Academic Affairs

Teaching, Learning and Assessment

HECA member higher education providers are teaching led, and they pride themselves on delivering to the highest standards of teaching and learning to their learners. Learner-centred teaching is at the heart of the mission of each of HECA’s member institutions. HECA providers have a shared strategic priority to continue to invest and enhance its teaching to a sector-leading standard. This core function, together with innovative and diverse assessment strategies, combine in a transformative process of education for the learner, transmitting knowledge, skill and competence to a learner through state accredited programme curricula.

In line with the National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030, all the members of the higher education sector are committed to providing their students with the highest quality teaching and learning experience. HECA institutes integrate research with teaching and learning; work towards enhancing the flexibility of programme-provision; and continually strengthen the focus on the quality of learning outcomes to ensure that graduates of HECA institutions continue to be in demand.

The National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning, which was launched in 2012, is the overarching infrastructure for the enhancement of teaching and learning in Irish higher education. The National Forum community is comprised of experienced academic, research and administrative staff and students, drawn from across Irish higher education institutions and the sector as a whole. This collective is united by a desire to connect, support and inform all those involved in the enhancement of teaching and learning in Irish higher education. The Forum supports the implementation of the recommendations of the National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030 in the teaching and learning area and works collaboratively with HECA and its member institutions and the broader higher education community. Further details on the Forum are available here.
HECA in partnership with the National Forum and EDIN (the Educational Developers in Ireland Network) published a report “Identifying the professional development needs of part-time academic staff in higher education institutions in Ireland”. This is the culmination of a collaborative project between HECA and EDIN, and funded by the, with the aim of delivering a research-informed analysis of professional development needs for the target group to inform continuing professional development programmes for these staff in the future. The executive summary and full report are available from the project website.

Research and Innovation

Research, development and innovation is a strongly growing area of activity for the independent colleges higher education sector of Ireland. It is intrinsically linked with teaching and learning, knowledge transfer and engagement, with a primary aim to produce research-informed graduates with skill-sets aligned to enterprise and community needs. The institutions that comprise HECA are performing research at basic, applied and pre-commercial stages with a range of regional, national and international enterprise and community partners. Although long recognised for strong research and innovation capacity in STEM areas, particularly in working with enterprise, some HECA member providers have developed and are continuing to grow capacity in arts, media, humanities, business and social sciences. It is clear that as independent colleges continues to grow and expand, research is increasingly central to their operations, permeating all aspects of the teaching and learning experience, programme design and staff development.

HAQEF – HECA Academic Quality Enhancement Forum

HAQEF Purpose
The overarching purpose of the HECA Academic Quality Enhancement Forum (HAQEF) is to carry out the strategic objectives set by the HECA Board, representing HECA’s commitment to quality enhancement. This forum was formerly run under the auspices of the HECA Academic Quality Enhancement Council, founded in 2016 and changed its title in June 2018 to the HECA Academic Quality Enhancement Forum.  

It aims to do this by:
• Liaising with appropriate higher education decision-making bodies in relation to academic quality enhancement matters through the HECA board.

• Contributing to the wider HE community by sharing expertise.

• Supporting Communities of Practice that have evolved within HECA.

• Fostering initiatives to improve and enhance academic quality.

• Promoting collaborative research. 

• Informing and making recommendations to the HECA board.

HAQEF members

Brendan Collins, Open Training College (OTC)
Grant Goodwin, Dublin Business School (DBS)
Sylwia Plucisz, Dublin Business School (DBS)
Ann King, St Nicholas Montessori (SNMCI)
Lorraine Halpin, SQT Training
Natalie Dussan, Dorset College
Mary Doyle, Griffith College
Orla Butler, Griffith College
Philip Hennessy, Setanta College
Patricia O Sullivan, HECA
Elva Casey,  Hibernia College
Joe Forde, ICHAS
Amanda Russell , CCT College
Ronnie Harrison, Open Training College

HECA Library Committee

Ann Byrne (Hibernia College)
Robert McKenna (Griffith College)
Debora Zorzi (CCT College)
Dimphne NiBhraonain (Griffith College)
Daire O Driscoll (Dorset College)

Sector Validation, Accreditation, and Quality Assurance

The independent colleges higher education sector in Ireland operates within a robust national and internationally benchmarked quality assurance system. The system is underpinned by national legislation and overseen by Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI). It is also informed by, and compliant with the standards adopted in the European Higher Education Area under the Bologna Process.

The statutory responsibility for the external quality assurance of all public and private higher education institutions in Ireland resides with the national agency, Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI). Under its legislative remit, QQI is responsible for the establishment of the policy framework under which external quality assurance operates, and it acts as the validating body for FE and HE awards across the privately funded college's sector, in Ireland.

The processes by which independent colleges agree their QA systems with QQI, have programmes validated and revalidated, are continuously monitored, and institutionally reviewed, are widely recognised as among the most rigorous across Europe. HECA membership is restricted to established independent higher education providers who are accredited by QQI in Ireland.

Each HECA provider maintains and continuously reviews a QQI approved comprehensive quality framework which places continuous improvement of the learner experience at its core. Quality Assurance Policies of each provider are generally framed in the context of the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG), and the policies of Quality and Qualifications Ireland.

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