Post Graduate Diploma / Master of Arts in Leadership and Advocacy in the Early Years

  • NFQ Level 9
  • Credits 60*
  • Course Code SG_HLEAD_O09/M09
  • Award Post Graduate Diploma
  • Duration 1.5 years

Course Summary

The early years sector has a dynamic, exciting and challenging future. It needs effective and confident leaders across the fields of practice, policy, advocacy, regulation, education and professional development.

  • Do you have what it takes to be one of those leaders?
  • Do you want to develop your leadership and advocacy skills and capabilities in ways that reflect and build the capacity of the early years sector?
  • Do you want to be part of a community of practice that will influence and lead the early years sector into the future?

If the answer to these questions is yes and you have a 2.2 BA Honours in ECCE or cognate discipline and will have at least two years experience working in the early years sector or a related field completed at the end of your studies, then the Atlantic Technological Univerisity Sligo Campus has the Level 9 programme that will help you to fulfil these ambitions.

Develop Key Skills - Through this programme you will develop key skills to help you build your own leadership and advocacy capacity; to shape and influence the key organisations and agencies in the early years sector and to effectively bring about real change.

On completion of this programme you will be able to:

  • Document, recognise and reflect on your existing bank of knowledge, skills and experience.
  • Critically assess and apply central theories of leadership and management from within and outside the sector, in an international context
  • Engage in reflection to provide insight into your performance as a leader, communicator and practitioner
  • Understand how contemporary ECCE organisations work, how to effectively engage and change them, and why it can be so challenging to achieve this?
  • Compare policy in the Irish early years sector with other leading Early Years comparators internationally, through study, networking and direct experience
  • Evaluate the role of interprofessional and interagency collaboration in improving outcomes for children
  • Engage critically in research, with an in-depth knowledge of crucial social issues related to children and, the skills to conduct ethical research of your own.

How this course works? The programme is structured around two modules each semester (Semester 1 which runs from September to January & Semester 2 which runs from January to May).You will be engaged in content that will include online lectures (six per module) from lecturers and key leaders and experts in the field; online discussions and activities; access to digital resources, and share your own experiences.

Each semester there will be a residential programme in ATU Sligo that brings you together with your fellow participants, academic staff. This will allow you to engage in lively debate, extended learning, assessment activities and keynote lectures. Assessment of the programme will be through a broad variety of student-centered and active techniques. The professional relationships you develop through this course will provide the basis for the leadership and advocacy networks and communities of practice in the future.

Programme: Postgraduate Diploma/Master of Arts in Leadership and Advocacy for the Early Years

Accredited by: ATU Sligo through delegated authority from QQI

Level 9 on the National Framework of Qualifications

PGDip – 60 ECTS credits: MA – PGDip 30 ECTS credits (ECTS = European Credit Transfer System)

When the students successfully complete their Postgraduate Diploma they can progress to the MA award.

Delivery: Mostly online, part-time with a five-day residential workshop (Mon-Fri) each semester

Duration: 3 semesters (PGDip) 1 further semester (add-on MA)

Intake: September

International Partnership - ATU Sligo in an international collaboration with Fanshawe College, Ontario, Canada is delighted to offer this Level 9 programme to be delivered online and in Ontario to create the future leaders of the Early Learning and Care sector.

Download MA in Leadership & Advocacy in the Early Years Canada Brochure 

For further information, please contact the Admissions team:
T: 353 (0) 71 931 8510

Key Course Information

Programme: Postgraduate Diploma/Master of Arts in Leadership and Advocacy for the Early Years

Accredited by: ATU Sligo through delegated authority from QQI

Level 9 on the National Framework of Qualifications

PGDip – 60 ECTS credits: MA – PGDip 30 ECTS credits (ECTS = European Credit Transfer System)

Delivery: Mostly part-time, online with a five-day residential workshop (Mon-Fri) each semester.


For Examinations, students may have to attend at the ATU campus through which they completed their studies. For some programmes it may be possible for the Exam to be taken remotely via online proctoring. ATU Students resident in the Republic of Ireland will be invited to attend exams at an exam centre located in Ireland. Students’ resident outside of Ireland or with exceptional circumstances may be eligible to attend remotely via online proctoring, where examinations are taken online and supervised virtually, subject to availability.

Application Closing Date : 16th August 2024

Entry Requirements

A 2.2 BA Honours in Early Childhood or cognate discipline and will have at least two years experience working in the early years sector or a related field completed at the end of the programme of study.

Where large numbers apply far exceeding available places shortlisting of applications for an interview may occur.

All shortlisted applicants will be interviewed for a place on the programme. The highest scoring applicants will be offered a place.


Career Opportunities

Opportunities are dependent on where you are resident and what your career aspirations are e.g. Early Years Inspectorate, Better Start Mentors, Manager/ Support and Development Staff of City and County Childcare Committees, Management/Leadership roles in Tusla, Management/Policy roles with National Voluntary Organisations, Management roles in Family Resource Centres and as managers of both private and community Early Years services.

Further Study

Doctoral Studies in Early Years Discipline, Research, Policy, Child and Family Studies. Other opportunities exist depending on your personal goals.


"I believe that my new role as EU Project Officer was a direct result of my MA achievement with ATU Sligo. My role involves a lot of research and academic writing and I feel that this course further developed those skills, while also broadening my knowledge and enhancing my confidence"

Fiona Kelleher, EU Project Officer with Early Childhood Ireland, Graduated 2016

"The Creche I work with has five care areas; babies, wobblers, toddlers, ECCE and after school. So, not only was the course content all relevant to my role as manager, the fact that it was online and so accessible made it possible, as I worked full-time and had a young family"

Anne Marie Tiernan, Creche Manager of 18 staff.

"I loved studying online. I found the platform was easy to navigate and created ample opportunities to interact with both lecturers and other students. The flexibility of online studying was really beneficial. It meant reading and studying could be facilitated around children and work. Studying online created a supportive community of learners and other students"

Lorraine Farrell, National Aistear Coordinator for Ireland, National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA)

Programme Fees

Academic Year 2024/25 Fees (Postgraduate Diploma)

Total Programme Fee: €4,800

Academic Year 2024/25 Fees (Masters)

Total Programme Fee: €7,200



To help make the payment of fees more manageable for students who are self-funding their studies, tuition fees can be paid through payment instalment plans at ATU Sligo. For further information on instalment plans, please visit our Fees and Funding webpage. 

If you apply and are approved for an online course at ATU Sligo, you will be required to pay a non-refundable deposit of €250 to secure your place. Your deposit will then be credited against the course fees once you are registered as a student. Students at ATU Sligo are also eligible to claim tax relief at the standard rate for tuition fees.

For further information and guidance about Fees and Funding for online and part-time courses at ATU Sligo, click here.

If you are seeking to take your exams online, and you meet the eligibility criteria (overseas students and those with extenuating circumstances), an additional examinations fee will apply. For further information, please visit our Examinations webpage

Potential Funding Opportunities

Sligo Chamber Skillnet may be able to partially fund  programme fees for you or your employees  - for further details please contact