Introduced by Higher Education Minister Simon Harris during a trade mission to South Korea, Ireland has taken significant strides in fortifying its education sector. Ireland has recently introduced the International Education Mark (IEM), a new statutory quality mark that’s part of a suite of legislative measures designed to protect international learners. This initiative aims to uphold stringent national quality standards and elevate the educational experience for international learners.
Irish government’s quality assurance plan
Minister Harris revealed comprehensive details of Ireland’s quality assurance measures, introducing the highly anticipated IEM. To obtain the IEM, institutions must demonstrate that “they meet national standards to ensure a quality experience for international learners.” In this light, these standards relate to the “recruitment and admission of international students and the provision of information and student welfare.” Consequently, all institutions intending to recruit international students will have to apply for the mark.
This strategy encompasses rigorous guidelines for both the English-language training (ELT) and higher education sectors, intended to foster an exceptional educational environment for international students. Furthermore, there will be a launch of the two types of IEM—one for English Language Schools and another for higher education providers. These distinct categories imply that the IEM has tailored criteria and standards for each sector, ensuring quality and excellence in both English language education (ELE) and higher education (HE) offerings.
Purpose of the International Education Mark
The IEM demands institutions to meet national standards, guaranteeing an exemplary learning environment for international students. The mark is intended to promote confidence, both nationally and internationally, in the quality of the Irish education system. This will guarantee international students enrolled in programs with HE and ELE providers are protected and receive consistent high quality learning experience.
Minister Harris emphasised its purpose, highlighting its pivotal role in enhancing Ireland’s standing as a reputable educational hub. The mark is poised to attract prospective international students seeking high-calibre education, backed by credible standards.
Industry stakeholders have responded positively to the IEM, acknowledging it as a critical step towards ensuring educational excellence. Marketing English in Ireland (MEI), in particular, has been instrumental, engaging extensively with Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) to facilitate the implementation of IEM regulations. Their proactive approach signifies the sector’s commitment to upholding and exceeding high-quality standards.
Ireland as an educational destination
In recent years, Ireland has witnessed a remarkable surge in international student enrolment in higher education, soaring to a record-breaking 35,140 students in 2022-2023—marking an impressive 11% growth. Notably, American, Indian, and Chinese students form the largest groups within the international student population at Irish universities. This growth trajectory has been fuelled by Ireland’s competitive edge, offering lower tuition fees compared to other countries, a factor that distinctly appeals to international students.
High rankings further demonstrate Ireland’s strengths: five post-secondary institutions secured spots in the top 200 of the QS university rankings in 2023, with eight landing within the top 1,000. Dublin City University recently received the honour of coming out on top in terms of “career development” in a student satisfaction survey among 126,000 students. Moreover, the ELT sector showcased resilience post-pandemic, surpassing pre-pandemic student week volumes by 6%, exhibiting a fast recovery. Latin American students, benefiting from visa-free study options, have also significantly contributed to this growth.
This concerted effort to elevate Ireland’s educational landscape through the IEM underscores the country’s strong commitment to providing high-quality educational experiences. The implementation of stringent quality standards strengthens Ireland’s position as a key study-abroad destination.