"Systematic shortcomings" have been identified at the universities quality watchdog in the Republic of Ireland.
An expert review panel acting for the Higher Education Authority (HEA) said that some universities had become so detached from the Irish Universities Quality Board (IUQB) that they had suspended quality-assurance activities for unspecified periods.
"There is a sense ... of a lack of full engagement with the IUQB by some university leaderships," said the panel. "Because of competing priorities, the quality agenda experienced some slippage."
The IUQB had shown "sustained, systematic shortcomings" in following up its recommendations to universities in some instances.
Responding to the panel's findings, the HEA said: "The role of the expert group found insufficient engagement in the affairs of the IUQB by senior management in some universities, suggesting that (quality assurance) activities there may not be functioning as they should."
The IUQB was established by Irish universities in 2002 to increase co-operation between them in developing quality-assurance procedures. However, with seven of 17 board members appointed by universities, some in the sector regard it as insufficiently autonomous.
Aspects of the body's structure would have to be strengthened if it were to be perceived as independent and impartial, the HEA said, adding that the board's composition should be "reviewed and reformed".
The IUQB is now preparing an improvement plan to implement the report's recommendations.