The Irish universities all have comprehensive internal and external quality assurance procedures meeting both national and European standards, with a strong focus on the ongoing use of evidence to enhance the quality of all their activities. These procedures are overseen by university governance and the national agency, Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI), and the universities’ procedures are based on QQI’s Core Statutory Quality Assurance Guidelines and Sector-Specific Statutory Quality Assurance Guidelines, all underpinned by the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area.
All courses offered in Irish universities lead to qualifications which are included on the Irish National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) and the Irish Register of Qualifications (IRQ). These qualifications are underpinned by the core principles of quality, recognition, access, transfer and progression and are recognised internationally for the purposes of further study and employment. The NFQ contributes to the strong reputation of Irish university graduates and trust of their qualifications, at home and abroad.
The internal QA procedures in Irish universities include evaluations of study programmes and learning and teaching activities, and reviews of schools, faculties and colleges, as well as administrative and service units within each university. These periodic reviews are organised by each individual university, and involve external expert reviewers. The reports arising from these reviews are published on the universities’ websites. Many of these external experts come from the UK and other European countries, or from further afield. Likewise, Irish academics are often invited to contribute to evaluations and reviews which take place in other countries.
QQI conducts independent external reviews of the universities on a periodic basis. The third cycle of these institutional reviews (2017-2023) is currently underway. These provide the opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness and implementation of institution-wide quality assurance procedures for the purposes of establishing, ascertaining, maintaining and enhancing the quality of education, training, research and related services each university provides. The reports arising from these reviews are published on the QQI website.
In addition to conducting regular ongoing reviews and evaluations, all of the universities have annual Dialogue Meetings with QQI and provide the agency with an Annual Institutional Quality Assurance Report for each academic year. In addition, QQI publishes regular relevant reports, such as its latest Quality in Irish Higher Education report (September 2019).
Nora Trench Bowles is Head of Lifelong Learning, Skills and Quality at the IUA.