Harmonising Approaches to Professional Higher Education in Europe


Stakeholder Survey Overview

As part of our research we carried out a survey of Education & Training stakeholders. Find the results of this survey below.

Legislation & Policy Overview

The following section gives an overview of the national PHE environment within Ireland. The profile was completed by Association of University Institutes of Technology Directors.

Section A: General Profile of PHE

1. How is PHE defined in your country?

– Institutes of Technology (IoT’s) (14 institutions, incl. Dublin Institute of Technology, which enjoys extended powers) Section 21 (2) of the Vocational Education Acts, 1970 to 1992 Institutes of Technology Acts, (Regional Technical Colleges Act), 1992 to 2006 Dublin Institute of Technology Act in 1992 – Colleges of Education (Primary school teacher training) (5 institutions) eaching Council Act, 2001 Teaching Council Amendment Act, 2006 – Some private institutions offer strictly vocational education in a number of fields – their relationship with public stakeholders is under review.

Commentary: A major evolution of Irish Higher Education is under way:  The Higher Education Authority has recently published a “statement [dated 30 May 2013] on higher education by the Minister for Education and Skills […] setting out a new configuration for the higher education system. This provides for a major programme of structural reform including institutional mergers and much greater levels of institutional collaboration, with the creation of a series of regional clusters of institutions. The Minister has also announced his approval for three groups of institutes of technology to proceed towards detailed planning for a formal application for designation as technological universities”.  In “New Landscape for Education”, http://www.hea.ie/content/new-landscape-higher-education, site consulted 22 June 2013.

1.1 What is your nationally recognised definition of a PHE Institution?

Regional Technical Colleges [later Institutes of Technology] are “to provide vocational and technical education and training for the economic, technological, scientific, commercial, industrial, social and cultural development of the State with particular reference to the region served by the college” Regional Technical Colleges Act 1992, section 5  [They are based] on career-focused higher education with an emphasis on provision at levels 6 to 8 and on industry-focused research and innovation  (Hunt, 105).

Commentary: [The dual system] ”should be strengthened by the development of regional clusters of collaborating institutions (universities, institutes of technology and other providers),and by institutional consolidation that will result in a smaller number of larger institutions.There should be a particular focus on encouraging the emergence of stronger amalgamated institutes of technology. Central to the envisaged regional cluster model will be universities and amalgamated institutes of technology operating as collaborative partners to deliver on jointly agreed strategic objectives.The diversity of mission that has served Ireland well to date should be maintained.  Colin Hunt, National Strategy for Higher Education, 2011  Also, there is no clear national or legal definition of what is a Technological University : “Internationally, a technological university is a higher education institution that operates at the highest academic level in an environment that is specifically focused on technology and its application.” (Hunt, p. 103).

1.2 Are there any specific requirements towards PHE Curriculum/Course?

Short-cycle (S), B, M diplomas are awarded in IoT’s; The Dublin Institute of Technology awards (Higher) Doctorates.

Commentary: Universities do not offer short cycle awards.

2. Which EQF Levels does PHE cover?

EQF Level 5 – Yes
EQF Level 6 – Yes
EQF Level 7 – Yes
EQF Level 8 – Yes

3. Which governmental bodies are responsible for governance of the PHE sector? Do these differ from the governance of AHE? Is there any engagement of any other public authorities and which, if so?

The new strategy for Higher Education ensures that there are no major differences between all sectors of state-funded Higher Education.  The Higher Education Authority administers and regulates AHE and PHE; Institutes of Technology have the same internal governance arrangements as universities.

4. Quality assurance: Please provide information on quality-related legislation (national QA/accreditation system, regulations concerning QA at institutional level etc.). Are there any specific QA criteria for PHE? If so, which (if necessary, refer to specific EQF levels or institutions)?

Institutes of technology (and private institutions) do not have power to confer their own degrees (Up until now, most IoT’s enjoy ‘Delegated Authority’ though). Their awards are validated by QQI (see infra); some awards are validated by relevant professional bodies.  Dublin Institute of Technology however has power to award its own degrees.  Quality assurance for both PHE and AHE, as well as other levels are now performed by the Qualifications and Quality Assurance Authority of Ireland (QQI). It replaces the extant quality assurance bodies, notably HETAC, that dealt with degree-level awards in Institutes of Technology. QQI is in the process of defining and validating its own procedures.  Qualifications (Education and Training) Act, 1999  Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) Act, 2012

Commentary: Quality assurance system(s) for PHE and AHE are evolving to apply the same guidelines to both sectors under the same reference: the National Framework of Qualifications.

5. Are there any specific funding mechanisms/principles/criteria for PHE, different from general HE principles?

No: HEA is the statutory funding authority for the universities, institutes of technology and a number of other designated institutions and is the advisory body to the Minister for Education and Skills in relation to the higher education sector.

6. Are there any formal requirements for stakeholders, in particular from the part of the professional sphere/employers’ representatives concerning their engagement in PHE steering and provisions? If so, in which areas (governance, quality assurance, curriculum development, students’ placement etc.)?

Legal dispositions concerning governance are set in the Institutes of Technology Act, 2006 but limit their scope to the members of governing bodies: they include a non-majority number of professionals. The QQI, the Quality agency, assesses course contents and providers. In addition, QQI, recognizes some professional bodies through the Framework (e.g. the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ireland).

Commentary: The National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030 (2011) will see the transformation of Ireland’s higher education for more connection with stakeholders, better quality and effectiveness.

7. Are there any other legislative differences between PHE and other HE institutions (e.g. partnership with enterprises, regional involvement etc.)?

Both sectors are regulated by different sets of legislative dispositions.

8. Is PHE limited to some specific branches and/or fields of study? If yes: Which ones?

No: health&welfare, architectural, agricultural, etc. programmes are delivered by IoT’s.

Section B: Teaching & Staffing

1. Are there any formally set requirements for academic staff teaching at different levels in PHE (e.g their qualification, expertise, selection & appointment)? Are they different from AHE?

No: each institution (AHE and PHE) determines the acceptable level of expertise and qualification according to the position it creates.  PHE and AHE institutions may require work experience on top of Academic experience.  Each institution has its own employment policy .

Commentary: The National Strategy for Higher Education (Hunt, 2012) recommends that “In the case of institutes of technology, contracts should specify a minimum number of hours to be delivered on an annualised basis”.

2. Are there any specific requirements for PHE staff work (teaching/research) arrangements and workload? If so, which? How do they differ from AHE?

No. Staff workload have to comply with Public service .

3. Are there requirements to include non-academia (professionals) to teach in PHE institutions? What qualifications must they have if any?

No. Each IoT determines its own policy.

Section C: Curriculum

1. Are there any specific requirements as regards contents/structure (e.g. percentage of practically oriented modules) as regards PHE? If so, which? What are the differences with respect to AHE?

No, apart from the legal definition of the mission of IoT’s.

2. Are there any specific requirements as regards practical elements of PHE study programmes (e.g. work experience/Practical placements/Internships)? If so, which? What are the differences with respect to AHE?

No, apart from the legal definition of the mission of IoT’s.

3. Are there any other legal requirements specific for PHE programs?

No answer provided

Section D: Research & Technology Transfer

1. What is the involvement of PHE in R&D&I&TT activities? Are there any formal differences at different levels/institutions of PHE?

A number of bodies participate in the funding of research in higher education: funding is generally directed at teams on a bidding principle. Research teams are constituted irrespective of origin (AHE or PHE).

Commentary: Funding sources: Irish Research Council, Science Foundation Ireland, HEA through its Programme for Research in Third Level Institutes, EntrepriseIreland, etc.

2. Are public research programs restricted to some types of HEIs (e.g. academic sector)? If so, what are the criteria?

No. Research in Institutes of Technology has been described as “Purpose-driven” yet that definition does not motivate any restriction. The 2012 Prioritisation Action Group is now working on the 14 areas of research that have been defined as priorities for the nation: access and funding do not differentiate IoT’s and Universities.

Section E: Recognition & Credit Transfer

1. Are there formal differences in the enrolment process into PHE and AHE?

“Each university or institute has the freedom to set their own admission policies within the HEA guidelines. This involves setting requirements to assess students based on their exam results. Admission policies have to comply with national targets”.  Other routes to enrolment are through Access, for under-represented groups.

2. Are there formal paths for transfer from PHE into other HE programmes (for graduates, during the study)? Are there automatic transfers for students between PHE and AHE? Do students need bridging programmes or other means of transition?

There are bridges between further or higher education to Universities or institutes through the former Further Education and Training Awards Council [Now QQI] regulations (usually 2-year programs).

3. Are there any specific regulations concerning employment of PHE graduates? Do you need to justify delivery of certain PHE studies? e.g provide evidence of labour market needs or collect data on employability of graduates).

Information not available, probably in the context of the current establishment of QQI.

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