A new law, which has been drafted by the Department of Education and Skills, would allow higher education’s regulatory body to target “essay mills” and cheating.
Announced today by the Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton, a new draft law would empower Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI), which regulates the third-level sector, to target cheating in coursework and essays.
The new powers will mean that anyone providing or advertising “essay mills” or “other services which would facilitate cheating” could face prosecution. “This is vital to ensuring an equal playing field for all our students”, Bruton said, in a press statement.
The proposed reform would also create a “learner protection fund” to support students if their college closes, as well as changing the status of institutes of technologies to “Designated Awarding Bodies” in line with universities. A new “International Education Mark” will also be awarded by QQI to provide a rating for colleges and schools for international students.
Bruton said the law will allow institutes of technology to “have more autonomy over the range of programmes they deliver up to and including masters degree”.
“It will also place the Institutes of Technology on a more equal footing with the university sector”, he said.
The reforms would also introduce powers to ensure an institution is fully equipped to provide a full programme of education and training, while also potentially widening the scope of private, professional and non-national awarding bodies that might be included under the National Framework of Qualifications.
“Only providers who meet the robust quality assurance procedures of QQI will be allowed to carry the Mark. This will benefit both education and training providers and students by highlighting those providers who are delivering high quality educational services”, Bruton said.
The draft bill will now be considered by the Oireachtas Education and Skills Committee, which is also currently considering a new model for higher education funding.
Bruton has consistently emphasised his ambitious plans for the Irish education sector, setting out his plan for the sector to become the best system in Europe over the next decade.
The new reforms, Bruton hopes, will contribute to plans to increase the value of the sector to €2.1 billion by 2020.