HCI Questions Answered

Human Capital Initiative (HCI) Pillar 1

What is the Human Capital Initiative (HCI) Pillar 1?

The Human Capital Initiative (HCI) Pillar 1 is a government education fund running for 3 academic years from 2020/21 to 2022/23. It offers incentivised places for students to upskill or reskill in areas of skills shortages and emerging technologies. 

HCI Pillar 1 courses are designed to provide courses for graduates to ensure that they have the skills most needed by employers today. They are open to all eligible applicants, regardless of employment status.

UCC was awarded funding for places on six new Full-Time courses.

Higher Diploma (NFQ Level 8):

Postgraduate Diploma (NFQ Level 9):

Before You Apply

To be eligible to apply for a HCI Pillar 1 course, you will need to meet the following:

  1. The academic requirements or the RPL requirements and,
  2. The employment eligibility criteria and,
  3. The residency criteria
  4. UCC’s English language requirements if applicable

Academic / RPL requirements:

For specific entry requirements see the individual courses listed on the HCI PIllar 1 page https://www.ucc.ie/en/study/postgrad/taughtcourses/hci/

Employment eligibility criteria:

  • Employed - working either for yourself or someone else.
  • Unemployed - not currently working, receiving a qualifying welfare payment from the Department of Social Protection (unless you are formerly self-employed) and actively seeking employment.
  • A Returner - a Homemaker, on other caring duties, or economically dependent on a partner/spouse for at least 9 of the last 12 months
  • A Recent Graduate - a graduate who completed their studies in the year 2020 or 2021.

Residency criteria:

  • be living fulltime in the Republic of Ireland
  • have your own, valid PPS Number
  • meet the nationality/visa requirement
    • You are an EU/EEA/UK/Swiss national or:
    • You have permission to remain in Ireland as a family member of an EU citizen or;
    • You have Stamp 4 or Stamp 4 EU FAM on your GNIB residence card or;
    • You have official refugee status in Ireland / are here on the basis of refugee family reunification or;
    • You have been granted Humanitarian Leave to Remain in the State (prior to the Immigration Act 1999) or;
    • You have permission to remain following the Minister’s decision not to make a deportation order.
  • have lived in either the EU, the EEA, the UK or Switzerland for at least 3 out of the last 5 years
    • If you are a Stamp 4 or Stamp 4 EU FAM holder, residency is calculated from the date you received your stamp. Any time before this cannot be counted
    • If you have refugee status in Ireland, residency is counted from the date you applied for International Protection

UCC’s English language requirements: 

  • If  applying as a non-native English speaker and you have not studied at a third level education through English before, proof of English language competency is required.

Please see Springboard+ HCI for full eligibility criteria and up to date information on HCI Graduate Conversion Courses

Fees and Funding  

The HCI Pillar 1 courses are either 90% or 100% funded depending on your employment status.

Unemployed and in receipt of an eligible Department Social Protection (DSP) benefit for at least 9 out of the past 12 months or formally self-employed - 100% of the course fee is subsidised under the Springboard+ scheme. 

A Returner (formally known as Homemaker) - 100% of the course fee is subsidised under the Springboard+ scheme. 

Employed or self-employed - 90% of the course fee is funded

A Recent Graduate (2020 or 2021) - 90% of the course fee is funded

If you are successful in getting a place on one of our HCI Pillar 1 courses, you will be required to pay 10% of the course fee in late August or early September while completing your online registration. Registration details will be emailed to successful applicants in late August.

All applicants MUST contact their local INTREO office or Department of Social Protection office  for further advise on benefits or additional income support. Participation on a HCI Pillar 1 courses does not confer an entitlement to receive income support.

Application Process

All applications must be made online through the Springboard+ platform.  Postal or email applications will not be accepted.

Applications for 2021 opened Wednesday 16 June 2021

Candidates are advised to apply early as high demand is anticipated, and places are limited. Full details on eligibility for the Springboard+ scheme can be found at: https://springboardcourses.ie/eligibility


Already have a Springboard+ account? - apply here

Need to Register? – do that here

If you experience any technical difficulties contact: support@springboardcourses.ie / (076) 6151247

  • Documents Required:

    1. Copies of academic transcripts (results) for any previous relevant educational qualifications
    2. Up to date CV
    3. Motivation Statement (In 500 words or less, please state why you wish to study this programme at University College Cork and how you meet the entry requirements)
    4. Proof of ID: A copy of your birth cert OR passport OR NDLS driving licence (new card version)
    5. Proof of employment status:
      - If unemployed: A recent document from DSP or your local INTREO office confirming you are in receipt of a qualifying payment for 9 of the past 12 months
      - If employed: Recent payslip / recent letter from your employer confirming you work for them / recent letter or statement from Revenue demonstrating your current employment
      - If self-employed: Recent document from Revenue confirming self-employment / recent letter from your solicitor or accountant confirming your self-employed status
      - If formally self-employed: A letter/statement from Revenue confirming you are no longer trading or a similar letter from your (former) accountant /  a sworn declaration stating you are no longer self-employed
      - If a recent graduate (2020 or 2021): Copy of results (transcript if available)
      - If a returner: download a declaration form from Springboard+ FAQ page and sign it before a Commissioner for Oaths / Peace Commissioner
    6. Proof of residency (to be eligible for a HCI Pillar 1 funded place, you need to currently live in Ireland and have lived in either the EU, the EEA, the UK or Switzerland for at least 3 out of the last 5 years) i.e., copy of CV / 3 x P21’s / proof of refugee status in Ireland / Stamp 4 visa.
    7. IF applying via Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) – (meaning you do not meet the minimum entry requirements of an NFQ Level 8 Primary Honours Degree but wish to apply based on experience) please provide a personal or academic reference to support your application
    8. IF applying as a non-native English speaker and you have not studied at a third level education through English before, proof of English language competency is required

All documents must be uploaded together in one single zip file

Any document uploaded separately will override previous documentation so please ensure all is zipped into the one file before uploading.

After You Apply

We would hope to notify applicants with fully completed applications i.e. all documentation submitted, two weeks after the closing date has passed. Full applications received by the initial closing date of Wednesday 14 July will be notified in July. Applications received after this date should receive an outcome in August. Please ensure to check your junk email for updates.

You may contact the Course Directors for feedback on your application: 

Please see individual course pages:


If you require additional detail, you may contact the Course Directors or Administrators listed below:

Yes. All applicants to an HCI Pillar 1 graduate conversion course must be eligible at the time of course commencement but if your  employment circumstances change you may continue to completion.


No, unfortunately, deferrals are not permitted on any of the HCI Pillar 1 funded courses. Any applicant who wishes to defer their place prior to course commencement should cancel / withdraw their place on the course and reapply again next year.  

Students who begin a HCI Pillar 1 funded course, should note that the funding is only valid for the academic year in which they commenced the course and cannot be carried forward to another academic year. Any applicant wishing to defer mid-course or who has to repeat any aspect of the course, should note that they will need to self-fund the remaining cost of the course the following year if they wish to return and complete the course. Please email the springboard@hea.ie for further information.

Students who are considering withdrawing from their course should firstly discuss options with their Programme Coordinator and if a decision is made to withdraw, please contact Student Records and Examinations and the Fees Office directly on sreo@ucc.ie and fees@ucc.ie requesting to withdraw, giving your student number in the email.

Springboard+ Website 


Registered students can order a Letter of Attendance.

Request an online statement of social welfare payments received here

Intreo - the public emplyment service

Department of Social Protection

Back to Education Programme and Back to Education Allowance

Who can I contact for more information?

Please email Orla at hci@ucc.ie or phone 086-067 6016


 Please contact the Course Directors or Administrators listed below:

Government of Ireland Human Capital Initiative

Free or 90% Subsidised Industry Focused Courses,