QQI has a statutory function to promote, develop, implement and review the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ). Established in 2003, the NFQ was intended to bring greater coherence to our national system of education and training qualifications. Since its establishment, the NFQ and its 10-level structure, has become a visible and well-recognised feature of the qualifications that are available in Ireland. Reflecting a shared understanding of what the holders of qualifications are expected to know, understand and can do, the NFQ has informed the design of qualifications offered in schools, further and higher education and training settings.
Notwithstanding the visibility and pervasive use of the NFQ, less is known about the actual effects and impact of the NFQ. Earlier studies have revealed important insights about the nature and extent of NFQ implementation across the education, training and skills system in Ireland. It is important that the NFQ is evidence informed and that decisions about the future development and use of the NFQ take account of the best available information.
In 2016 QQI commissioned an independent Policy Impact Assessment of the NFQ. Mindful of the importance of the international context, QQI initially published a background expert opinion paper, Qualifications Frameworks – Reflections and Trajectories. This input traced many of the key perspectives, critiques, debates, possibilities and limitations of qualifications frameworks.
Indecon International Economic Consultants conducted the Policy Impact Assessment of the NFQ on behalf of QQI. The assessment took place between September 2016 and November 2017. An extensive survey of stakeholder views collected data on the impact of the NFQ across key indicators; transparency and quality of qualifications; domestic progression and international mobility and recognition of qualifications; and the employability of graduates. Stakeholders were also asked about the effectiveness of QQI in leading the development of the NFQ and about the future policy direction for the NFQ.
The Indecon report concluded that "The NFQ has been very positively received among learners, employers and other stakeholders. However, while acknowledging the achievements of the NFQ to date, the stakeholder engagement interviews also indicated a diverse range of views of how the NFQ should evolve in the future, and what the priorities of QQI should be in this regard. As such, this report should be viewed as the start rather than the end of a process of consultation, review and, where necessary, reform, to ensure that the NFQ is well positioned to meet the future needs of Irish society and economy."
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