Aspiring Leadership Programme

Apply now for September 2024

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Centres Nationally
18 Months, Part-Time, NFQ Level 9
September 2024

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 situated learning opportunities (leadership visits) over the duration of the programme. Participants will have the opportunity to deepen their understanding and apply the knowledge and skills acquired through situated learning experiences that provide opportunities to observe leadership in action

“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 UG, UCD and UL - it is supported by Graduate and Professional Studies at UL and is taught by key academic team leaders and researchers. The programme is jointly awarded by the University of Limerick, University of Galway and University College Dublin.

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
  • Leading International Expert in Leadership Webinar
Semester 2: Jan - May
  • Leading School Development
  • Mentoring and Coaching
  • Situated Learning - School Based
  • Leading International Expert in Mentoring/Coaching Webinar
Semester 3: Sept. - Dec.
  • Managing the Organisation
  • Developing Leadership Capacity
  • Situated Learning - Organisation
  • Leading International Expert in in School Development/Leadership Culture Webinar
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

On-line, asynchronous content - released once a week during each semester. Participants are expected to engage with this material in preparation for the face-to-face tutorial/ workshops (see below). This online material will typically involve readings, watching short videos, engaging with podcasts and other media on that week’s theme.


Linked to each module's lectures, and in keeping with our blended delivery model there will be 12 tutorials, approximately 60% face-to-face sessions and 40% online. Sraith Gaeilge will differ and will be delivered predominantly online.

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. All applications must be made directly to the University of Limerick.

Designated centres are located nationally.

Our 2024 centres:

  • Sraith Ghaeilge Online
  • Athlone Education Support Centre
  • Cork Education Support Centre
  • Dublin North (TU Dublin Blanchardstown)
  • Dublin South (Blackrock Education Centre)
  • Laois Education Support Centre
  • Tralee Education Support Centre
  • University of Galway (Programme Partner)
  • University College Dublin (Programme Partner)
  • Limerick Education Support Centre
  • Online (restrictions apply)
Students will be asked to specify their 1st & 2nd preference centres when applying. ** Specific criteria apply to the online centre. 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 as a practising teacher and must have a teaching position in a primary or post primary school recognised & funded 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 and is not on secondment.

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/OIDE. 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.

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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.

Patricia Mannix McNamara
Course Director, Associate Professor of Education and Head of Education in the University of Limerick

Patricia is a former post primary teacher. She has extensive experience in programme and module design, implementation and programme leadership both nationally and internationally. She has held honorary professorships in both KU Leuven (Belgium) and in the University of Blaise Pascal (Clermont Ferrand, France). Her research areas are multi-disciplinary in nature and include professional agency, wellbeing, leadership and work culture, teacher professionalism, organizational behaviours, inter and intrapersonal awareness and mindful leadership.

Gerry Mac Ruairc
Professor of Education and recent Head of the School of Education, University of 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 former Head of the School of Education, University of 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.

John O'Sullivan
Assistant Professor in Educational Leadership, School of Education, UCD

John has considerable experience in the Irish Education System having worked as a secondary teacher, embracing formal and informal leadership roles, for a lengthy period. Having been appointed in UCD, he acted as programme director on the online/blended Professional Diploma and Masters in Educational Leadership programmes. He has experience of developing and providing educational leadership and school effectiveness modules, while his research interests include theory, policy and practice pertaining to leadership in education.


Contact Our Programme Executive

If you have any questions about this course or wish to discuss it further, please use the contact form or email and the course team will respond promptly.

How Can We Help?

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


Frequently Asked Questions

Applicants for this programme must meet the below 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 or seconded 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. 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/OIDE. 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 during which students will complete 2 modules 

For all centres, except the sraith gaeilge and online centres which are delivered wholly online, there will be 12 blended delivery (Face to Face / Online) sessions (2 x 1.5hrs in duration)* Delivery schedule will be confirmed in advance of term.

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

Irish Language / sraith ghaeilge centre will meet online for weekly tutorial sessions.

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

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 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 for the 2024/25 intake are now open.

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 or 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.

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Ready to Apply?

Upload Documents & Academic Information

Gather the required documents listed below and complete the GPS application form using the button below. You will have an opportunity to return to your GPS application and submit any outstanding documents if they become available later. Applications without all required information and documentation will not be eligible for entry to the programme.

Documents to include:
  • Evidence in writing from the principal of the participant’s school confirming the school is in receipt of Department funding, that the teacher (at the time of application) holds a teaching position in the school and is not on secondment; 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.

  • Certificate of your Teaching Council Registration ; Contact Teaching Council for proof of registration

  • 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.
Additional Information Request

Once your application has been received and verified by the Graduate and Professional Studies Department you will be emailed a link to provide us with some additional information. This will allow you to identify your preferred regional centre(s) and confirm your acceptance of the programme's terms and conditions. Please be aware due to the volume of applications we receive for the programme it may take a week or more for your personalised link to be sent to the email address you provided in your GPS Application.

Once we have reviewed your application, we will be in touch.