility criteria and provide all required information by the application deadline outlined in the FAQ.

Academic Entry Requirement

NFQ 8 (Hons) and Teacher Education Qualification.

Registration Status

This course is open to all qualified teachers who hold a recognised post in a recognised primary or post primary school, and who are fully registered with the Teaching Council under the appropriate Teaching Council Registration Regulation i.e. Regulation 2 or 4 of the Teaching Council (Registration) regulations 2009 up to 25th July 2016 or Route 1 or 2 of the Teaching Council (Registration) Regulations 2016 and The Teaching Council (Registration) (Amendment) Regulations 2016 thereafter.

Position & Experience

Applicants must have a minimum of 5 years’ post qualification experience in a school and must have a teaching position in a primary or post primary school recognised by the Department of Education and Skills.


Evidence in writing from the principal of the participant’s school confirming that the teacher, at the time of application, holds a teaching position in the school at the date of application.

This course is open to approximately 300 participants.

Programme Fees

The course is part funded by the Department of Education and Skills.

Each Participant pays €2,000 towards the overall cost of the course and the remainder of the programme fees cost per participant is funded by the DES/CSL. Successful applicants who are offered a place are required to pay an acceptance fee of €250 to secure their place. This will be deducted from the €2000 student fee.

Where a teacher is accepted as a participant on a course on the basis of the above eligibility criteria and it subsequently becomes apparent that the teacher was not in fact eligible for participation, the teacher will be allowed to remain on the course on condition that they pay the balance of the course fees to the university.

When a participant withdraws from the course after the first two months, they will forego their fees and will not be eligible for future participation, except in exceptional circumstances.

Download Full Programme Details


Expert Lecturers & Tutors

Our lecturers and practitioners are experienced professionals and experts, with a robust mix of both professional and academic backgrounds. Students are exposed to the latest and most relevant lessons and course content. The Postgraduate Diploma in School Leadership lecturers are supported by a team of practising educational leaders from the primary and post primary sector.

Ciaran Sugrue
Professor of Education and former Head of Education in the School of Education, UCD.

Ciaran has worked in the Irish Education system in a variety of capacities including: primary teacher, schools inspector, teacher educator and researcher. Prior to his appointment in UCD, he worked at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge. He was a lecturer, senior lecturer and principal lecturer at St. Patrick's College Drumcondra where he had a variety of responsibilities over time. He was involved in creating the Irish Primary Principals Network (IPPN). His research interests are wide-ranging and include: School Leadership and Educational Change, Continuing Professional Development, Teacher Educational Reform in developed and developing countries, and Educational Policy. Ciaran is currently the programme director on the online/blended Professional Diploma and Masters in Educational Leadership at UCD.

Gerry Mac Ruairc
Professor of Education and Head of the School of Education, NUI Galway

Gerry is a former primary teacher, school inspector and Associate Professor in the School of Education, UCD where he was programme director of the online/blended Professional Diploma and Masters in Educational Leadership. He has considerable experience in designing and delivering leadership modules and programmes including the development of a number of annual International Leadership Summer School Intensive Programmes funded through Erasmus on topics including Leadership for Inclusive Education and Leadership for Democratic Schools. He was appointed in 2011 as expert advisor to the EU Commission's funded European Policy Network on School Leadership (EPNoSl).

Paul Conway
Professor of Teacher Education in the School of Education, University of Limerick

Paul is programme director for the DES-funded Professional Diploma in Mathematics for Teaching (PDMT) led by UL and delivered via blended learning to all 6 ATECI regions. After working as a primary teacher in educationally disadvantaged schools in Dublin, he undertook postgraduate studies in the USA at Boston College (M Ed) and Michigan State University (PhD, Educational Psychology) and has worked in universities in Ireland (UCC, UL) and the USA (Michigan State U, U Michigan and Cleveland State U). He has been programme director of the primary and post-primary Postgraduate Diploma in Educational Administration (PDEA) for 8 years in UCC where he was also Associate Director (2011-13), then Director (2013-14) of the Centre for Global Development (CGD), a university-wide centre. His recent publications include articles in the British Educational Research Journal, Pedagogy, Culture and Society and Irish Educational Studies and he has over the last decade completed a number of large scale funded/commissioned reports/studies for the NCCA, Teaching Council, NCSE and DES.

Mary Fleming
Senior Lecturer in Education and recent Head of the School of Education NUI Galway.

Currently Mary is Director of Teacher Education (PME) in the School of Education, Galway. She was a former post-primary teacher and principal of a DEIS school. Mary has extensive experience in leadership development in the field of medicine over many years. She has also extensive experience working with teachers and school leaders through her involvement with masters' modules and programmes, and her work with School Development Planning (SDPI) Post Primary.

Helen Murphy
Head of the Department of Education in the School of Lifelong Learning and Education in Waterford Institute of Technology.

Helen is responsible for leading programme development for postgraduate and undergraduate programmes in education in WIT designed for education practitioners working across the various sectors (adult, further, community education, primary, post-primary and higher education). She is also responsible for research development and engagement with external stakeholders including the Department of Education and Skills, the Teaching Council, the National Adult Literacy Agency, and a range of national and international research partners.

Dr. Judith Breen
Senior Lecturer, School of Education and Lifelong Learning, Waterford Institute of Technology

Judith is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Lifelong Learning and Education, WIT. She is programme leader for the Masters in Education in Teaching and Learning. She lectures Strategic Planning for Educators and Entrepreneurship and Innovation for Educators on the Masters in Management Education programme. She joined WIT from a background in industry ranging from manufacturing to training consulting in both the public and private sector. She has previously worked as a lecturer in Management and Organisation in the School of Business in the fields of management, organizational behaviour, strategic planning, communications and professional skills. Her research interests are in management education and in particular critical management education and action learning. She is Reviews Editor of the journal Action Learning: Research & Practice -: The first international journal dedicated to the advancement of knowledge and practice through action learning.


Get in Touch

Contact Our Programme Executive

If you have any questions about this course or wish to discuss it further, please contact Helen Fitzgerald directly using the details below or enter your enquiry in the form and Helen or a member of the course team will respond promptly.

Helen Fitzgerald, Programme Executive, School of Education, University of Limerick 061-234786

How Can We Help?

Enter your details and Helen or a member of the course team will respond promptly.


Frequently Asked Questions

Applicants for this programme must meet the underneath eligibility criteria and provide all required information by the application deadline for their application to be considered.

Who is eligible to apply for this course?

If you are a qualified primary/post-primary teacher registered with the Teaching Council, have five years’ teaching experience and a contract in a primary or post-primary school, you are eligible to apply. Teachers currently on career break are ineligible to apply as the course relies on work based learning and reflection. The course is aimed primarily at teachers who are seeking, or are currently in leadership roles.

What are the fees associated with this course?

The Course is part funded by the Department of Education and Skills. Each Participant pays an amount of €2,000 towards the overall cost of the course and the remainder of the total cost per participant is funded by DES/CSL. Successful applicants who are offered a place are required to pay an acceptance fee of €250 to secure their place. This will be deducted from the €2000 student fee.

What is the duration of this course?

The course is 18 months in duration comprising 3 academic semesters

How will the course be delivered?

The course will provide a blended learning experience for the participants as they engage with modules. Modules will be offered in a variety of delivery modes as specified below including on-line, distance learning and face-to-face modalities.

Lectures – Will be released a week in advance.

Tutorials – will be held on a weekday evening from 6pm to 9 pm

For all centres except the sraith gaeilge there will be 8 Face to face sessions (2 x 1.5hrs in duration) & 4 online sessions

Induction – will be held at the University of Limerick prior to programme commencement.

Irish Language Centre will meet online for weekly tutorial sessions and at key points during the course in NUIG Note:

All modules/course activities will be scheduled for out-of-school hours/time (evenings).

What Modules will be delivered?

Semester One: September – December

Module 1: Leading Learning and Teaching in the Irish Context Module

Module 2: Professional Growth Development

Semester Two: January – May

Module 3: Leading School Transformation: Looking in Our Schools

Module 4: Mentoring and Coaching and Leadership Visit 1

Semester Three: September – December

Module 5: Leading School Development: Continuity Change and Capacity Building

Module 6: Building Culture Capacity and Teams and Leadership Visit 2

How will the modules be assessed?

Each module is assessed through continuous assessment. There are no end of term examinations.

What equipment and skills do I need?

Students are required to have regular access to a computer (with Microsoft Office), a broadband Internet connection, a printer, a basic headset and (optionally) a webcam. They should also be familiar with using email, browsing the Web, and using word processing packages.

Can I defer my place?

No this is not an option. If an applicant is offered a place and declines the offer they cannot defer the place. Reapplication the following year will be required, (there is no guarantee that they will be successful the second time round).

When should I apply/ What is the closing date?

Applications are now closed for September 2020.

What is the level of qualification on successful programme completion?

NFQ Level 9 post graduate diploma (60 credits)

Can I complete a masters after the PDSL?

The partner institutions do provide a follow on master option to successful graduates of the PDSL.  Contact the relevant instutition for further details. 

How much time is involved?

Participants may differ on the amount of time it takes for them to engage with the content as people learn at different paces and in different ways. However, participants must be clear that they must make time each week to engage with the lecture content, readings and supplementary resources as well as attendance at weekly tutorials which is a requirement for this programme.

Can I apply if I am a principal?

Yes you are welcome to apply if you are currently a principal.

Is there an information session I can attend before applying ?

Yes, We have online information session scheduled May 27th 2020 and for the Irish language centre on May 28th 2020 (tri Ghaeilge).

Register your interest to attend here

As places are limited and filling fast it is also recommended to complete your formal application to the programme as soon as possible. 

Apply Now

Ready to Apply?

Complete the application form

Questions about your current role, qualifications, preferred location etc.

Upload Documents & Additional Information

Once you have completed the application form you will be directed to the UL Student Administration Portal to upload your documentation and additional information.

Documents include:
  • Evidence in writing from the principal of the participant’s school confirming that the teacher, at the time of application, holds a teaching position in the school.  Please note if you are a teacher you only need your Principal to sign the form.  If you are the Principal you need the Chairperson of the school to sign the letter.

    A template letter is provided in this link   Click here to download the declaration letter.

  • Results for examinations mentioned on your application form and/or confirmation of the award. Graduates of UL need only provide us with their UL Student ID number.
  • Certified translations of your award and transcripts, if they are not in English.
  • A copy of passport for verification of photo and full legal name.
  • A recent digital quality head and shoulders photograph for your ID card.
Once we have reviewed your application, we will be in touch.