Over the next six years, all publicly regulated higher education institutions (universities, institutes of technology and the RCSI) will be independently reviewed for quality. These reviews, organised by Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI), are intended to bring about improvements through independent peer evaluations and recommendations.
In September 2017, the Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, TD, announced the launch of the CINNTE reviews. Acknowledging that the CINNTE review cycle has a crucial role to play, the Minister described the cycle as “our window into what happens inside our higher education institutions. It allows us to see in a very transparent way the manner in which quality assurance is supported and enhanced in the sector”.
The Irish word ‘cinnte’ means to be assured or certain about something and the purpose of a QQI review is to be certain about the effectiveness of an institution’s approach to quality. Each review will be carried out by an independent team of international experts. The reviews will have a strong involvement of students and experienced international evaluators. Published CINNTE review reports will complement other state initiatives to contribute to an understanding of how well Irish higher education institutions are performing.
QQI anticipates that the CINNTE review will provide an opportunity for each institution to take stock of the quality of its provision of education, training and research. It will also provide an opportunity for each institution to consider its approach to quality and make changes and improvements based on the feedback of an independent team of experts.
The CINNTE review cycle launches at a time of considerable change in the higher education landscape. Since institutions were last reviewed smaller colleges have been merged with universities and many institutes of technology are reorganising and preparing mergers as part of the technological university process. A new approach to public funding was introduced, implemented and is currently being reviewed by the Higher Education Authority (HEA).
Furthermore, initiatives for enhancement such as the Irish Survey of Student Engagement (ISSE) and the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning (NFETL) have been formalised at a national level. These developments mean that new sources of information and external benchmarks are now available to institutions.
QQI wants to promote greater transparency in quality assurance in this review cycle. Terms of Reference for the reviews have already been published by QQI. QQI is also encouraging institutions to make greater use of data to inform reviews of quality. Key indicators such as entry profiles, student retention, graduate profiles and staff and student satisfaction rates are now more consistently measured across the system and can provide more reliable quantitative evidence of the quality of an institution’s offer. The findings from each institutional review will be published as a CINNTE Review Report on the QQI website. The CINNTE reviews will reassure learners that their experience is being monitored for good practice, and reassure the public that the institution is offering a valuable service.