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Ireland intros quality Mark

Anna Michal

Sue Hackett outlines ELT accreditation improvements

With the recent establishment of Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) in November 2012, the national accreditation scheme for English language teaching organisations (Acels), as part of the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland, was integrated into the QQI.

Since then, in line with Ireland’s international education strategy and the 2012 legislation that established the QQI, work has been ongoing on the development of a new International Education Mark for education and training providers in Ireland, including English language providers.

The Mark is intended to represent and promote public confidence in the quality of the educational experience delivered by education and training providers to international students in Ireland. Quality is defined as a comprehensive concept that includes academic provision and student support which make the whole student experience. The Mark is intended to inform and assure international students about the quality of the educational experience they can and should expect.

The policy on authorisation to use the Mark will be introduced in autumn 2014, after a process of public consultation. QQI will initially prioritise applications from providers which have an existing relationship with QQI by virtue of their recognition under the Acels scheme. This is intended to facilitate the transition of the Acels scheme from a non-statutory to a statutory basis.

There are pre-conditions specified for providers seeking authorisation to use the Mark. The provider must have established procedures for quality assurance with QQI; it must have established procedures for access, transfer and progression as appropriate; and, where a programmes offered by a provider leads to a qualification, it should be formally recognised within the Irish National Framework of Qualifications. Once these pre-conditions have been met, providers will be able to apply for the Mark through demonstration of compliance with a statutory code of practice.

The existing Acels scheme will be discontinued with the introduction of the Mark. As part of the new process for authorising use of the Mark, QQI will issue quality assurance guidelines and programme conditions for the accreditation of ELT organisations. Quality assurance guidelines and conditions will build on the existing Acels standards that have been developed in association with the ELT sector. Providers will be required to have their procedures for quality assurance approved by QQI, apply relevant programme-related conditions and demonstrate compliance with the code of practice. There will be no automatic transition from the existing Acels scheme to the Mark, although the existing Acels providers have been identified as a strategic sector under the Irish government’s strategy for international education and will be prioritised for access to the Mark.

Once authorisation to use the Mark has been granted it will be renewed on an annual basis and reviewed on a cyclical basis.

A logo associated with the Mark is undergoing development at present and will be available in the autumn. Guidelines on the use of emblems and logos along with communication protocols for providers will accompany this. This will take the place of the Acels logo on a staggered basis throughout 2015 as the statutory Mark is implemented.

Sue Hackett is manager of review & enhancement – international education at Quality and Qualification Ireland. For regular updates and further information on the Mark, please visit www.qqi.ie

Pic courtesy: Anna & Michal