Institution / Nui Galway
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Early Childhood Studies & Practice

The 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. The course is designed to complement and support continued employment, however, it is not restricted to those employed in early years practice settings. This part-time blended learning course was designed to interact with the developing policy, practice and research environment in early years care and education. It is inspired by the continued evolution of the early years sector in Ireland, with contextual influence from Europe and from International trends.

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.

Entry requirements

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.


Duration 2 years, part-time Mode of study Blended learning

Number of credits

ECTS weighting 90 ECTS

Careers or further progression

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.

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.

Further enquiries

Suzanne Golden
Centre for Adult Learning and Professional Development
Nuns' Island
NUI Galway
Tel: 091 492659

Subjects taught

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.

Course modules:
Historical perspectives of childhood and family life
Contemporary Perspectives on play, learning and pedagogy
Integrated community-based work practice
Children’s rights and well-being: current issues
Research in the Social Sciences
Engaging children in the research process
Supporting Families through Early Years Provision
Leadership, Mentorship and Emerging Professions

Assessment method

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 (September to May). In the main, these workshops will be held on Saturdays, with higher weighted modules requiring an additional two or three Friday workshops each year. Dates for all workshops will be provided to students at the commencement of each academic year. It is expected that the first intake of students workshops will take place in Galway.

Application date

Apply Online

The next intake of students to the MA in Early Childhood Studies and Practice will be in 2018 for the 2018/2019 academic year.

Enrolment and start dates

Next start date September 2018

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