Ireland’s new International Education Mark to ‘strengthen quality assurance’

Published 01/11/2023

Ireland’s Higher Education minister has revealed new regulations for English language schools in the country during a trip to Korea.

The new rules are designed to highlight which programs have met national quality standards that ensure learners are having the best experience possible through an International Education Mark.

The idea of a statutory quality mark has long been floated, dating back to at least 2017. It is part of the country’s new International Education and Innovation Strategy, which Cabinet ministers agreed to last week.

Full details of the strategy have not yet been publicly released.

As well as the quality mark, they have agreed to establish six new departmental staff tasked to grow business in key target markets, develop strategies to address the affordability of Erasmus mobilities and encourage greater participation from underrepresented groups, the Irish Mirror reported.

“It is essential to our international reputation and vital to the integrity of our education system”

“It is essential to our international reputation and vital to the integrity of our education system,” the paper reported minister Harris as saying ahead of the Irish government’s three-day trade mission to South Korea.

“Growing international competition, particularly from countries which formerly were a source of students are now competing to attract international students to courses conducted in English,” he said.

“This growth in competition means it is essential to improve Ireland’s offering, not just in terms of the quality of the institution and its programs, but also the student experience from the point of visa application.”

The mark aims to enhance Ireland’s reputation as a trusted destination with excellent standards providing high-quality education experience, he added.

“A common proposition is that Ireland needs to match the offering from like competitors,” the minister added.

English language association Marketing English in Ireland noted that the quality mark will enhance the reputation of Ireland’s English Language Education providers.

The organisation’s CEO, who has joined eight English language providers on the trip to Korea with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, said the English Language Education sector “welcomes the next stage of progress for the International Education Mark”.

MEI has been in consultation with the national agency responsible for promoting the quality, integrity and reputation – Quality and Qualifications Ireland – on policy documents relating to corporate governance, quality assurance and the ELE code of conduct “for many months”, Lorcan O’Connor Lloyd said.

“We are encouraged with the progress made to date”

“MEI has also delivered a series of IEM-focused training sessions to help our members prepare for the implementation of IEM regulations.

“We are encouraged with the progress made to date and will continue to support our members during the application and inspection process. We look forward to the launch of a high quality internationally recognised accreditation mark,” Lloyd added.

Under government plans two types of IEM will be awarded, one for English Language Schools and one for higher education providers.

Those wishing to recruit non-EU/EEA learners will be obliged to apply for authorisation to use the mark, local media reported.

MEI is one sector association that is prepared to supporting its members to achieve the IEM in the coming months.

During the three-day mission, Harris will visit a number of universities, in addition to promoting Ireland’s new International Education and Innovation strategy.

“There are already many strong links and collaborations between our universities but there is space to further collaborate,” he said ahead of meetings.

“Ireland has a unique offering to our international partners, based on an advanced economy, a native English-speaking society and a multi-cultural, inclusive and rich learning and research experience. I know that both countries have much to share and learn from one another and I look forward to exploring what more we can do to strengthen our bonds.”

The minister will also announce a new Ireland-Korea English Language Student Alumni Network and Student Ambassador Scholarship scheme. The scholarship will offer selected students to enrol on English Language courses at one of nine schools in Ireland to coincide with the St Patricks Day Festival next year.

Schools taking part in the scholarship program are: Emerald Cultural Institute; ATC Language School; Atlas Language School; The Centre of English Studies; Future Learning; Apollo Language School; Babel Academy of English; International House; and ELI Schools.

As part of the new strategy, officials will also look to attract high-calibre PhD students to undertake research and innovation in Ireland and develop exchange programs learners, staff and researchers between Ireland, Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

Earlier this year, Ireland’s government confirmed its commitment to students in Northern Ireland to access the Erasmus+ exchange program, despite students from the rest of the UK losing access to the EU program when the country left the bloc.

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