Professional Diploma in Health Systems and Health Policy

The Professional Diploma in Health Systems & Health Policy is one of a number of programmes offered by the UCD IRIS Centre for Interdisciplinary, Research, Innovation & Education in Health Systems. It commences in September 2019. 

It is a 20-ECTS-credit, QQI Level 9 interdisciplinary programme that can be taken over a timescale of your choosing. 

The minimum time to completion is one trimester for part-time students; the maximum time is two academic years.

The programme comprises two 10-ECTS-credit modules:

Trimester 1 (Sept to Dec):

  • NMHS43820: Systems Thinking in Health Care 
  • NMHS43840: Health Policy: Process & Context 

Holders of the Professional Diploma can obtain the MSc in Leadership, Innovation and Management for Healthcare by undertaking a further 70 ECTS credits of study, either by means of seven 10-ECTS-credit taught modules or a combination of taught modules and a dissertation or project. 


Who is the programme for?

The Professional Diploma in Health Systems and Health Policy has an interdisciplinary and applied focus. It is geared towards health and social care professionals, academics from a wide range of disciplines, as well as policymakers at all levels. It provides a comprehensive introduction into systems thinking and tools for health system and policy analyses. The Diploma programme will define the system concept, examine how systems may change over time and how different actors contribute to systems change processes. Students will explore complex challenges requiring a system response at the national and global level such as urbanisation and environmental change impacts on health, provision of comprehensive, integrated healthcare care, shifting the burden of care from hospital to community settings, and opportunities and challenges associated with emergent technologies. The programme will provide students with insights and tools to understand better what health policy is, how it is developed and implemented, and the factors that shape equity in the content and the process of making health policy. It entails in-depth learning of two specific frameworks: one that focuses on equity in the content of health policy (EquiFrame) and the other on the process of policy making (EquIPP). Students will be introduced to the critical steps in developing a primary health policy study and emphasis will be on the application of theories and conceptual frameworks to inform health policy. Students will learn to apply systems change and design thinking to gather an understanding of a problem and to develop approaches that may alter systems fundamentally. Students will work collaboratively towards addressing some complex challenges by employing systems and design thinking techniques and drawing on information and background data.

To discuss whether the programme is suitable for you and which of the available optional module best suit your particular needs and goals please contact the Programme Director, Professor Martin McNamara

Programme aims

The programme aims to:

• develop an appreciation of the contribution of systems and design thinking to your practice

• enable you to acquire and apply knowledge to improve the systems and processes that underpin the delivery of safe, high-quality, responsive, integrated and person-centred care

• enhance your understanding of the nature of health policy formulation and implementation


How will I benefit?

The programme will contribute to your personal and professional development by enabling you to identify, analyse, critique and apply conceptual frameworks to understand and influence systems, policies, and organisations.

You will develop a comprehensive understanding of system complexities and of ways to influence these at different levels of practice and policy.

Careers/Where can I go?

The knowledge, understandings and skills acquired throughout the programme will prepare you to make a significant contribution to health systems and policy change. Specifically, you will be able to apply specific frameworks and tools for :

• Organisational development

• Strategy design and implementation

• Policy design and implementation

• Quality and service improvement

• Innovations in Practice

Teaching, learning and assessment

The programme is delivered through blended learning, entailing face-to-face and online learning supported by Brightspace, UCD's virtual learning environment (VLE).

There is a particular emphasis on experiential learning and on the application of learning to students' professional practice contexts through a range of activities. Class size is limited to 25 students to optimise student engagement and participation.

The teaching and learning methods include faculty-led seminars and workshops, faculty as well as group work.  Continuous assessment methods include project work, class presentations. There are no examinations.

Programme structure

The Professional Diploma in Health Systems and Health Policy is a 20 ECTS credit, QQI Level 9, interdisciplinary programme that will be taken over one Trimester.

It consists of two mandatory core modules running between September to December

• NMHS43820: Systems Thinking in Health Care

• NMHS43840: Health Policy: Process & Context

Entry requirements

• Applicants will typically hold an NQF Level 8 academic award but consideration will be given to applicants with relevant and appropriate qualifications and experience working in the health system

• Please contact the Programme Director before you make your application. Contact details can be found in the Key information section of this page.

How to apply

Applications are made online through UCD Applications. ​

Please note that all applicants are required to pay a €50 application fee. Your application cannot be processed fully unless the application fee has been paid.

Apply online