Recognition for success in enabling better quality in higher education; extensive collaboration with stakeholders
Recommendations to accelerate work with private higher education sector; address uncertain funding structure; reduce reporting burden on higher education institutions
QQI has been hailed as 'exemplary' in a review conducted by the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA).
The review conducted by an expert international panel on behalf of ENQA, the umbrella organisation which represents quality assurance organisations from the European Higher Education Area, made a number of commendations and recommendations to the organisation.
The review panel praised QQI on the effectiveness of its approach to enabling higher education providers adopt more responsibility for quality assurance, including through the delegation of authority to make higher education awards.
The review team also highlighted the highly collaborative manner in which QQI developed policies and methodologies through comprehensive and engaged consultation with stakeholders.
The panel noted, however, that further work could be undertaken to accelerate and improve engagement and institutional quality reviews with private higher education institutions.
Recognising the difficulties experienced by QQI due to a reduction of resources since the recession, the panel recommended that the agency continue to work with the Department of Education and Skills to improve their funding model so that the agency can develop a more stable and longer-term approach to planning.
The panel further noted that QQI works closely with the Higher Education Authority (HEA) to provide regulatory oversight of higher education providers in Ireland. While the roles of the two organisations are distinct and the focus of their engagement with providers differs, there is a necessity to manage the burden with HEIs in terms of their parallel engagements and reporting with QQI and the HEA.
The report concluded that QQI's progress to date and the quality of its external quality assurance activities were exemplary:
"In the seven years since QQI's establishment and especially in the five years since QQI's first ENQA review, a significant amount of progress has been made in creating a unified organisation and a new framework of policies and processes to guide its external quality assurance activities. QQI is now moving from a phase of intensive development, including a notable amount of consultation, to a phase focused on its contribution to the assurance, enhancement and strategic development of higher education, as set out in its recently published Statement of Strategy 2019-2021."
Padraig Walsh, CEO of QQI responded to the publication of the report, saying,
"We welcome the findings of this report by ENQA which acknowledges the commitment and drive of the QQI team in making a real difference to the education and training landscape in Ireland. Ireland is very ambitious in terms of its place in the European higher education area and QQI has worked hard to position itself to contribute to the success of this ambition. We note also the areas for improvement identified which have been prioritised in our Statement of Strategy 2019-2021, Adding Value to Qualifications. We will continue to work closely and collaborate with our varied stakeholders to ensure that students throughout the system have confidence in a high-quality education and training experience."
ENQA promotes European co-operation in the field of quality assurance in higher education and disseminates information and expertise among its members and towards stakeholders in order to develop and share good practice and to foster the European dimension of quality assurance.
This external review report analyses the compliance of QQI with the 2015 Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area. It is based on a review process that involved the production of a Self-Assessment Report by QQI, the review of this report by an expert peer-review panel and a subsequent site visit by the panel to QQI in March this year. This is the second review QQI has undergone since it was established in 2012.
During the visit, the panel met with QQI staff; QQI Board and Committee members; the Department of Education and Skills; the Higher Education Authority; trade union and industry representatives; members of QQI evaluation panels for programme and institutional review; and senior leaders, quality officers and student representatives from Ireland's public and private higher education sector.
Read the report in full here.