By the Universities Act, 1997, s 35, all Irish universities are required
to establish procedures for quality assurance aimed at improving the quality of education and related services provided by the university.
These procedures must include
assessment by those, including students, availing of the teaching, research and other services provided by the university
evaluation … of each department … by employees of the university
to be followed by evaluation
by persons, other than employees, who are competent to make national and international comparisons on the quality of teaching and research and the provision of other services at university level.
There is a legal obligation to implement the recommendations which result, “unless, having regard to the resources available to the university or for any other reason, it would, in the opinion of the governing authority, be impractical or unreasonable to do so”.
There is also an obligation to publish the findings. In the legislation, this is stated in vague terms (“publication in such form and manner as the governing authority thinks fit”); the norm is to publish to the web the report and recommendations of the external evaluators, but not the more detailed internal evaluation on which they were commenting. Reports are currently available online as follows:
- Dublin City University: Published DCU Quality Review
- NUI Galway: Reports for Academic Reviews
- NUI Maynooth: Peer Review Reports
- Trinity College Dublin: Quality Reviews of Schools
- University College Cork: Quality Promotion Unit
- University College Dublin: Quality Review Reports
- University of Limerick: Quality Unit – Publications List
The national picture is kept under review by the Irish Universities Quality Board, which is funded by annual subscriptions from the seven Irish universities and by an annual grant from the HEA. The IUQB is also responsible for Institutional Reviews, which look at each university as a whole – nominally these are reviews of the quality assessment mechanisms within each university, but in fact they take a rather broader look at its current activities. (These reviews are documented here.) The IUQB website also archives some departmental quality reports.
New legislation amalgamates the IUQB into a new authority with broader responsibilities, and makes various changes to the QA regime, which will become rather more elaborate. The Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) Act 2012 is now law, but has yet to be brought into force.