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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Quality assurance in adult education and training


11.Quality assurance

11.3Quality assurance in adult education and training

Last update: 27 November 2023

Quality Assurance in Adult Education and Training 

Education and Training Boards (ETBs) are the public providers of further education and training (FET) in the local community, with pathways for learners across Apprenticeships and Traineeships, Youth Services, Outdoor Education Services and Community Education Services.  Adult education and training is also provided by community based education and training providers. 

The ETBs were established in 2013 under the Education and Training Boards Act. Quality assurance in the ETBs must have regard to the statutory structures in the 2013 Act and any associated codes of governance, including:

  • The Code of Governance of Education and Training Boards,
  • The Codes of Governance for Public Sector Bodies),
  • Circulars issued by the Department of Education and Skills,
  • The terms of funding and planning requirements under SOLAS,
  • The requirements of the Comptroller and Auditor General, and
  • The Teaching Council with respect to regulated staff and other relevant statutory obligations as public sector bodies.

Responsible Bodies

Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) is the statutory agency with responsibility for the external quality assurance of higher education and further education and training.  Within the legislation, public providers, such as the ETBs must have their equality assurance approved by QQI and are subject to external monitoring and review by QQI.   Some community education providers also have their own quality assurance procedures approved by QQI.

QQI issues quality assurance guidelines, approves providers’ quality assurance procedures and monitors and externally reviews providers.

QQI also standards for awards  at levels 1 to level 6 on the National Framework of Qualifications, providers wishing to offer QQI awards on the NFQ must have their programmes validated by QQI.

Approaches and Methods for Quality Assurance

Firstly, all providers offering QQI awards are required to have a quality assurance system agreed by QQI. To do this, a provider will need to be able to demonstrate its capacity to monitor, evaluate and improve the quality of programmes and services it offers to learners.

Secondly, QQI validates programmes submitted by providers whose quality assurance procedures have been agreed. Validation is the process by which QQI evaluates a programme, before it is delivered, to ensure that it can provide a learner with the opportunity to achieve a specified award.

Thirdly, QQI monitors and evaluates programmes. Monitoring is a multi-faceted system of gathering information on providers’ programmes, services and the quality assurance systems which support them. If the evaluation of this information indicates it is necessary, then either the validation of the programme or the agreement of the quality assurance procedures can be reviewed.

Providers are also subject to external QA review by QQI. External review is a core element of the broader quality cycle of engagement with providers, providing an external dimension to internal quality assurance and review activity.

In 2018, QQI established a Policy for the Inaugural Review of Quality Assurance in Education Boards (2019) outlining the aims, scope and methodology for the inaugural reviews of ETBs under section 34 of the 2012 Act.

The review methodology is based on the internationally accepted and recognised approach to review and is broadly equivalent to QQI’s methodology for cyclical reviews in the higher education sector:

  • a self-evaluation conducted by the provider, resulting in the production of a self-evaluation report,
  • an external assessment and site visit by a team of reviewers,
  • the publication of a review report including findings and recommendations, and
  • a follow-up procedure to review actions taken.

The objectives of the review are outlined in the Review Terms of Reference, which were developed in consultation with sectoral representatives and published in 2019. The external review evaluates the implementation and effectiveness of the quality assurance procedures of each ETB with a particular focus on the arrangements for the governance and management of quality, teaching, learning and assessment, and self-evaluation, monitoring and review. These are considered in the context of the expectations set out in the relevant QQI statutory quality assurance guidelines and adherence to other relevant QQI policies and procedures.

The main purposes for this external review were to:

  • encourage a quality culture and the enhancement of the learning environment and experience within ETBs.
  • provide feedback to ETBs about organisation-wide quality and the impact of mission, strategy, governance and management on quality and the overall effectiveness of their quality assurance.
  • improve public confidence in the quality of ETB provision by promoting transparency and public awareness.
  • support system-level improvement of the quality of further education and training in the ETBs.
  • encourage quality by using evidence-based, objective methods and advice.
  • provide an opportunity for ETBs to articulate their stage of development, mission and objectives and demonstrate the quality assurance of their provision, both individually and as a sector.

The external quality review reports for each of the 16 ETBs are published on QQI’s reviews library, Quality and Monitoring Review Reports.