2012 marked the beginning of a new regulatory era in Australian Higher Education with the introduction of the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) as national regulator.
The University of Tasmania will apply to TEQSA for re-registration as a self-accrediting higher education provider during 2018.
The HESA Act is the main piece of legislation governing higher education in Australia. This Act primarily provides for the Commonwealth to provide grants and other payments to higher education providers and financial assistance to students (usually in the form of loans). It regulates:
- Grants under the Commonwealth Grant Scheme
- Grants for Commonwealth scholarships
- Assistance to students, such as HECS-HELP, FEE-HELP, OS-HELP and SA-HELP
- Repayment of loans
- The VET FEE-HELP Assistance Scheme
This is a supporting piece of legislation, which covers transitional and consequential matters arising from the enactment of HESA.
The Commonwealth has prepared and issued for providers a number of operational guidelines to assist providers in the interpretation and application of higher education legislation.
The TEQSA Act 2011 establishes TEQSA as an agency that regulates and assures the quality of higher education in Australia. TEQSA has responsibility under the ESOS Act for the following providers:
- Higher education providers registered under the TEQSA Act
- English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students (ELICOS) providers if they have an entry arrangement with at least one registered higher education provider
- Foundation Program providers.
This Act aims to provide for national consistency in the regulation of vocational education and training (VET); and to regulate VET using a standards‑based quality framework and risk assessments.
The ESOS Act sets out the legal framework governing delivery of education to international students in Australia on a student visa. The Australian Government, through the Department of Education and Training, administers the ESOS Act and its associated instruments. The Act requires institutions that provide education to international students to meet nationally consistent standards in education delivery, facilities and services. The critical elements of the ESOS Act are the
- Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS) and the
- National Code of Practice for Registration Authorities and Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students 2007.
The National Code provides nationally consistent standards for the conduct of registered providers and the registration of their courses. The standards set out requirements and procedures to ensure providers of education and training courses to international students can clearly understand and comply with their obligations under the National Code.
The ESOS Regulations support the implementation of the ESOS Act by setting out:
- information that must be entered on the register about the provider and each course by location
- student details that providers must include on the Provider Registration and International Student Management System (PRISMS)
- information about students that providers must give relating to student visa conditions
- penalties and infringement notices
- student records that a provider must keep.
The TPS is a placement and refund service for international students on student visas affected by a provider closure. The TPS may also assist where students have withdrawn from or not started their course and are eligible for a refund of tuition fees that have not been paid by the provider.
The ELICOS standards were developed by the Australian Government and state and territory governments in consultation with the ELICOS sector and must be met by all ELICOS providers wanting to be registered on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS).
Foundation programs are courses designed for international students to equip them with the skills and capabilities to seek entry into higher education programs in Australia. Generally, foundation programs provide an academic entry pathway to first year undergraduate study or its equivalent. The Foundation Program Standards must be met by all foundation program providers wanting to be registered on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS).
The Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) 2015 consists of two parts:
- Part A: Standards for Higher Education (which represent the minimum acceptable requirements for the provision of higher education in or from Australia), and
- Part B: Criteria for Higher Education Providers (which enable categorisation of different types of provider and whether a provider is responsible for self-accreditation of a course(s) of study it delivers).
The HES Framework applies for regulatory purposes from 1 January 2017. From this date, all registered providers of higher education in or from Australia must meet and continue to meet the requirements of the HES Framework.
TEQSA will undertake assessment of applications (and any regulatory actions arising) against the HES Framework from 1 January 2017 (except for applications made before that date, which will be assessed against the existing HES Framework 2011).
The HES Framework has been structured to align with the student experience or ‘student life cycle’ i.e. as they progress from prospective students through to the award of a qualification.
The Standards within Part A of the HES Framework encompass the matters that a higher education provider would ordinarily be expected to address in the course of understanding, monitoring and managing its higher education activities and any associated risks, and apply at all times.
These Standards set out the baseline acceptable requirements for the provision of higher education in or from Australia. It is broken into seven domains:
Domain 1: Student Participation and Attainment
Section 1.1 – Admission
- Covers the requirements that must be met by providers when admitting students, information that must be provided to students regarding a particular course of study before they enrol, ensuring admission policies are fairly and consistently applied and that admission arrangements are in writing, including any requirements that are specific to the course
Section 1.2 – Credit and Recognition of Prior Learning
- Requires credit transfer (advanced standing) and recognition of prior learning (RPL) to be policy based, to ensure the integrity of courses and qualifications
Section 1.3 – Orientation and Progression
- Outlines the requirements for orientation and progression to ensure students are successfully transitioned into institutions and that special needs are met for individual students
Section 1.4 – Learning Outcomes and Assessment
- Requires that learning outcomes are specified and assessment is consistent with the requirements of the learning outcomes
Section 1.5 – Qualifications and Certification
- Lists the requirements for qualifications and certification which are fundamentally based on the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF)
Domain 2: Learning Environment
Section 2.1 – Facilities and Infrastructure
- Identifies the requirements for teaching and learning facilities and infrastructure, including information technology, to ensure facilities are fit for purpose
Section 2.2 – Diversity and Equity
- Requires policies and processes to accommodate and promote diversity and equity among student populations, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, be in place and actively monitored
Section 2.3 – Wellbeing and Safety
- Identifies the need for and imposes requirements in respect of a safe environment and the availability of appropriate support services to promote student wellbeing
Section 2.4 – Student Grievances and Complaints
- Lists the requirements for student grievance and complaints in the instance of dissatisfaction with institutional or learning experiences
Domain 3: Teaching
Section 3.1 – Course Design
- Identifies course design specifications, learning activities and learning resource requirements, consistent with the level of study; and the need for professional accreditation of courses where this is required in order for graduates to be eligible to practise
Section 3.2 – Staffing
- Sets out requirements for the availability, skills and knowledge of teaching staff
Section 3.3 – Learning Resources and Educational Support
- Outlines the need for appropriate educational support mechanisms, as well as adequate physical resources and infrastructure that are fit for purpose
Domain 4: Research and Research Training
Section 4.1 – Research
- Covers resources, ethics, supervision and admission policies needed for the conduct of research activity
Section 4.2 – Research Training
- Specifies the need to appropriately support research students, including through induction and adequate supervision
Domain 5: Institutional Quality Assurance
Section 5.1 – Course Approval and Accreditation
- Covers internal mechanisms to assure quality such as policies for course approvals, accreditation and delivery
Section 5.2 – Academic and Research Integrity
- Requires that policies are in place to deal with misconduct including cheating, plagiarism, misrepresentation and misuse of intellectual property and that these policies are actively administered to ensure the integrity of academic and research activity
Section 5.3 – Monitoring, Review and Improvement
- Requires that the quality of education offerings be continuously monitored and reviewed to maintain and enhance their quality and effectiveness, including a comprehensive review of each course of study at least every seven years.
Section 5.4 – Delivery with Other Parties
- Identifies that the delivery of education by a third party must be quality assured and that the higher education provider remains accountable for the quality of all education delivered through third parties
Domain 6: Governance and Accountability
Section 6.1 – Corporate Governance
- Requires the entity to have a formally constituted governing body that includes independent members and sets out functions and obligations of the governing body
Section 6.2 – Corporate Monitoring and Accountability
- Requires the provider to demonstrate and the corporate governing body to assure themselves that the provider is operating effectively and sustainably, including in the areas of ongoing financial viability and risk management, having in place credible business plans and a strong compliance regime
Section 6.3 – Academic Governance
Requires the entity to have processes and structures established and responsibilities assigned in relation to academic oversight to assure the quality of teaching, learning, research and research training
Domain 7: Representation, Information and Information Management
Section 7.1 – Representation
- Obliges a provider to represent itself accurately and in a manner that is not misleading and to assure all agency arrangements through the use of formal contracts
Section 7.2 – Information for Prospective and Current Students
- Sets out the types of information that must be available to prospective and enrolled students to support informed decision-making about the provider’s higher education offerings
Section 7.3 – Information Management
- Specifies a range of information about the higher education provider that must be available to the general public and the need for accurate and up-to-date record keeping
The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards (TEQSA) is an independent body established by the Australian Government to act as the national regulatory and quality assurance agency for higher education.
Taking effect in 2012, its primary role is to regulate university and non-university higher education providers, monitor quality and set standards that ensure a quality education is provided across the sector.
This role was previously fulfilled by the Australian Universities Quality Agency (AUQA).
TEQSA undertakes regulatory compliance and quality assessments to evaluate the performance of higher education providers against the Higher Education Standards Framework.
All providers must meet the Standards in order to enter and remain registered within Australia’s higher education system.
As a regulator, TEQSA decides whether a university meets acceptable standards, including those recommended by the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF).
The Agency monitors the University’s performance against a set of Regulatory Risk Indicators and can intervene if it identifies any problems.
In its quality assurance role, TEQSA carries out sector-wide quality assessments focusing on specified areas.
The Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) is the national policy for regulated qualifications in Australian education and training. Awards must meet the AQF Qualification Level Descriptors (not the Qualification Type Descriptors) in accordance with the Higher Education Standards as regulated by TEQSA.
The AQF ensures that higher education institutions deliver quality education outcomes, equivalent across the sector.
It ensures consistent naming, volumes of learning (e.g. in years of full-time study) and learning outcomes for VET and higher education awards.
It also provides clearer pathways to higher qualifications and recognition of prior learning, supports national and international mobility, and enables alignment with international frameworks of academic qualifications.
All courses of study must comply with the AQF.
More AQF Information for Students [link to separate document – AQF Information for Students]
AUQA Quality Audits of the University of Tasmania
The Australian Universities Quality Agency (AUQA) operated from 2000-2011 as an independent, not-for-profit, national agency established to promote, audit and report on quality assurance in Australian higher education.
During its operation, AUQA conducted two quality audits of the University of Tasmania; the first in 2005 (cycle 1) and the second in 2011/2012 (cycle 2).
The cycle 2 audit was commissioned by AUQA and subsequently undertaken by TEQSA, which was constituted mid-way through the audit process. The cycle 2 audit included the activities of the Australian Maritime College, which at that time had recently integrated with the University.
The key documents relating to the cycle 1 and cycle 2 audits can be accessed here [requires staff log in].
2005 Audit of the University of Tasmania
The 2005 audit was a whole-of-institution audit. The AUQA audit report was publicly released in November 2005. The report included:
- 15 Commendations – relating to commendable practices
- 14 Affirmations – relating to commendable practices to be continued
- 7 Recommendation – areas AUQA believed required improvement
2011/2012 Audit of University of Tasmania
The 2011/2012 audit concentrated on two themes – Internationalisation and Learning Outcomes. TEQSA also followed up on the progress made on the implementation of a number of recommendations made in cycle 1 AUQA Audits of the Australian Maritime College (2002) and the University of Tasmania (2005).
Following the submission of the University’s Performance Portfolio and a large volume of supporting and supplementary materials, members of the TEQSA Audit Panel conducted visits to selected overseas and onshore University sites in September and October of 2011.
In China, the Shanghai Ocean University (SOU) and the Zhejiang University of Technology (ZUT) were visited by the Audit Chair and Director. The full Audit Panel visited the Hobart campus on 3rd and 4th of October, Launceston on the 5th and Burnie on the 6th.In total, the Audit Panel members interviewed over 400 staff, students and stakeholders.
TEQA’s Audit Report publicly released in March 2012. The report included:
- 11 Commendations – relating to commendable practices
- 7 Affirmations – relating to commendable practices to be continued
- 10 Recommendations – areas TEQSA believed required improvement.