Each year, QQI as the external Quality Assurance (QA) body for higher education, requests the universities, DIT and RCSI to complete an Annual Institutional Quality Assurance Report (AIQR) based on the preceding academic year. QQI prepares an annual summary of these reports to bring together data provided, to identify themes occurring across the institutions and to highlight quality activities undertaken during the reporting period. This summary report, entitled Quality within the Universities, RCSI and DIT 2016, presents quality activities undertaken during the reporting period 1 September 2014 - 31 August 2015.
For QQI, and the wider public, this publication demonstrates the many QA activities being undertaken across institutions and the resulting improvements implemented. The focus of the report is on improving the student experience and teaching and learning activities. There are benefits for institutions too as the report provides them with a place to highlight and publicise common themes across the sector and gives them a source for improvements that can be made in between periodic quality reviews.
The report highlights a number of key findings including:
• The wider context for higher education of reduced funding, the employment control framework and a revised landscape of mergers and alliances continued to have a significant impact on the effectiveness of QA.
• Despite cutbacks, work continued in many institutions to improve the student experience, with a particular focus on the first-year experience in order to increase retention rates.
• Institutions reported that they were making greater use of data in their QA procedures, particularly in internal school/departmental reviews and programme reviews.
• Overarching procedures and initiatives were being put in place to bring together different sources of data and qualitative information to improve quality and in particular the student experience within institutions.
• Reduced funding and the employment control framework have had an impact on both the implementation of recommendations arising out of quality reviews and the ability to maintain and develop facilities and equipment.
• Review ‘fatigue’ was a very real phenomenon throughout the sector.
• The depth and breadth of the impact of QA policies and procedures varied across institutions, but it was clear that recommendations from external examiner reports and internal quality reviews were very helpful to the development and implementation of quality enhancements affecting a wide range of stakeholders and departments.