An Educational Amalgamation

Qualifications and Quality Assurance Ireland (QQAI), is soon to replace FETAC, HETAC, NQAI and IUQB. Amalgamation of various state bodies seems to be a hallmark of the Government’s plan to improve productivity, relevancy and efficiency of government bodies and organisations; especially those whose job remit is to get Ireland back working and into education. We have already seen such streamlining and collaboration of services between the Department of Social Services and the Department of Education.

QQAI will become an all-encompassing umbrella organisation which will undertake the work of:

FETAC: The Further Education and Training Awards Council is currently the statutory awarding body for further education and training in Ireland. FETAC makes quality assured awards that are part of the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) from levels 1-6. Meeting learner needs is central to the work of FETAC.

HETAC: The Higher Education and Training Awards Council at present undertakes the validation of programmes; it also sets and monitors standards. HETAC also monitors the educational needs of the economy in order to contribute to national economic prosperity by ensuring the supply of people with the right qualifications at the right time.

NQAI: The National Qualifications Authority of Ireland undertook the role of overlooking and maintains a framework of qualifications for the development, recognition and award of qualifications based on standards of knowledge, skill or competence to be acquired by learners. They also ensure the promotion and facilitation of access, transfer and progression throughout the span of education and training provision.

IUQB: The Irish Universities Quality Board was established to support and promote a culture of quality in Irish higher education and independently evaluate the effectiveness of quality processes in Irish universities.  They maintain a Quality Reviews Catalogue for the seven Irish universities.

It is envisioned that this new single unified agency, QQAI, will assure the quality of qualifications and of learners’ experience of education and training at all levels in Ireland. In turn this will make it easier for employers and others to make sense of Irish qualifications, both nationally and within a global context – where people move freely from country to country. Learners and award holders will find it increasingly easier to get recognition for achievements both nationally and internationally. Essentially training and education will become an easily recognisable and interpreted qualification passport to work nationally and around the world.

With an ever expanding percentage of the population going on to some type of training or further/higher education, it is vital that certain standards are met in the delivery of education/training so that students are reaching and acquiring a certain standard of education and training. This move strengthens a focus on high quality learning experiences across all education and training provision nationally. The strength of current quality assurance systems will grow, opening up new opportunities for people to engage and succeed in learning.

QQAI will be responsible for building on Ireland’s reputation for quality in education and training; they will be strongly positioned to highlight and promote best practice throughout the educational and training system. The National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) will also be further developed by QQAI, which will in time lead to greater opportunities for learners. The currency of all awards on the Framework remains guaranteed. QQAI will evolve into an organisation serving learners and the public; building on the many achievements of the individual agencies and united by the National Framework of Qualifications.

This new developing agency will assist in a greater collaboration and commitment between all the education and training stakeholders, to each other and to each other’s awards and traditions. It will open the way for much greater cross fertilization of ideas and processes, with an inevitable enrichment in learning and teaching experiences.

In an era where Ireland is trying to sell itself as a smart and viable country for foreign investment; QQAI will play a vital role in ensuring that learners are qualified to a high standard in relevant and recognisable qualifications which in turn will allow us to compete successfully with other global economies in attracting investment. The alternative will a lack of foreign investment and hundreds of highly paid vacant positions not applicable to an Irish workforce because we don’t have the necessary qualified employees to fill them. Currently, many companies are importing workers/graduates to fill certain positions and yet we continue to export graduates and highly skilled people; the kernel of the problem is what the QQAI will have to address – ensuring courses delivered are a true reflection on future skills shortages and that graduates of such courses are adequately skilled and trained to fulfil the duties and tasks involved.