Professional Diploma in Education Studies (Leadership)/ Master in Education (Leadership)


Level 9 Professional Diploma (Year 1) or
Level 9 Master in Education (Leadership) (Year 1 +Year 2)

Qualification Points:

After Year 1
Professional Diploma – 30 credits – 3 modules


After Year 2
Master in Education (Leadership) – 90 credits i.e. – 60 additional credits (+30 from year 1, in which case you will be awarded the Masters only)

Duration: Minimum: 1 year PDES (Leadership)or 2 years M.Ed. (Leadership)
Start Date: September
UCD Academic Expertise:

The Professional Diploma and Master in Education are offered, delivered and supported by academics in the UCD School of Education

Fees: Fees should be confirmed by visiting UCD fees webpage.
Contact us: You can contact us by email using the form at the end of this page or by phone as follows:

Contact Name: Trish Beattie
Contact Number: +353 1 716 7968


The Professional Diploma in Education Studies (PDES, Leadership) is a one year online/ blended PDES in Leadership aimed at teachers with some teaching experience who would like to either move into a leadership position or challenge the way they think about their work in a variety of ways. The Masters in Education (Leadership) is a designated stream in the existing Master in Education programme aimed at those who have already successfully completed the online/ blended Professional Diploma in Education Studies (Leadership). Prospective students will carry their 30-credits from the Diploma into the Masters Programme and complete the remaining 60 credits.

Both programmes deploy a broad concept of leadership that can be applied to teachers at different stages of their career within schools as organizations. Each of the programmes will include some face-to-face sessions (typically on Saturdays to accommodate travel and attendance from all corners of the country). Our experience is that the combination of on campus days and online teaching and learning provide a dynamic and transformative learning experience for all students. We are committed to developing our students’ critical voice through reading, discussion, peer learning, presentations and critical review. Furthermore, these participative learning experiences will ensure that high quality learning outcomes are achieved.

Developing a community of learners is a key principle in the design of both the Masters and the Professional Diploma. Ideally, therefore, students should try to work through the full diploma as part of a single cohort over one academic year. Our experience to date is that this cohort support and solidarity both enhances the learning experience and functions as an encouragement to continue with your colleagues to the masters in the second year, if that is the chosen option. There is some flexibility in relation to this – please contact the course administrator to discuss this if necessary.

What will I study?

The Professional Diploma comprises three modules:


  1. Leadership and Quality (10 credits). This module critically explores various theories and research on school leadership both nationally and internationally
  2. Contemporary Issues for School Leaders (10 credits). This module critically analyses policy trends and developments nationally while seeking out their international influences with a view to ensuring that graduates have a highly sophisticated knowledge of the main issues impacting the education environment and their implications for teaching, learning and leading.
  3. School Transformation (10 credits). This module is an individual or group school focused study that will deepen, consolidate and extend the learning outcomes in the previous two modules by supporting participants in making sense of their learning in the context of the reality of school life, while seeking to blend into a wisdom of practice (phronesis) empirical, theoretical knowledge practical experience. This independent and systematic enquiry is also intended to be a contribution to evidence-informed practice within the school community in which participants are serving, while cultivating a sustainable commitment to continuing professional learning.

In addition to these PDES modules the Master in Education (Leadership) comprises 60 additional credits accumulated as follows



  1. Leading a Learning Organization (10 credits). This module examines the role of school leaders in organisational development with respect to two main areas of inquiry (i) leading and managing structures and systems and (ii) leading and managing staff. Key perspectives underpinning this module are the concept of the school as a learning organisation and the idea of schools as professional learning communities as a framework to support school development.
  2. Qualitative Research Methods (5 credits). This module will explore different qualitative research methods, including research interviews, focus groups, discourse analysis, visual analysis and ethnography. At the same time, it will reflect upon theoretical and intellectual issues relating to the practice of doing qualitative research. The module will address key issues, debates and controversies relevant for the way we design and evaluate qualitative studies, while also addressing issues about how such studies are intended to function vis a vis the reader.
  3. Quantitative Research Methods (5 credits). This module provides an introduction to quantitative research techniques with a view to participants’ having a clear understanding of the key concepts that relate to quantitative inquiry. This module aims to develop a critical appreciation of the key methods including the generation and interpretation of descriptive and inferential statistics, such as cross-tabulations and chi-square. The evaluation of existing research instruments and the development and design of new questionnaires are discussed, as are the conceptual and contextual factors determining the meaning and value of quantitative data.
  4. Stats for Schools (5 credits). The module addresses the essential need for school leaders to be highly proficient in the development of evidence to support decision-making for school policy formulation and professional judgments. Participants will build on the work carried in the other research modules to explore the range and use data sources that can be used to support the work of school leaders. Critical to the substance and process in this module will be the development of a critical understanding of the methods recommended for School Self Evaluation (SSE).
  5. Researching School Leadership Practice (5 credits). This module will draw together key issues from all previous modules in relation to the practice of school leadership and how best to conduct research in the area. Specifically, the work completed in the PDES modules and the content of the qualitative and quantitative modules will provide the basis for the development of the sophisticated understanding of how best to carry our research on leadership. The module will critique methods including case studies, shadowing, action research, as well as exploring the ethical issues associated with research on this area. An important focus will the articulating research questions and identifying a research design that is fit for purpose.
  6. Research Thesis (30 credits). Completion of a minor thesis of 15, 000 - 20,000 words on a leadership related topic forms the final programme requirement. This will be undertaken under supervision, and will seek to bring together all elements of your learning but with a particular focus on leadership within your school or cluster with the intention of gaining new insights and understanding as well as seeking to impact the quality of teaching, learning and leading in your own and other’s schools.


How will I study?

The programme modules are delivered in a blended manner. Generally, there will be a weekly online lecture-discussion forum of 90 minutes per module. The content of these online session is based on assigned readings on selected topics on a designated evening. In the case of the PDES, students are also expected to attend the university on two Saturdays in semester one- (September to end of November) when they will complete the first two modules. Students will also attend college on two Saturdays during semester 2 (Jan- April) when they will be working on their final school based study. The entire programme is supported by a combination of—live and pre recorded online lectures, assigned readings, assigned tasks and group based discussions.

How will I be assessed?

Assessment varies depending on the requirement of the modules. In general assessment on modules will include continuous assessment of contributions to online discussions and a final written paper/ and or group presentation.

Learning Outcomes

Both the PDES and the M.Ed (Leadership) focus on the following core themes and outcomes

  1. Leadership and Development Theories: Graduates will critically explore and interrogate prominent leadership theories and apply these theories in the course of addressing a variety of organisational issues and problems.
  2. Critical Thinking and Analytical Approaches: ? Graduates will review and evaluate a range of policy measures and initiatives and critique these in the context of the school improvement and effectiveness and current policy directives.
  3. Organizational Systems and Group Dynamics: ?Graduates will demonstrate a thorough understanding of key theories of organisational behaviour and change, and apply these theories in an organizational setting.
  4. Self-Awareness: Graduates will have an ability to reflect upon their own skills and limitations as leaders, evidenced by their performance in working with groups and their overall learning outcomes on the programme.

In addition to these, the research related modules on the Masters Programme specifically address the following outcomes:

  1. Research skills and competence: Graduates will engage in exploring a range of research methods within both quantitative and qualitative paradigms and critically evaluate these in the context of the work of school leadership in the development of research/ evidence informed practice for school development and decision-making.
  2. Research Project: Graduates will develop their skills as researchers by completing a leadership focused study that will provide an opportunity to demonstrate the ability to engage in primary research and consolidate the learning outcomes achieved in the other modules on the programme.

Entry Requirements

Applicants must have a primary degree - normally an honours degree but relevant experience is taken into account in the assessment of applications. Candidates should have in excess of three years experience in an education related field of practice.

Are there any additional costs?

Students are not required to make any payments other than their tuition fees. All materials used are freely accessible.

Download Prospectus

You can download the School of Education Professional Diploma in Education Studies (Leadership) prospectus here: 2016 Education Prospectus Year 1‌  and the Master in Education (Leadership) prospectus here: 2016 Education Prospectus Year 2

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