The NStEP Partners

The three partner organisations that founded NStEP form a Steering Committee that governs the programme and sets strategic direction. You can find more about our partner organisations and their work below.

The Higher Education Authority (HEA) leads the strategic development of the Irish higher education and research system with the objective of creating a coherent system of diverse institutions with distinct missions, which is responsive to the social, cultural and economic development of Ireland and its people and supports the achievement of national objectives.

The HEA has a statutory responsibility, at central government level, for the effective governance and regulation of higher education institutions and the higher education system. Objectives span the enhancement of teaching and learning, the promotion of equity of access to higher education, the enhancement of institutions’ responsiveness to the needs of wider society, research capacity-building, and the internationalisation of Irish higher education. The HEA leads in developing the evidence-base which underpins strategic planning and strategy implementation at institutional, regional and national level.

The HEA exercises functions in respect of

  • Funding
  • Accountability
  • The quality of outcomes
  • Policy research and advice to the Minister
  • Data analytics and knowledge management
  • Advocacy and communicating higher education
  • Co-ordination of interaction between public bodies and the higher education system.

Quality and Qualifications Ireland logo

Quality and Qualifications Ireland is a state agency established by the Quality Assurance and Qualifications (Education and Training) Act 2012 with a board appointed by the Minister for Education and Skills.

Their functions include those previously carried out by the Further Education and Training Awards Council (FETAC); the Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC); the Irish Universities Quality Board (IUQB) and the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland (NQAI).

In the area of qualifications, they are responsible for maintaining the ten-level NFQ (National Framework of Qualifications), and are an awarding body, setting the standards for awards made in the NFQ. They validate education and training programmes and make extensive awards in the Further Education and Training sector including in the Education and Training Boards as well as in the Higher Education private sector. They also provide advice on recognition of foreign qualifications in Ireland and on the recognition of Irish qualifications abroad.

In the area of quality assurance, QQI is responsible for reviewing the effectiveness of quality assurance in further and higher education providers in Ireland. This includes the universities, institutes of technology, Education and Training Boards and providers in the private further and higher education and training sectors (availing of QQI awards). The outcomes of these external reviews are published on the QQI website.

The Union of Students in Ireland (Aontas na Mac Léinn in Éirinn) is the national representative body for third-level students’ unions in Ireland. Founded in 1959, USI now represents more than 374,000 students across the island of Ireland. The goal of USI is to work for the rights of students and a fair and equal third level education system in Ireland. USI Officers are elected at the Annual Comhdháil (Congress) and serve twelve month terms. Students are represented on the boards of national agencies including the Higher Education Authority, Quality and Qualifications Ireland, National Forum for Teaching and Learning and Student Universal Support Ireland by USI officers.

USI is a full member of the European Students’ Union (ESU) which represents students from 45 National Students’ Unions in 40 countries.

The Vice President for Academic Affairs, Bryan O’Mahony, leads engagement from USI which is a founding partner of the National Student Engagement Programme. The Vice President for Academic Affairs also chairs the National Student Engagement Network. USI hosts the office of the National Student Engagement Programme team.