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Reengagement process for independent and private providers
​​One of QQI’s functions is to approve a provider’s quality assurance procedures and monitor and review the effectiveness of such procedures. Under the 2012 Act, QQI was tasked with the development of QA Guidelines for providers. In turn, providers must submit their QA procedures for approval to QQI having had due regard to QQI’s QA Guidelines. The “reengagement” process was developed to enable existing private and independent providers to have their QA (previously agreed with HETAC or FETAC) approved by QQI. Through the reengagement process, QQI is evaluating existing providers’ QA procedures for the first time for the purposes of approval. 

In Spring 2017 QQI began holding regional briefings for all independent and private providers to explain the Re-engagement policy and describe the proposed process.  The presentation used in the briefings is available to download here​. Reengagement formally commenced in 2018 and continues apace.

Reengagement is the first stage in a quality assurance dialogue between QQI and providers that is continued through monitoring and review. These latter functions seek to ensure that the QA procedures approved through reengagement are being implemented by providers and are effective. ​

Thematic Analysis of the Reengagement Process​

In February 2020, QQI commissioned Dr. Orlaith McCaul to conduct a thematic analysis of the reengagement process and its outcomes to date (September 2018 – to February 2020). The purpose of the analysis is to review and reflect on the process to see what further enhancements can be made to improve its efficiency and effectiveness. In addition, there is already much to be learnt from the experience of providers, panel members and the outcomes as expressed in panel reports and provider responses.  This learning will relate not just to the process, but, more importantly, to what quality issues providers are facing and will help assist future applicants in preparing their QA documentation. 

Dr. McCaul’s report is available here


Process

The process entails:

1. Application comprising 

     • Application Form and supporting documentation
     • Draft QA Procedures
     • Fee

2. Evaluation by Expert Peer Panel

QQI will appoint a panel of experienced people appropriate to the context of the provider. The panel will review the application and meet the provider (virtually if necessary) to discuss it.

A draft report listing the panel's findings will follow. It will include one of the following recommendations to QQI:

• Approve the provider's application

Following amendments to the relevant legislation, QQI may now identify conditions of QA approval i.e. actions that must be taken by the provider within a specified time period in order for that approval to be maintained. These are known as ‘conditions of QA approval’ and are distinct and separate from ‘mandatory changes’ (see below), which are actions that must be addressed by a provider before its QA procedures can be approved. Providers must comply with any conditions of QA approval imposed by QQI and report on progress in implementing approved QA as required.

• Refuse approval with Mandatory Changes       

If accepted by QQI, this decision will allow the provider to submit revised documentation within six months of the decision.

• Refuse to approve

If accepted by QQI, this decision would indicate there are serious concerns about the provider's quality assurance. The PAEC will decide on the necessary further steps.

3. Decision by QQI

As part of QQI’s governance, the panel’s report together with the provider’s response will be submitted to the Programmes and Awards Executive Committee (PAEC) for decision.

4. Publication of Panel Report


Once the process is finalised, each panel report will be published through QQI’s website here​.  

 
Providers must publish approved QA procedures on their own websites.

 
Process Documents:
Guide to Re-engagement Process – for providers. Updated July 2020.


Gap Analysis Tool - This document, for a provider’s own use, is designed to help a provider to conduct a gap analysis between their current resources, governance and quality assurance procedures and be aware of what is expected as set out in the QQI suite of guidelines.

Application Form​ –The application form was updated in August 2020. It is designed to give QQI and the panel members up to date information on the provider as well as a mapping of the provider’s QA documentation to the QQI Guidelines. Template Letter

 
Panel Report template (updated July 2020) - This will be used by the expert panel to report the findings of their evaluation and give a recommendation to QQI. Published reengagement reports are available here​.
 
Template agenda for site visit (HE) - While the times may be modified the overall structure of the site visit will not vary from the template. 
Note: In response to Covid 19, QQI is currently conducting virtual site visits. The template agenda is still being utilised, with additional break periods introduced.
Template agenda for site visit (FE)​​ - While the times may be modified the overall structure of the site visit will not vary from the template
Note: In response to Covid 19, QQI is currently conducting virtual site visits. The template agenda is still being utilised, with additional break periods introduced.


Fees

The fees for reengagement reflect a graduated system based on the provider’s scope of provision i.e. NFQ Level and award class. For details, see Schedule of Fees​.

What Now?

Pending reengagement, providers with validated programmes should continue as per normal i.e. delivery and assessment of currently validated programmes may proceed and applications for validation of new programmes may be made.

When do I apply?

QQI develops and publishes a yearly schedule for provider applications for reengagement, which will enable the fulfilment of this obligation. Providers will be notified well in advance of their place in the application schedule.

All providers have been given a target by which they should have made their application for reengagement.  This is a quarter rather than a specific date e.g. Q3 2019.  See here for a listing of all providers’ target dates for applications. Reengagement Schedule 2021​

Important Notice: In accordance with Section 84(1a) of the Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) (Amendment) Act 2019, all providers (with the exception of previously established universities) must submit QA procedures for approval to QQI by 5th November 2022. Failure to submit an application for reengagement by that date will result in saved QA procedures from HETAC and FETAC lapsing, meaning that the provider no longer has approved QA procedures in place. In such circumstances, programme validation will be withdrawn.  

Guidance for Providers


From experience in operating the reengagement process to date, some common difficulties faced by providers have emerged. 

Governance
QQI acknowledges the challenges faced by some (especially smaller) providers in establishing governance structures that incorporate the appropriate and expected separation of commercial and academic decision making and informed externality. However, the many HE and FE providers that have successfully had their QA procedures approved through the reengagement and initial access to QQI awards processes demonstrate that such governance structures are both possible and desirable for even the smallest providers. 

Applicant providers are strongly encouraged to review published QA approval reports as a useful reference point, and look at the website of, or speak to, other providers who have successfully completed the process regarding their experiences. 
The additional resources below also contain links to presentations on governance made at reengagement peer learning events

Documented Approach to QA 
Applicant providers are strongly encouraged to review the format and presentation of their QA policies and procedures to ensure that they are consistent; accessible; easy to read and that all references and cross references are correct and easy to follow. Where possible, please have a sample of staff members and students read the documentation to ensure its accuracy and navigability for a variety of audiences. This is crucial step in the last stages of preparation for reengagement that is sometimes overlooked, leading to adverse outcomes for providers. 

Additional Resources 
QQI held peer learning events for applicant providers on 9th May and 30th October 2019 and 18th February 2020. Presentations were made by QQI staff; experienced Panel members and representatives of providers that have already successfully completed reengagement. Some provider representatives have also been members of reengagement Panels and shared their feedback and insights gained from participating in the process from both perspectives.

QQI is grateful to speakers for their participation on the day and for generously sharing the benefit of their experience through the presentations below:


​Further Information
If you have further questions about Re-engagement, please use Qhelp to send them to us.