Quality of Research: TEQSA’s proposed assessment criteria

The Innovative Research Universities (IRU) support TEQSA’s intention to develop a legislative instrument that outlines matters relevant to an assessment of research quality within the Australian University provider category.

The instrument would be used to support TEQSA’s assessment of research quality:

  • to reregister an existing university;
  • to register a new applicant to be a university; or
  • to respond to significant concerns with a university that could lead to its registration being revoked or otherwise limited.

The list of six research matters in the draft text (a-f) adequately covers the breadth of relevant inputs and factors influencing research to support TEQSA reach a suitable conclusion about the quality of research at an Australian university or proposed university.

The key recommendation from the IRU is that the TEQSA require of itself that it will base its assessment of those research matters, wherever possible, on existing research quality exercises and other recognised research data bases. This will improve the consistency and coherence of TEQSA’s activities and minimise the administrative burden for all institutions.

For current Australian universities, most key research matters can be demonstrated through data already reported to the Australian Government (citations and quality; peer review; research assessment exercise results; research funding) or through minor changes to data partially reported (research governance; research community). The clearest example is for data and evaluations already provided by the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) exercise and the kindred Engagement and Impact Assessment.

For current universities, if the ERA results are sound, TEQSA should be confident that the institution meets the quality criteria.

For institutions seeking to enter the Australian University category, or for current universities where TEQSA has legitimate doubt about the contemporary quality of research conducted, other supplemental analysis may be suitable in each of the research matters identified. Wherever possible these analyses should draw upon currently available and nationally consistent data, such as citation and publication data from Elsevier’s SciVal/Scopus database or Clarivate Analytics’ Incites/Web of Science database.

Recommendations

The Innovative Research Universities recommends that:

  1. Citation volume and peer review of publications are substantially covered by the outcomes of ERA. TEQSA should merge the first three matters (a to c) into a single matter for peer reviewed output and citations.
  2. The draft text for a university’s research governance framework (d) is appropriate.
  3. The draft text for a research community (e) requires clarity on the ‘relationship’ and ‘engagement’ between individual researchers and the regulated entity.
  4. The draft text for research funding (f) is appropriate