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15 May, 2017 - Bruton Announces New Powers for the Higher and Further Education Regulator

New Bill to Tackle Academic Cheating, Establish an International Education Mark

Institutes of Technology to Have Greater Autonomy in Awarding Bachelors and Masters Degrees

The Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton, T.D., has today (Monday) announced that the Government have approved the draft outline of a law which will provide new powers to the Higher and Further Education Regulator, QQI, to improve the quality of our education system.

Part of our plan to be the best education and training service in Europe is to strengthen our reputation for quality. This is particularly important for overseas students where we hope to increase the value of the sector by 33% to €2.1 Billion by 2020.

The changes will also put QQI, the higher and further education regulator responsible for quality assurance, into a more central role to monitor and oversee standards across the sector. 

For the first time Institutes of Technology will become ‘Designated Awarding Bodies’ similar to the Universities. This is a very significant change for the sector. Institutes of Technology, which have a better regional spread that our University sector, have a key role to play in driving regional development and jobs growth.

The key changes being proposed by the Minister in the Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Amendment) Bill include:

  • New powers to prosecute ‘essay mills’ and other forms of academic cheating
  • A Learner Protection Fund, which will support students to complete their studies if their college closes
  • An International Education Mark (IEM), awarded by QQI, will provide international students with confidence that their college or school is reputable
  • Establish the Institutes of Technology as Designated Awarding Bodies in line with the Universities
  • Powers to check a provider’s bona fides to ensure that it is fully equipped to provide a programme of education and training
  • Give QQI the power to ‘list’ awarding bodies and to include their qualifications in the National Framework of Qualifications to allow awards made by private, professional and non-national awarding bodies, where appropriate, in the Framework
  • Information sharing by QQI and other State bodies to ensure a coordinated approach to regulation of the sector
  • To strengthen and improve QQI’s approval processes for provider’s quality assurance procedures
  • To involve education and training providers more centrally in the application process for recognition of prior learning (RPL)

The General Scheme will now be issued to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Skills to allow for a full public discussion on the proposals. The Minister hopes that the Committee can consider these proposals as soon as possible. 

 

Minister Bruton said:

“This legislation will strengthen QQI’s role as a regulator of quality in further and higher education.

“Today I am announcing plans to get tough and tackle academic cheating. I am proposing new powers to prosecute someone who provide or advertise essay mills or other services which would facilitate cheating. This is vital to ensuring an equal playing field for all our students.

“The new Bill will allow for the introduction of the International Education Mark, which is a significant part of the Government’s International Education Strategy which will grow the value of the sector by one third to €2.1 Billion.  Only providers who meet the robust quality assurance procedures of QQI will be allowed to carry the Mark. This will benefit both education and training providers and students by highlighting those providers who are delivering high quality educational services.

“The Bill also contains provisions for a new national Learner Protection Fund.  This will strengthen the existing system of learner protection and ensuring that students are allowed to finish their programmes of education and training in the event that their programme ceases prematurely. What I am proposing in this regard is in line with international best practice in this area.

“In addition, the new Bill will establish the Institutes of Technology as Designated Awarding Bodies for the first time.  This will allow IoTs to have more autonomy over the range of programmes they deliver up to and including masters degree. Institutes of Technology, which have a better regional spread that our University sector, have a key role to play in driving regional development and jobs growth. It will also place the Institutes of Technology on a more equal footing with the university sector.

“One of my priorities in the Action Plan for Education, which aims to make the Irish education and training service the best in Europe within a decade, is to improve our national planning and support services. The changes we are introducing are necessary to ensure high standards in Higher and Further education going into the future, and to provide better outcomes for all learners.

“I hope that the Committee gives this Bill early consideration so that we can proceed to the next stage of legislation as quickly as possible”.

Link to the Bill: Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Amendment) Bill

ENDS

 

Notes to Editor

This Bill will amend the Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) Act, 2012 which established Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI), the national agency with responsibility for external quality assurance and qualifications across the further and higher education sectors.  Legislative amendments to the 2012 Act are necessary to address a number of issues that are currently impeding QQI from exercising some of its intended functions.