As anticipated the Cabinet approved the Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training)(Amendment) Bill at its meeting in Kerry on Wednesday. 18 July The primary purpose of the bill is to address a number of issues that have been identified as impediments to QQI, in fulfilling aspects of its role in relation to the quality assurance of the further and higher education sectors, including in relation to the implementation of the International Education Mark. More details on the bill are set out in Minister Mitchell O’Connor’s Press Release, which can be downloaded here. The bill will be published on the Oireachtas website in the coming days and initiated in the Autumn.
While many aspects of the bill have relevance for quality insurance in the institutes generally, one provision is of particular interest to the sector. On foot of discussions with the Department of Education and Skills and QQI over the past number of years, THEA has succeeded in securing the inclusion of an amendment (Section 33) to the Regional Technical Colleges Act 1992 , which provides for the granting of award making powers, with the exception of doctoral awards, to all of the Institutes of Technology. Together, of course, with the TU legislation and the advent of TUs, this will establish the entire technological higher education sector as Designated Awarding Bodies, and put technological higher education institutions on an equal footing with other designated awarding bodies, including the universities, with which they are expected to establish regional and thematic clusters, as per the goals of the National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030. In addition, when passed, the bill will create a single, coherent quality assurance and qualifications space amongst public higher education institutions, and significantly alter the manner in which the sector engages with QQI.