The IRU has responded to the Department of Education, Skills and Employment review of Higher Education Provider Category Standards.
The review of the Provider Category Standards had two main objectives:
- to confirm the meaning of University in Australia, with requirements for research, teaching and engagement, that would distinguish Universities from other providers; and
- determine a way to identify and recognise the more capable of the other higher education providers, as leading teaching-focused institutions.
The review delivered on these objectives with its proposed tightening of the requirements to be a university and the proposal to create a category of National Institutes for the leading teaching focussed institutions, including university-owned colleges. It also simplified the Standards overall reducing the number of formal categories. The categories are about which organisations are permitted to offer higher education. They do not address funding issues which are a distinct question and not necessarily tied to the categories. The categories, however, can create ways in which to shape funding incentives into the future, as the Government comes to grip with the need to ensure that all Australians have post-school qualifications, whether higher or vocational education.
The pressure ahead is clear. The main feeder cohort of young Australians is growing, due to the baby boom of the 2000s, and we now face the post-COVID-19 challenge to reignite the economy in a safe and effective way.
The Minister for Education, Mr Tehan, largely endorsed the Review’s proposals but with the unfortunate decision to rename the new National institute category as University Colleges, immediately maintaining the potential for confusion between a University and other providers.