Digital Marketing Diplomas and FETAC

Both the IIA/Irish Times/Prosperity and the Digital Marketing Institute have been press releasing and posting about their FETAC Diplomas. As well as emailing me asking to blog them.

After checking with FETAC it turns out these Diplomas are not FETAC approved just some component of them. Anyone that knows FETAC know how strict they are on this use of their logo and name to sell courses like these.

An email from the Digital Marketing Institute stated “FETAC Accredited Diploma in Digital Marketing” so that got me wondering.

This was their site earlier:

Digital Marketing Institute FETAC

And their Twitter:

Digital Marketing Institute FETAC on Twitter

Since changed to this, though note the website address:

Digital Marketing Institute FETAC update

Press releases sent out though with this line too, which some outlets picked up without checking. All news to FETAC.

Update: This was the DMI take on FETAC a week or so ago

So, how come some of the Diploma in Digital Marketing courses that you will see listed claim to be FETAC accredited? They are not! What that training company is doing is saying that the course is accredited by virtue of the fact that the company is accredited to deliver a DIFFERENT FETAC accredited course. For example, the Digital Marketing Institute could apply to FETAC for accreditation for, say, a Microsoft Excel course – there we could proudly announce that we are FETAC accredited.

But perhaps this would be a bit disingenuous, don’t you think?

Image link.

Then this is from the IIA website:
Digital Marketing Diploma IIA FETAC

and from their press release:

Diploma in Digital Marketing to launch in September

An exciting new Diploma in Digital Marketing with FETAC accreditation (level
5 minor award) is about to launch in September.

So yes, keep your eyes open for organisations claiming to do diplomas with FETAC accreditation. I worked with some orgs that worked with FETAC for training courses and they worked their backsides off to get accreditation. Very disappointing then to have this kind of thing happen. I’ve been asked numerous times about my views on these courses too so might as well put it down here: Some of the lecturers on them are very good. Right now there doesn’t appear to be better alternatives out there. And there’s your business opportunity right there.

24 Responses to “Digital Marketing Diplomas and FETAC”

  1. Niall Devitt says:

    Hi Damien, this is disappointing to say the least however I’d like to ask a more general question. The landscape of digital marketing is so fast moving & ever changing, is accreditation the best approach. In other words, today’s best practice becomes redundant by tomorrow, you get my point. Perhaps, it’s the only solution but I’m not so sure, love to hear your thoughts? Thanks, Niall

  2. Suzy says:

    Niall, Those taking the courses and those paying the fees (individuals, employers, FAS etc.) need to know that the courses reach a certain standard. Surely if there is a syllabus for a FETAC course it can be reviewed annually – assessors and training providers and industry specialists can work together to review the content and seek adjustments /new courses if necessary.

    I know from seeking courses for people in certain topics (Outside digital media/online issues) the problem is that they are not reviewed or pitched at the wrong level or indeed are not accredited. So the question back to you is how do we ensure quality and standards being met if there is no accreditation?

  3. Barry Hand says:

    Was going to post something similar, but you’ve covered it here Damien. I blogged a while back about the Google Analytics course and how it would be better (and a lot cheaper) to go down the self taught route.

    This is a shame, but not really surprising. Personally I’m skeptical of any marketing course which includes digital, especially from those entrenched in agency land or with vested interests.

    Only course I’ve seen which looks semi-decent is the DCU Grad Cert in Digital Marketing (Level 9 – €3400)

  4. Gary Mullan says:

    Hi Damian,

    Prosperity, Irish Times Training and The IIA haven’t stated that this is a Fetac Accredited Diploma – in our media / correspondence we have stated that this is a FETAC accredited (minor award) Diploma in Digital Marketing.

    We further explain that “The Internet Marketing FETAC Minor Award will be awarded to participants who successfully complete a Digital Marketing Plan, Search Engine Assignment and Research Plan.”

  5. Hi Damian,

    I would agree that the FETAC process is all a bit ambiguous, especially concerning Digital Marketing. So, why is this? The reason is simple – we in the digital industry are very aware of how fast the industry is currently moving, and an organisation like FETAC is simply not in a position to keep up. The main reason for developing this course (over 2 years ago) was in an effort to help marketers in Ireland to move into the digital space. The skills gap that existed then is getting smaller but there is a huge skills gap. And we are, along with others, trying to fix that. We have been offering our Diploma course, as you know, for a couple of years and we have, to date, put about 1,000 people through the course.

    There are therefore 1,000 people who are now far more skilled up in digital marketing than there were before we came along. And what accreditation do they have? They have what we were able to deliver. The Digital Marketing Institute accredited the Diploma without FETAC because that is what was demanded – FETAC was simply not in the mix when it came to people asking about accreditation. However, things have moved along and now FETAC are in a position to accredit PARTS of an Internet marketing course (by the way, the FETAC Module Descriptor for the Internet Marketing Level 5 (L21683) includes the sentence “learners should be able to define the term netiquette”, so I personally think that they have a way to go!). We therefore have agreed to “map” our lectures onto the FETAC accreditation. Therefore, the bottom line is that the Diploma course that we deliver is not specifically developed for FETAC – it has been developed to ensure that marketers get the best education that will allow them to move into the digital space.

    So, back to your blog. As discussed on twitter (search for @dmigroup) that we sent an email regarding the fact that we are now offering FETAC accreditation for the Diploma. The wording on the email and the blog was incorrect. This was pointed out to us and it is now fixed, so apologies for the previous confusion.

    As you say,”Right now there doesn’t appear to be better alternatives out there”. This is correct and what we are doing is trying to fix this problem. However, the fact that FETAC does not accredit this (or any other Diploma) means that we are offering the ONLY choices available at present.

    You might want to know that we have also launched a Postgrad Diploma in Digital Marketing. You might also want to know that the accreditation process in Ireland for this level of education is similarly challenging! So, while we are proceeding with our discussion with various 3rd level institutions in Ireland regarding accreditation, we are also at an advanced stage of discussion with a European focused accreditation body. Oh, and we are nearly full on this Postgrad course, so it looks like the accreditation “issue” is not as important to some people as others (there will always be some people who what the accreditation and there wil always be others who what the learning!).

  6. Hi Damien,

    I think its good that you’ve highlighted this. Your post shows clearly the distinction in how the IIA has presented its Diploma course. Our website headline reads Diploma in Digital Marketing, NOT FETAC Diploma in Digital Marketing.

    Because of the value of this accredition to participants we naturally wanted to highlight it but with professional integrity we did not want to to mislead – hence our press release reads “Diploma in Digital Marketing with FETAC accredition (level 5 minor award)” NOT FETAC Diploma in Digital Marketing.

    To channel some Jerry Maguire, ‘we live in a cyncial world, and we work in a business of tough competitors’ but I take our responsibilities to the industry very seriously. If there was any confusion relating to our presentation of this diploma it was absolutely not our intention and as you can see, we have made every effort to portray it honestly and fairly while still highlighting this valuable accredition.

    Hope this helps and hope you enjoyed the Jerry reference 🙂

    All the best,

  7. Hi Damien

    This has been bothering me too. It’s partly an old debate between education and training, and partly the speed of update problem.

    I teach two short adult ed courses called “Communications Skills for the New Media Age” at UCC which are not “digital marketing” so much as teaching over-25s basic communications design + social media.

    I hit similar problems in relation to accreditation and the degree of change in content. So far I’ve left the course unaccredited to allow it to stay up to date. I think that the move towards Open Educational Resources (OERs) in higher education also needs mentioning – and I know you already make many of your very interesting materials available openly on your own site.

    The Open University has started a project called LearnSpace partly to look at these issues – see
    I’m making all my course materials available there for anyone who wants them via Moodle. I wonder how many “digital marketing training” providers will be using OERs?

    I see dealing with speed of accreditation problem as somewhere Ireland has a massive advantage because of its excellent education quality framework , which is already fully compliant with the EU Bologna process. If only the National Qualifications Framework Authority and the accreditation bodies would wake up and do something in this area…

    ALT, the UK association for learning technologists, has a great conference coming up shortly where David White from Oxford University will be talking about the research they’ve been doing on the convergence between “training” and education, with many online courses showing that trainees want a more engaged, educational approach – see

    For a really useful free overview of flexible learning developments including see the NAIRTL/LIN conference coming up on 6-7 October at the Royal College of Surgeons

    All the best

    Imogen Bertin

    [ PS Anyone in Cork interested in our course you can register online from tomorrow at the new UCC CACE website – see:

    Introductory course:
    Intermediate course: ]

  8. John Coburn says:

    Well, as a competing organisation, and having had several of my clients highlight the emails received from both these Diploma courses, I must say that the marketing of each would seem to be sharp practice at best, and very misleading in the manner in which they cover the Fetac accreditation issue. I would add that the attempt to justify it here is further adding to the precarious basis on which the Fetac accreditation claim was made.

    Damien, well done in uncovering this and continued success with your blog.

  9. Hi John,

    As you are, in your own words from ‘a competing organisation’ and therefore an expert in marketing, I would really welcome your thoughts on what title you think we should have put on the press release instead?

    Also, I was wondering if you would as a marketing professional generally recommend to your clients that they omit to mention their any awards, accreditations, USPs from their communciations?

    Its a tricky job when you only have a one-liner header for a press release to get the key points across. You have to economise with words while still hitting all the selling points – but you clearly have some good ideas that might be helpful.

    I appreciate that from your position helping the competition might go against the grain but in the spirit co-operation for best practice, your constructive suggestions would be most welcome and no doubt would benefit your business too.


  10. John Coburn says:

    Hello Joan,
    I’m afraid the term “expert” is a relative one – in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is King.

    The first line of the IIA’s press release states “…a new Diploma in Digital Marketing that is FETAC accredited…”. Irrespective of the level of FETAC accreditation, the clear assertion is that your Diploma in Digital Marketing is actually FETAC accredited – which in fact, (as with the DMI diploma) it is not. Although parts of your course may comply with or map to certain parts of other FETAC courses, it begs the question – how can FETAC accreditation be claimed in this context? If the Diploma itself is not accredited, what acually is? It would seem that the answer in one sense, is a sub-set of the main course, and yet it is more than that because certain tasks and project work need to be completed and assessed (above and beyond the diploma award) before the level 5 qualification can be awarded.

    But is this not totally confusing for an already bewildered audience, and perhaps even irresponsible by creating the perception of an accreedited diploma? I personally think that it is.

    It is also confusing to see the word “diploma” being used in this context, as FETAC use the word “Certificate” to describe its Level 5 awards on its 10-level framework.

    So Joan, my own view is that whatever it is you are accredited for, it might be an idea to separate it out from your Diploma and perhaps it could be be promoted in its own right with its own title? Not knowing what exactly you (or the DMI) are accredited for, I’m sorry that I cannot be more specific.

    My own experience of FETAC is that they are, deservedly, albeit perhaps somewhat bureaucratically, the authority when it comes to ensuring the training provider’s quality assurance processes (including content updating – take note DMI!) are in place, that learning outcomes are clear and that meaningful assessment can be made. FETAC accreditation is thus very valuable, and contrary to what the DMI has suggested here, is not at all “ambiguous” as its requirements are very clear.

    In particular where you have people who may be between jobs reskilling themselves in the hope of gaining new employment, FETAC accreditation becomes critically important and it is therefore beholding on all of us to be clear and consistent in our claims of accreditation or otherwise.


  11. Donal Clancy says:

    excellent post, thank you for clarifying the accreditation status. Seems I can continue to market DCU Digital Marketing as the only University Accredited course in Digital Marketing.

    Regarding flexibility in a dynamic (even chaotic) industry, the DCU course structure has been accredited, but the content will be updated on a weekly, and even a daily basis, as the course runs. There is no textbook for digital marketing, because the industry is moving so fast that texts are out of date before they reach the printer.

    Keep up the good work,

  12. Hi Donal

    I’m not clear how you’ve managed to accredit the course with changing content – could you post a link to your learning outcomes? (don’t panic… I’m not directly competing with you, I work on digital literacy/communication skills for adult ed…)

    I will post a link here when I have last year’s course up on the Open University Labspace for anyone that wants. I hope that will be in a day or two!

    All the best

    Imogen Bertin (UCC)

  13. Theo Lynn says:

    Hi Imogen

    I work with Donal in DCU Business School and am the Chairperson of the MSc in E-commerce (Business) and Director of the LINK Research Centre.

    Before addressing the topic at hand, please feel free to contact me – I am also interested in digital literacy and participation.

    The learning outcomes do not change on a weekly or daily basis but the specific lesson/class content does change. The programme structure is here Under AFI, the learning outcomes for each module will be made available – I am not sure they are live yet as the course has yet to be activated but I am sure once the course is launched in September, students and the general public alike will be able to view this data as with every other course in DCU. I should note that Level 9 outcomes are substantially different than Level 5 outcomes. Care should be taken not to confuse the two.

    As an academic and entrepreneur with quite substantial experience in digital marketing from both a research a practice basis, I am quite surprised that the provision of postgraduate digital marketing is causing such discussion. I think Damian, and indeed Krishna De, have provided a more balanced perspective on the discussion. There is a role for private sector companies to play in this space in addition to Universities and Institutes of Technology. However, I think there is significant difference in offerings.

    Like UCC, DCU is one of 7 universities recognised in Ireland. Our programmes, including the Graduate Certificate in Digital Marketing, our designed with input from industry and academia and indeed this forms part of the Accreditation process. Similarly, the course content and delivery is informed by objective academic research and industry practice. This is often cited as one of the differentiators between private training companies and universities. The Graduate Certificate in Digital Marketing will benefit from the substantial expertise and experience in the digital space from Professor Alan Smeaton’s team at CLARITY and indeed my team in LINK as well as from lecturing faculty and practitioners. The Grad Cert in Digital Marketing is a Level 9 course in the National Qualifications Framework and therefore the entry requirements and degree of academic rigour are commensurate with this level. The knowlege and skill level requirements and assessment therefore are not insignificant. I cannot speak for DMI’s programme.

    It may be useful to give an example of how this is accomplished in reality at DCU. As part of DCU’s Next Generation Management initiative, we worked with over 65 businesses in Ireland, the UK, and France on applied digital marketing projects. Our teams are consistently ranked in the semi-finals and top percentiles in the Google Online Marketing Challenge and our guest speaker list is extensive including both Irish and International speakers from Google, IBM, Irish International, An Bord Bia, Pigsback, Pawr, SAP and many other leading international business involved in both marketing and wider e-business. As part of the DCU practicum project, we worked with a further 35 businesses including IBM, and other leading e-businesses on digital marketing projects. These included including mobile marketing, mobile app design and development, SEO, social media marketing, online PR and other related aspects. In LINK, we are currently working with over 25 companies on digital marketing projects. Finally, our students are being successfully employed in this area by leading companies like Google, IBM, Accenture, Paypal, the Irish Times, Facebook and many others. Incoming student on the Graduate Certificate in Digital Marketing will benefit in the same way over the coming months and years.

    I admire and have great respect for many of the Irish digital marketers participating in DMI, the Fitzwilliam Institute and other private education institutions. As someone who has been active in the domestic and international private training sector, it is great to see it thriving. However let’s not confuse accredited training with higher education.



  14. We founded the Digital Marketing Institute a few years ago because, at that time, there was no formal education being delivered in Ireland in the area of digital marketing and we were struggling to find suitably qualified people. We started with what we call the Professional Diploma in Digital Marketing. We since launched the Postgraduate Diploma in Digital Marketing to deliver further in depth practitioner led training in Ireland. I am therefore honestly delighted to see DCU following suit and launching its own postgraduate program and the IIA coming to the party with a course similar to our professional diploma. It means that the digital marketing sector is now starting to come of age, which is fantastic.

    I believe that there is a role for both private and university sector in this debate and in the education of our workforce, hopefully ensuring that Ireland can strive towards global leadership in the digital marketing sector.

    While Universities may “work with” or “link to” industry, we are industry. The people who come through our courses interact directly with some of the primary practitioners and influencers in the Irish digital marketing sector.

    There are a number of excellent companies and individuals in Ireland currently offering exceptional training in various aspects of digital marketing that prepare professionals to deliver added value to their business. A few examples include Damian Mullley (Online PR), (SEO and PPC), Krishna De (Social Media), Praxis (SEO, etc), and Dublin City University (Diploma in Digital Marketing). And of course, I would like to think that we in the Digital Marketing Institute deliver a number of courses that also help people understand and implement digital marketing in and for their organisation.

    The value of accreditation lies in the ability to get a job as a result of doing the particular course, which is ultimately dependent on the employer. Over 1,000 individuals and companies have attended our Professional Diploma – accreditation has neither stopped people attending nor has it stopped employers hiring graduates of our programmes. The bottom line is that if one needs accreditation (ie letters for the CV), then one needs to take an accredited course. However, if one needs to learn a very practical subject from some of the leading experts in the digital marketing industry in Ireland, then seek out those experts where ever they are.


  15. Aindreas says:

    This is a storm in a tea cup. The bottom line is digital is a relatively new and evolving industry in Ireland and the DMI/Fitzwilliam etc took advantage of a gap in the market that wasn’t there previously and fair play to them, I know numerous happy qualified people from both courses that are working in the digital industry in Ireland.

    I’ve no doubt that the DCU course will be a great course but like most things in life, it comes down to the person who is being taught, and not the silly accreditation that makes the difference. Regardless of whether or not the person went to DCU to get qualified or to the DMI/Fitzwilliam etc, it comes down to you as a person and what you do with it when given the chance that makes the difference.

    If you’re an employer hiring someone and you have one person from DCU and one from say Fitzwilliam/DMI and another person who has Google Accreditation (as Barry Hand suggested, which i think is a great idea by the way and a very effective way to get the foot in the door and differentiate yourself from other graduates in the same boat) – it’s not (shouldn’t) their qualifications or lack thereof that will get them the job or not, but their personality, drive to succeed and motivation and enthusiasm to better themselves and learn all they can that will make the difference to the employer. In other words, it’s attitude.

    Please, let’s not get caught up with accreditation, it’s not that big a deal. Both courses seem high quality courses with good content covered. And besides, who doesn’t have a degree/masters in the current era anyway? And look around, it doesn’t make that big a difference to the queues of students outside dole offices nationwide.

  16. Eric says:

    Unfortunately DCU is out for me as I cannot get Friday’s off work. So whats the next best option for a dip in digital markeitng? I suppose its between IIA, DMI or Fitzwilliam. I’m edging towards IIA as their trainers look impressive… but its on Monday evenings… which would mean no 5 aside football for 12 weeks!

    Any help would be appreciated.


  17. Hi Eric

    The Digital Marketing Institute has a range of options and we run our Diploma in Digital Marketing courses on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
    Have look at the web site at for options of feel free to call me directly on 086 271 8485 for more info

    All the best


  18. Catsa says:

    So I enrolled on the Irish Times Training’s “Diploma in Digital Marketing” where you can get an Internet Marketing FETAC MINOR AWARD Level 5, after completing three assignments, should you not wish to complete these assignments, you only get an Irish Times Training Diploma in Digital Marketing… HOWEVER, you do not in fact get a ‘Diploma’. It is merely a certificate, with the word ‘Certificate’ printed in bold at the top, saying that, [name] has completed/attended a Diploma in Digital Marketing. What I’m trying to get at is that you DO NOT receive an actual Diploma at the end of the course.

    Now I personally find the advertising from both of these institution’s as incredibly misleading! In both Print and Online Advertising for the course, it is clearly stated that it is a Diploma, where in the end you don’t get one! FALSE ADVERTISING! Secondly, when I broached the subject in my final class last night, I was told that this has been explained in the first lesson – WHAT? AFTER I HAD PAID YOU 1 495 EUROS?
    In the same conversation, I was told that no institution in Ireland can actually give you a Diploma as the course has not been accredited, recognised or something of that sort – SO WHY ADVERTISE IT?

    I feel that all organisations offering this course should re-examine the courses title as it is grossly misleading, and quite frankly, false advertising! There should be a watchdog regulating these sorts of courses, as well as their titles!

  19. Simon Rees says:

    As a former student of one of the institutions discussed here, I’d like to make a couple of points:
    – IMHO, accreditation for digital marketing courses is like the star rating for hotels: used to be the best way of choosing, but now we have plenty online reviews (e.g. on Linkedin groups) that give better, richer, more reliable information.

    – Second, one good way to choose a digital marketing course is to look at the organisation’s own digital marketing. The websites for some of these organisations are, IMHO, pretty poor in terms of layout, dead links – and that’s without getting into the SEO.


  20. Theo Lynn says:

    Hi Simon

    I think you introduce some interesting points however:

    (i) Accreditation is not only an independent quality signal but the, I believe, the basis for the accumulation and transfer of credits under the European Credit Transfer System. In this way, students on accredited programmes get a very real benefit when they wish to pursue further studies. The levels refer to the Learning outcomes which describe a student´s achievements, knowledge, understandings and abilities after the course completion and relate primarily to the Irish and European Qualification Framework.

    The online recommender and review systems in the hotel sector you refer to are quite different. As an internet marketer, I am sure you are aware of the abuse of these systems; it is quite well documented.

    Notwithstanding this, it is comparing two different things. The DCU Grad Cert is a Level 9 programme and the learning outcomes are therefore very different in nature and substance than a Level 5 or indeed an unaccredited course. Similarly, the utility is different.

    (ii) Your second point is an interesting one but I am not sure evaluating an institution’s website is the best way to evaluate an individual course within an institution. For example, academic faculty have no substantive role in the marketing function of the institution. This does not impair their ability to research and educate students. Selecting an educational course and academic qualification based on their institutional website is akin to a choosing style over substance. A student is not buying the institution’s website.

    I cannot speak for the other programmes. As I said, they do provide different services to DCU. Indeed we liaise with the IIA and contribute to their events regularly. What I can say is that you or Damien’s readers are welcome to come out and visit us in DCU or attend some of the 50+ free public digital marketing events we run on-site and online every year with domestic and international speakers from Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Samsung, Salesforce, SEOMoz, PeerIndex etc etc. I understand you were a student at DMI and lecture there on occasion – many students and other lecturers from DMI attend and contribute to our public events and I hope they will continue to do so.

    On a final note, the Grad Cert in Digital Marketing will be running on Friday evening from 5-9 and Saturdays 9-1 which will make it easier for people to attend etc. I have just taken over as Programme Chairperson and I believe the website will be update in the coming days ; ) More information can be found at



  21. Orlaith Hartnett says:

    I’ve been actively researching courses that would meet my needs. In general, I’m largely self-taught and have been lucky to work with people and in organisations that encouraged mentoring. I’ve been recently offered a job that will in part involve promoting/marketing a business on-line. I have been researching digital marketing for a while but I still have a lot to learn. I was considering the ‘Diploma in Digital Marketing’ with DMI but I admit to having reservations regarding the accreditation. I don’t want to cause offence to DMI, on the ‘face’ of it, their course appears excellent.

    Would the minor accreditation for the DMI course help me gain a place on a third-level course?

    Would I require more industry experience and/or third level qualifications to gain entrance to such a course?

    Can anyone recommend any course that they think is of high standards in this area that would fill an immediate gap in my knowledge?

    I feel that I would greatly benefit from a quality learning experience and accreditation would be the ‘icing on the cake’.

    At the moment accreditation is not as important to me as filling a gap in my knowledge but I would like to do a course that could lead to better third-level qualifications.

  22. Orlaith Hartnett says:

    Hi Anthony,

    Thanks for your detailed reply, it’s given me a lot to think about! I hope to be in touch in the near future.

  23. If you want to advertise your courses, this is not the place. Sales pitches deleted. For those wanting to ask the DMI questions or anyone else, they have websites that are meant to be designed for this. This post started because organisations were falsely labeling a course as FETAC accredited and I contacted FETAC who were quite annoyed and made these organisations remove those false statements.

    Always ask for more detail and get all commitments in writing.

    Comments closed due to excessive pitches. If you have an issue, tough.