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The emergence of Quality Assurance in Irish Higher Education
A review of European and national policy and description of the Dublin Institute of Technology practice

Author - Aidan Kenny


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This is the second in a series of three papers which explore and describe ‘quality’ as a tool in the Irish Higher Education sector. This paper reviews macro, mesco and micro issues relating to quality assurance within the context of European Union Education Ministers’ communiqués and in Irish national policy. A micro perspective is then undertaken pertaining to the Dublin Institute of Technology describing how quality assurance systems and procedures emerged in the Institute. It also includes the Institute’s response to provisions made in the 1999 Qualifications (Education and Training) Act with reference to the necessity of carrying out quality reviews. The European University Association philosophy as the agency chosen to carry out one such review is outlined. The broad purpose of this paper, and of the previous related paper, is to provide a policy map from macro European to micro institutional level which will aid postgraduate students and those interested in quality assurance in higher education to identify important developments and pursue further research. The inquiry approach utilised is interpretive, descriptions are detailed and meaning is constructed: this is a subjective process firmly located in the broad field of qualitative research. The paper offers a general review of policy documentation together with some critical commentary and personal reflections.

The commercialising and marketizing of education also reflect the cost cutting pressures of globalisation. Schools are being ‘re-engineered’ in much the same way as business corporations.
Giddens 2004: 510)

In this paper, the second of two in the Summer 2006 edition of Level 3, I outline some of the major milestones in the emergence of quality assurance in the Irish Higher Education (HE) sector. Contextual information is provided by reviewing, European policy (macro), national legislation (mesco), and Institute (micro) documents. Analysis is confined to documentary evidence in terms of communiqués from the European Union, Irish Government legislation, acts, national agreements and procedures adopted by the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT). Reference is also made to the European Network for Quality Assurance (ENQA), the European University Association (EUA), Professor Coolahan’s report ‘Higher Education in Ireland’ (2004), the Conference of the Heads of Irish Universities’ ‘A Framework for Quality in Irish Universities’ (2003), Skilbeck’s report, ‘The Universities Challenged’ (2001) and DIT documents. I also reflect on my own experience as an academic participant within the HE sector and as an insider observer during the recent DIT institute quality review carried out by the European University Association (EUA).

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