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Press release – Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor thanks the higher education sector for implementing alternative examination arrangements

Press release 08 April, 2020

Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor thanks the higher education sector for implementing alternative examination arrangements

The Minister also announces a student-focused initiative to safeguard integrity of qualifications for 2020 graduates

Minister for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor today (08 April 2020) announced that further and higher education institutions will not be holding written, oral or practical assessments in examination centres during the Covid-19 emergency.

Universities and colleges have finalised alternative assessment arrangements, with options including online exams, written assignments or rescheduling. New assessment arrangements have been communicated to all their students.

The Minister asked all the institutions to focus on students about to graduate and clearly communicate their plans to students.

Minister Mitchell O’Connor said: “University and college students need clarity on exams and assessments, particularly those in final year, and I would now like to thank all the universities, colleges and institutes of further education that have worked tirelessly over the past number of weeks to ensure alternative arrangements have been put in place. Importantly, I would like to reassure students that even though alternative arrangements have been put in place standards will be upheld. We can all be confident that qualifications achieved this year will be valued and regarded exactly as in any other year.

“I would like to thank the Irish Universities Association (IUA), the Technological Higher Education Association (THEA), Education and Training Boards Ireland (ETBI), Aontas, Technological University Dublin (TU Dublin), Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) and our other sectoral stakeholders for their tireless dedication in recent days and weeks. I must commend them on their flexibility in finding new ways to provide for students at this time. I can reassure students and their parents that high standards are being maintained and a clear pathway to qualification is still available, even in these challenging and unprecedented circumstances”.

“I would like to wish all students using new ways to undertake exams and assessments in the near future the very best of luck. I am sure that your hard work and perseverance will be fully rewarded”.

Dr Padraig Walsh, chief executive of Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI), said: “We are very proud of how the further and higher education and training sector has come together to develop a system-wide, innovative and student-centred response to the unusual circumstances in which we currently find ourselves. The efforts being made across the sector to ensure the best outcomes for students the length and breadth of this country are nothing short of remarkable. This work has only just begun but QQI will continue to provide guidance to all our education and training partners with both the immediate and longer-term impact of this current crisis.”


New Guidance Document

A new guidance document to provide clarity and assurance about assessments and exams has been published by Quality and Qualifications Ireland, the national body responsible for qualifications and quality assurance in higher education and further education and training.

See document here: New Guidance Document


It sets out:


  • No written, oral or practical assessments in higher or further education will be physically held in an examination or test centre until the Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted.


  • Alternative arrangements for assessment will be made where at all possible, including online exams or rescheduling.


  • While the education and training of all students is continuing, students expecting to graduate this year are a top priority.


  • While some students will not be able to complete their programme or graduate in the timescale originally expected, as many as possible will graduate this year as planned.


  • Students who are not able to participate in alternative assessment arrangements will not be penalised. They will have opportunities to complete their studies at a later point in time.


  • Standards will be upheld, and the integrity of awards will be maintained. Qualifications achieved this year will be valued and regarded exactly as in any other year.


QQI also urges institutions:


  • To be aware of the particular needs of students who are more vulnerable; those who contract Covid-19 or are caring for others; students from overseas; work-based learners; broadband access; students with disabilities or those with mental health issues.


It has the full support of the Higher Education Authority and SOLAS and is endorsed by key stakeholders and student representative bodies, including:


  • Union of Students in Ireland (USI)
  • Aontas, the National Adult Learner Organisation
  • Irish Universities Association (IUA)
  • The Technological Higher Education Association (THEA)
  • Higher Education Colleges Association (HECA)
  • Education and Training Boards Ireland (ETBI)
  • National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning (NFETL)
  • Teachers’ Union Ireland (TUI)
  • Technological University Dublin
  • Royal College of Surgeons Ireland


QQI has also published a second guidance document to provide support for third level education providers.


Further information is available on the QQI website below:

Building Confidence: supports and arrangements for the tertiary system

Guiding principles for alternative assessments (devised in response to the COVID-19 emergency restrictions)

Measures to mitigate impact of COVID-19 pandemic on programmes leading to QQI awards


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