Qualifications and Quality Assurance Amendment Act

Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) Amendment Act 2019  

QQI welcomes the passing of the Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) Amendment Act 2019 through all stages of the Oireachtas.  This new legislation will safeguard the integrity of the National Framework of Qualifications and the reputation of higher and further education and training in Ireland and improve standards in the international education sector. 

The key changes will:

  • Allow QQI to list awarding bodies such as professional bodies or international awarding bodies and include their qualifications in the NFQ;
  • Provide a legal basis for QQI to examine the corporate fitness of providers, including compliance with national employment law;
  • Introduce an International Education Mark (IEM) for the Higher Education (HE) and English Language Education (ELE) sectors;
  • Establish a national scheme for the protection of enrolled learners (PEL) in the event of the sudden closure of a provider;
  • Empower QQI to prosecute essay mills and other forms of academic cheating;
  • Establish Institutes of Technology as autonomous awarding bodies; 
  • Establish a pathway for private institutions to use the title of university. 

What happens next?

The Bill was signed into law by President Michael D Higgins on 23 July.  Following this, the Minister for Education and Skills will sign a series of commencement orders so that the legislation can take full legal force and effect.   Acts can be commenced in their entirety or may be commenced in sections, at the discretion of the Minister.

To date, the Minister has signed a number of commencement orders which include new powers permitting QQI to prosecute instances of academic cheating; and for the recognition of Institutes of Technology as Designated Awarding Bodies, alongside universities and technological universities. 

Certain new functions for QQI contained in the amending legislation will require ministerial regulations or statutory instruments to be enacted by the Minister.  In particular, these relate to:

• Corporate Fitness – this relies on ministerial regulations setting out the relevant criteria to be used

 Protection of Enrolled Learners – a statutory instrument is required to establish a learner protection fund

You can find out more about all commencement orders and statutory instruments in relation to the legislation here.  As the various commencement orders/ministerial regulations/statutory instruments are enacted, QQI will begin work on the development of implementation plans, guidelines and policies in relation to each of the amended areas of activity.  These will be subject to a number of consultations with our wide range of stakeholders.

What do providers need to do?

Right now, there is no requirement for you to take any specific action.  QQI will keep all providers notified of developments through an extensive process of consultation. 

In particular, existing learner protection systems will remain in place until further notice. 

It is not envisaged that the IEM will be implemented until the 2021-22 academic year. (The IEM applies to the HE and ELE sectors only; it is not applicable to FET providers.)  QQI is working closely with the Department of Education and Skills on an implementation plan for legislative amendments.