Course Overview

The part-time Masters of Arts (Early Childhood Studies) has been developed to meet the needs of professionals working in or supporting the early years care and education sector, and may also be attractive to individuals with a particular interest in the area. This postgraduate level course is designed to complement and support continued employment, however, it is not restricted to those employed in early years practice settings. The part-time blended learning approach enables learners to work towards a higher level 9 qualification while maintain their work/family commitments. The course is inspired by the continued evolution of the early years sector in Ireland, with contextual influence from Europe and from International trends. Learners on this course will interact with the developing policy, practice and research environment in early years care and education.

Mode of Study: Blended Learning

Applications and Selections

Applications are now closed for 2021. Applications for part-time courses will reopen in April 2022.

Applications are made online via the NUI Galway Applications System. This course is listed under Adult Learning & CPD Courses Application.

Please visit our How to Apply page for Application tips and Supporting Documents information.

Who Teaches this Course

Requirements and Assessment

Innovative and authentic assessments methods are used throughout the course which will enable learners to demonstrate capabilities and competencies as well as academic knowledge. Methods may include written assignments, reflective journals, e-learning and multi-media exercises, group projects, practical assignments, presentations and reports, though this list is not exhaustive.

Students will be expected to attend a number of full day workshops throughout each academic year. Each module has an associated one or two day workshop. One-day workshops are held on Saturdays and two-day workshops are held on a Friday and Saturday.

Key Facts

Entry Requirements

Academic: Minimum 2.2, NFQ Level 8, primary degree award in Early Childhood Studies and Practice or in a related discipline.
Experiential: Minimum 3 years relevant working experience, or equivalent required.

Entry requirements for part-time students can be found in our FAQs section (i.e. age, english language requirements etc.). 

Additional Requirements


2 years, part-time

Next start date


A Level Grades ()

Average intake


QQI/FET FETAC Entry Routes

Closing Date


NFQ level


Mode of study

Blended Learning

ECTS weighting



Master of Arts


Course code

Course Outline

The course content has been developed to reflect contemporary approaches and understandings of family life, childhood, play and pedagogical philosophies as they inform the early years sector. Students will engage with advanced and critical theories, exploring evolving policy, social research, child protection, integrated working as well as professional leadership and practice. Cutting across all modules and underpinning the ethos of the course will be a children’s rights perspective, facilitated through a strong reflective element, supporting students to analyse, critique and challenge dominant discourses, perceived values as well as the on-going developments within the practice and policy environment.

The course places a strong emphasis on experiential knowledge and skills, along with a capacity to study independently, and as such places significant weighting on reflective engagement with assigned content, readings and self-directed participation in learning activities.

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Further Education

Upon completing this MA, students with a 2.1 or higher grade average may be interested in pursuing further education through doctoral studies at NUI Galway or another suitable institution.

Why Choose This Course?

Career Opportunities

Graduates of this course will be well-placed to take on leadership and developmental roles, impacting progressively on the ever-evolving Irish ECEC sector. Potential roles include teaching and research, policy development, mentoring or inspecting, advocacy and support as well as management of ECEC settings. You will learn how to effectively engage with other professionals and increase your awareness of the value of integrated working across a variety of services and agencies. This will make you well placed to contribute to the development of strengths-based approaches to working with families and children.

The MA in Early Childhood Studies will provide you with the ability to take a children’s rights perspective across all content, in particular, on the issues of child protection, risk and vulnerability, safeguarding children and promoting wellbeing through early years practice, policy and research. This will also expand your ability to work in broader professional roles. Upon successful completion of this course you can expect to have developed a range of personal and professional skills and abilities, including specialist knowledge developed through research, reflecting each student’s own particular interest area. In addition, your enhanced knowledge in regards to the contemporary developments in the early childhood education and care arena will ensure that you are well placed to participate in the ongoing and progressive expansion of the early years sector in Ireland.


Who’s Suited to This Course

This course is aimed at people who may already possess a recognised early years third level qualification and who wish to upgrade their qualification in a part-time, flexible manner. This will increase their opportunities to progress into broader professional roles (e.g. management, training, policy development, advocacy or research) and new emerging roles (e.g. mentoring and leadership) within the early years sector. Potential students with an undergraduate qualification in an area not related to early years, but who are currently working in, and have extensive experience of the sector or are in professional roles which complement and interact with the early years sector, are also encouraged to apply.

The course will be particularly suitable for:

  • Early year practitioners in crèches, pre-schools, school age childcare services, special education services and childminding settings
  • Managers of crèches, pre-schools, school age services, special education services
  • Early childhood practitioners in the Health Services Executive and Tusla: the new Child & Family Support Agency
  • City/County Childcare Committee members and staff and staff of National Voluntary Childcare Organisations
  • Practitioners in the child and family support sector
  • Early years specialists working in advisory or mentoring roles, or those aspiring to such positions

Learning Outcomes

On completion of this course, graduates will possess:

  • An in-depth knowledge of the evolution of family life and childhood from a historical perspective to present-day understandings. 

  • An in-depth knowledge and understanding of contemporary theories in relation to the early years period.

  • An ability to analyse and critique iterations of play, learning and pedagogical approaches in early childhood settings from a theoretical perspective.

  • The ability to effectively engage with other professionals and awareness of the value of integrated working across a variety of services and agencies.

  • The ability to take a children’s rights perspective across all content, in particular, on the issues of child protection, risk and vulnerability, safeguarding children and promoting wellbeing through early years practice, policy and research. 

  • The theoretical and research informed knowledge and skills to adapt a strengths-based approach to working with families and children.

  • Specialist knowledge accrued through the development of a social research project.

  • An ability to facilitate children as active researchers and to ensure the voice of the child is privileged through the research process.

  • The knowledge and skills to hold leadership positions within the emerging and varied professions in the practice, policy, teaching and research areas of the early years care and education sector.

  • The ability to critically reflect and evaluate professional practice, early years policy, and dominant discourses in academic literature and research.


Work Placement

Study Abroad

Related Student Organisations

Course Fees

Fees: EU

€4,262 (Year 1), €3,747 (Year 2)

Fees: Tuition

€4,157 (Year 1), €3,642 (Year 2)

Fees: Student levy

€105 p.a.

Fees: Non EU

€4,762 (Year 1), €4,247 (Year 2)

A fees scholarship of up to 30% may be available for students who wish to upskill for the purposes of re-employment. Students must be registered as unemployed and in receipt of one of the following: 

  • Job-seekers Benefit
  • Job-seekers Allowance
  • One-parent family allowance
  • Disability allowance
  • Community Employment Scheme
  • Carer’s Allowance
  • Signing for social insurance contribution credits

Please download the 2021_22 Fees Scholarship Form for more information.

Find out More

Suzanne Golden

Centre for Adult Learning and Professional Development
Nuns' Island
NUI Galway

Tel: 091 492659


What Our Students Say


Paula Guckian |   Student

Participating in the MA in Early Childhood Studies and Practice has made an immense difference to me on a personal and professional level. Each of the modules encouraged me to develop my critical thinking and to deeply reflect on my own practice as a service owner and manager of an ECEC service. While I found the journey of the dissertation quite challenging, factoring in work commitments and running my own service, caring for my young family and indeed the impact of lockdown, I am so delighted with my academic and personal development. Having returned to formal education 20 years after completing my BA, I could never have imagined that I would be capable of achieving all that I have at this level. The content of the MA and the support and encouragement I received from the lecturers was exceptional. It has certainly reignited my passion for ECEC and given me the confidence to both challenge and contribute to future ECEC policy and practice.

Angela Walsh |   Graduate

The content of the program transformed my approach to working with young children; to valuing child rights, holistic well-being and parent partnerships. Among my current roles I am the Pedagogical Leader of a busy early years service, where I support the delivery of high quality emergent inquiry-based curriculum and assessment. It is the confidence I gained that drove me to continue on my learning journey and complete the Masters program in 2018!

Olabisi Ogunsakin |   Graduate

The courses have taught me to be a critical thinker and responsible leader in the workplace and embrace diversity in all aspects of my life. I believe that I am a more valuable employee since enrolling in the program. The benefits of the MA program have really broadened and enhanced my knowledge and understanding of leadership.


  • Early Childhood Studies & Practice Brochure

    Early Childhood Studies & Practice Brochure PDF (209 KB)

  • Adult Learning Prospectus

    Adult Learning Prospectus PDF (3.4 MB)

  • Postgraduate Prospectus 2022

    Postgraduate Prospectus 2022 PDF (14.3MB)