Impact of the TEQSA Act on the higher education Sector: IRU submission

The IRU considers that the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Act 2011 has worked effectively since the 2014 amendments to the Act as the legal basis for Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) and the Higher Education Standards Panel.

The area for improvement to legislation is to streamline the Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) Act and the supporting National Code to remove duplication of the Higher Education National Standards and to make registration of courses for international students an administrative listing not a distinct legal decision.

The 2014 amendments followed concerns that the initial operations of TEQSA were not consistent with the principles set out in part 2 of the Act of regulatory necessity, reflecting risk, and proportionate regulation.  The amendments were in response to the Lee Dow and Braithwaite Review of higher education regulation which strongly argued the importance of an effective partnership among the relevant bodies – providers and quality agency – for a quality assurance system to work well in practice.

That requires a constructive tension across:

  • higher education providers, notably universities, which are responsible for determining how to provide higher education to students, with a strong future focus for how higher education should be delivered to meet prospective needs;
  • the Higher Education Standards, which attempt to define the key threshold requirements for good higher education without dictating in detail how it should be delivered.  The Standards inevitably have a current day feel; and
  • TEQSA, charged with using the Standards as the guidance marker to test whether higher education providers are living up to their responsibility, in which it should both avoid constraining new developments of value and be effective in acting where delivery is clearly not effective.

The following sections consider the six questions the Discussion Paper asks. Read full submission below.

TEQSA’s proposed External Reporting program: IRU Submission

The IRU supports the intention of the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) to use its data sets to provide:

  • better information about its actions; and
  • evidence of broad trends about how higher education providers are achieving or not quality outcomes.

Done well, it will:

  • assist universities understand where they stand against other universities and providers, making any adjustments considered useful; and
  • provide an insight to TEQSA’s thinking and assumptions.

It is essential that the release of information by TEQSA is designed to improve understanding of quality strengths and potential weaknesses across providers while avoiding creating unfounded concerns or targeting any individual provider.  Issues with individual providers should be addresses through TEQSA’s formal regulatory activity in response to any concerns about achievement of standards by a provider.

The consultation paper proposes five kinds of information for release. Read the response in full attached.

The Transparency of University Admissions: IRU Submission

The consultation on the Transparency of Higher Education Admissions Processes is an opportunity to improve potential university applicants’ understanding of tertiary admission processes in Australia. The outcome should be to ensure applicants are clearer about their likelihood of an offer for the courses that interest them, encouraging them to apply.

To achieve this each university and other higher education provider should, where it does not already, makes available information about:

  • the different bases for applying for entry and the way in which an applicant’s capability will be assessed; and
  • the number and success of applicants from previous periods.

The information and data should apply to each common basis of entry and related assessment mechanism. It should apply to all courses from sub-bachelor through to postgraduate coursework.

The target for the information and data is the individuals considering university or other higher education, to assist them to convert their interest into application to a course suitable to them with a reasonable expectation of being accepted. It is important that national level evaluation perspective does not compromise the clarity of information for the individual applicant each of whom will need access to a small set of the admission information and related data.

The IRU submission addresses in turn:

  • how changes in higher education change the admission process;
  • the areas of potential confusion about admission processes as the basis for clarifying pubic understanding;
  • the principles proposed in the Panel’s discussion paper; and
  • the actions needed to improve understanding of admission processes to ensure suitable transparency.

Read the full submission below.

IRU rises within the sector

 As Australian universities register remarkable improvements in research excellence, the Innovative Research Universities (IRU) – Australia’s innovation network – records its best ever performance in the Excellence for Research Australia (ERA) exercise with 83% of its research rated at world standard or above, a 12% point increase from 2012.

“This is an outstanding result for IRU members” said Mr Conor King, IRU Executive Director, “In the space of a few years, we have more than doubled the areas of research where IRU universities have obtained the maximum ERA rating of 5 – research well above world standard.  Our results have improved across the board demonstrating the depth of our research excellence.”

Spread across Australia, all six members of the IRU network – Griffith University, La Trobe University, Flinders University, Murdoch University, Charles Darwin University and James Cook University – improved on earlier ERA rounds. Read the attachment for more detail…

Regulation review shows way ahead

The report of the Review of Higher Education Regulation is a valuable assessment of the role of the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) and its relations with other bodies.

The report lays down an excellent basis for the next Government. The framework provides a sound basis for ensuring the essential quality of each higher education provider while encouraging universities and other providers to continue developing the nature of higher education.

“The report makes clear that the legislative framework has pushed TEQSA into difficult positions but also that the relationships across the various bodies involved must be better” said Professor Barney Glover, Vice-Chancellor of Charles Darwin University and Chair, Innovative Research Universities.