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Minister Mitchell O’Connor announces the publication of the Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) (Amendment) Bill


Min Mitchell O'Connor with Padraig Walsh from QQI

The Minister for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor T.D., today announced that the Government has approved publication of the Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training)(Amendment) Bill

Minister Mitchell O’Connor welcomed the Government decision noting that “This is a key piece of legislation that will further empower QQI as a regulator of quality and will strengthen the agency’s role in ensuring high standards across Ireland’s Higher and Further Education sectors.

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.

The key amendments that are introduced in the Bill include provisions:

  •        To give QQI statutory authority to ‘list’ awarding bodies and to include their qualifications in the National Framework of Qualifications.  This will enable QQI to include awards made by private, professional and non-national awarding bodies, where appropriate, in the Framework
  •        To provide QQI with statutory powers to evaluate a provider’s bona fides to ensure that it is fully equipped to provide a programme of education and training. This will strengthen QQI’s role as a regulator in the education and training sector
  •        To facilitate information sharing by QQI and other State bodies including the Higher Education Authority and SOLAS.   This will ensure that there is a coordinated approach to regulation of the further and higher education sectors
  •        To strengthen and improve QQI’s approval processes for provider’s quality assurance procedures
  •        To facilitate the introduction of the International Education Mark (IEM)
  •        To involve education and training providers more centrally in the application process for recognition of prior learning (RPL)
  •        To strengthen learner protection measures
  •        To provide QQI with statutory powers to prosecute ‘essay mills’ and other forms of academic cheating
  •        To provide for the granting of award making powers, with the exception of doctoral awards, to all of the Institutes of Technology

The Bill will be published and available on the Oireachtas website in the coming days.

Minister Mitchell O’Connor said:

This is an important legislative reform that will deliver on some key priorities for my Department. In particular, the Bill provides for the introduction of the International Education Mark. This is a key element of the Government’s International Education Strategy which will see the value of this sector grow by one third to €2.1 Billion over its lifetime.  Providers who meet the robust quality assurance procedures of QQI will be allowed to carry the Mark. This will send a clear signal to students about the quality of education and training they can expect to receive.

The Bill also contains measures to establish a new national Learner Protection Fund.  This Fund will strengthen the existing system of learner protection and benefit students by ensuring that they are allowed to finish their programmes of education and training in the event that their programme ceases prematurely.

Other key provisions of the Bill will enable QQI to address the issue of academic cheating, to examine the corporate governance of providers, and to establish the Institutes of Technology as Designated Awarding Bodies, allowing IoTs more autonomy over the range of programmes they deliver up to and including masters degrees.

This legislation will be initiated in the Autumn and I look forward to its swift passage through the Oireachtas.