Approval criteria for midwifery programmes

These standards and requirements set out the educational standards and requirements for the approval criteria used by NMBI for undergraduate midwife registration programmes.

The standards for the approval of the Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and health care providers, curriculum design and development, clinical practice experience, assessment processes and external examiners are the benchmarks used for the programme approval criteria.

The role of the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI) in relation to the approval of professional education (in this instance midwifery education), is distinct from academic accreditation of a programme by the HEI for subject quality purposes, or by its awarding body, the Qualifications and Quality Ireland (QQI), for accreditation and approval of its fitness for purpose for the conferment of an academic award.

Professional accreditation and approval is a judgment as to whether a programme is fit for purpose in preparing graduates to be fit for practice and for entry into a specific profession. The latter is distinguished by the existence of criteria that are specific to that profession, these having been defined in consultation with members of that profession and other relevant parties and stakeholders.

Approval process

The approval process as part of NMBI’s quality education framework consists of three parts:

  1. Approval of the HEI and their associated health care provider(s).
  2. Approval of the education programme(s).
  3. Review of annual reports.

Approval of the HEI and associated health care provider(s)

  1. The HEI and its associated health care provider(s) must make a written submission to NMBI in the form of a self-assessment audit of compliance with NMBI’s standards and requirements, and must declare that its curricular programmes comply with these standards. This self-assessment audit must be submitted every five years.
  2. The HEI and its associated health care provider(s) must declare that they are suitable for the education and training of candidates for registration as midwives in the self-assessment audit.
  3. At least once every five years, NMBI should, by site visits, satisfy itself as to the suitability of the HEI and its associated health care provider(s) in respect of the capacity and capability of the institutions to provide education and clinical practice experiences leading to registration as a midwife.
  4. Site visits will take place in an atmosphere of partnership and collaboration aimed at continual quality improvement congruent with the quality mechanisms and processes in place within the HEI and its associated health care providers.
  5. The site visit team will include a Board member(s) and an Officer(s) of NMBI, both of whom must be registered midwives. An external member with relevant expertise and / or a health service user may form part of the site visit team.
  6. A report on the site visit prepared by the site visit team will be forwarded to the HEI and its associated health care provider(s), following approval by NMBI. A copy of the report is also provided to the Director of Nursing and Midwifery and the Director General of the HSE.

Approval of the education programme(s)

  1. The HEI and its associated health care provider(s) must submit to NMBI a detailed curriculum document, including evidence of compliance with NMBI standards and requirements for midwife registration education programmes. All supporting documentation - for example - competence assessment tools, clinical and educational audit tools must also be submitted at this time. A hard copy and an electronic copy of the submission are required.
  2. The HEI and its associated health care provider(s) must make a written declaration that their curricular programme(s) complies with NMBI standards.
  3. An Officer of the Board will initially review the curriculum and prepare a report. A Validation and Standards Committee, a subcommittee of the Education and Training Committee, is in place for the purpose of validating submitted curricula from HEIs and their associated health care provider(s). This committee will include representatives of HEIs and health care providers. The decision of the Validation and Standards Committee will be presented to the Education and Training Committee.

The following general provisions regarding the process of approval apply:

  • Approval may be granted or withheld. Conditions, if identified, will be attached to the programme approval and must be implemented within a specified timescale. Recommendations may also be attached to approval.
  • After approval has been granted, any changes within the HEI and its associated health care provider(s) or in the education programme(s) that affect any aspect of compliance with these standards must be notified to NMBI.
  • Notice of the decision of the Board will be conveyed in writing to the HEI and its associated health care provider(s). The duration of approval of the education programme will be specified by NMBI, but will be no longer than five years.
  • Once approval has been granted, it will be maintained through annual monitoring by the Validation Committee as a subcommittee of the Education and Training Committee, including a review of the conditions and recommendations stated in the report on the site visit.

Review of annual reports

NMBI requires the HEIs and associated health care providers to produce a joint annual report. The annual report should be submitted in April of each year for the preceding year, and it is the responsibility of the HEI to submit this on behalf of the partnership.

The report should include the following information:

  • An update on conditions and recommendations in respect of approval and site visit reports.
  • Evidence that programmes continue to meet NMBI standards and requirements for midwifery education programmes.
  • Information on the quality of the clinical practice placements, including how this is monitored, and the arrangements and structures that are in place to enable students to achieve the learning outcomes of the programme.
  • Any concerns about the safety of clinical practice and the clinical learning environment reported by the students, and the actions arising from the investigations of these concerns.
  • Student numbers to include:
    • the number of places available per programme.
    • the number of places accepted.
    • attrition rates and current numbers in each cohort.
  • Significant changes to curriculum structures or processes.
  • Significant changes to marks and standards.
  • A list of all midwife lecturers teaching on the programme, and a list of their NMBI professional identification numbers (PIN).
  • Change of external examiner(s) to include verification of compliance with standard 3.2.5 to be included, and NMBI PIN if applicable.
  • The external examiner’s annual report.

In addition to annual reports, any significant changes that affect any aspect of compliance with the standards and requirements must be notified to NMBI with immediate effect. New programmes leading to registration as a midwife may not commence without prior approval by NMBI.

The appeal process

Provision is made to appeal the decision of the Board with regard to the approval of programme(s) and / or institution(s). The appeal process gives a hearing to the HEI and its associated health care provider(s) in the event of a disagreement with NMBI. Any appeal must be made within 30 days of the date of receipt of the decision of the Board.

The request must be made in writing by senior representative(s) of the HEI or associated health care provider(s) outlining the reasons why the decision is being questioned by the partnership.  Upon acceptance of the appeal by the President of the Board, an Appeals Panel is appointed. The Panel will comprise the President (or delegated representative), who will act as Chair, a Board member, the Chief Education Officer (or delegated representative) and an Education, at least one of whom, should be a registered midwife.

An education representative from a HEI offering the programme will also be appointed to the panel. NMBI Appeals Panel will hear and review the evidence. The Chair will communicate the final outcome of the appeal in writing to the relevant stakeholders, within seven working days.


Summary details of approved programmes, including clinical sites, will be published on the NMBI website.

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