Open Award

The Duke of Edinburgh's Open Award (or Gaisce – The President’s Award)

is an initiative supported by BAC for over 20 years.

It’s a fantastic opportunity for young people between 14 and 24 years old to experience the outdoors, gain new skills, volunteer in the community and make lifelong friends. It’s also a great way of demonstrating commitment and resilience to future employers and universities.

Open Award Eligibility

While some schools and youth organisations in Northern Ireland run their own schemes, BAC’s Open Award programme offers the chance for young people who do not have access to DofE/President’s Award programmes through their school or other providers. Open Award can also support schools that are over subscribed for their own training capacity. 

Choice of Awards

In Northern Ireland, each young person who completes the programme has a choice of Award certification:

  • Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Certificate
  • Gaisce – The President’s Award certificate
  • International Award Certificate.

The training and expedition requirements are exactly the same.

BAC Support

Our Open Award programme will guide you through all parts of your Bronze, Silver or Gold Award and includes equipment and staff support for expeditions locally and internationally. This includes the expedition, volunteering, skill and physical sections. We will also help you log your experience on the e.DofE system.


The Open Award Programme runs by academic year with participants enrolling in September.  They attend evening and weekend training sessions throughout the Autumn, Winter and Spring, completing final expeditions during the Summer months.

Information Evening

BAC will host an open evening to talk you through the award and what will be involved. This is a valuable opportunity to ask questions and gain a wider understanding of the commitment before you make your decision.  You can register your interest at this point, but places will only be secure when the deposit is paid.

Bi-Monthly Training Sessions

BAC delivers training and guidance throughout the whole Award. We will meet twice a month to talk through different sections and do compulsory training needed for your expedition. We will also make sure that the other sections of the award are being achieved and help guide participants through them.

Day Walks

Between the training sessions, BAC schedule day walks to put the training and skills you have learned on the training sessions into practice. We will take a trip to the Mourne Mountains or the Antrim Hills and go through all the skills needed during the expedition.

Practice Expedition
We will organise a practice expedition, including overnight wild camping and provide any kit required. This will usually take place in April.

Training continues after this, focusing on skills that need improvement to maximise successful completion of your Qualifying Expedition.
Qualifying Expedition

BAC will organise delivery of your qualifying expedition including equipment, transportation, remote supervision and assessment. This usually takes place in June.

Expedition Presentation

Soon after your expedition BAC will organise an evening where you can present your expedition projects to your fellow participants, parents/carers, and assessor.

Gold Award Presentations

For those who successfully complete a Gold Award, you can choose to have your certificate presented at a special event. The venue will depend on your choice of certificate.  DofE certificates are normally awarded at Hillsborough Castle, Gaisce in Dublin and the International Award at one of the Royal Palaces in London.  

Volunteering on expeditions

The scheme offers an excellent opportunity for people working towards their Mountain Leader or similar qualifications to demonstrate experience of working with groups. It gives you the chance to hone those important outdoor skills of wild camping, navigation and safety by communicating your knowledge to others. You would be volunteering alongside BAC’s qualified staff, with the chance to learn from skilled instructors who hold years of personal and professional experience.

Volunteer drivers
If you have experience of driving minibuses and would like to support an expedition by transporting young people to the location, get in touch! We provide the vehicle and ensure that all of the daily safety checks are carried out before we leave.

For detailed information about what’s involved at each of the levels, timescales and requirements can be viewed at

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