A team of EU and US assessors has endorsed quality-assurance procedures in Irish universities as “unparalleled in any other country in Europe or indeed in the US and Canada” in a report published yesterday by the Higher Education Authority (HEA), which is aiming to steer the universities to the top tier of OECD countries.
The chairman of the HEA Michael Kelly said this was a significant vote of confidence in Irish universities by the first external independent review of the effectiveness of their quality-assurance procedures.
The assessment team included assessors from the European Universities Association and from North America.
Kelly said: “The maintenance of a high-quality, internationally benchmarked university sector is an essential prerequisite to placing Ireland’s higher education system in the top rank of OECD countries.
“This review is the first phase in a process — the outcome is most encouraging but the next phase must be the implementation of the findings and recommendations by the universities.”
To support the implementation, the HEA has agreed that the Irish Universities Quality Board will provide the authority with an action-oriented implementation plan, which will be kept under review by the HEA on a six-monthly basis.
As part of the quality review process, the HEA, in consultation with the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland, appointed a separate panel chaired by John Dunne, chairman of IDA Ireland. The panel’s role is to bring the views of other stakeholders in Irish society and economy to the review process.
Kelly added: “Quality assurance is in the first instance the concern of the universities themselves and this review has shown an overall very positive situation that we should not be slow to acknowledge.
“The review is an essential part of the statutory duty of the HEA, on behalf of the Government, to ensure accountability of universities to students and the wider community. It shows the universities are proactively engaged with quality assurance, even if in a number of areas there is room for improvement. The HEA will support the universities in addressing these areas,” Kelly said.
By John Kennedy