Australia cuts red tape, simplifies higher education with new standards
Higher education providers in Australia must now consistently produce world-leading research in their areas of expertise to retain their university statuses, following the government’s formal acceptance of the recommendation.
The recommendation is one of 10 made in the Review of Australia’s Higher Education Provider Category Standards by Emeritus Professor Peter Coaldrake AO, commissioned as part of efforts by the Morrison government to improve higher education in the country.
Education Minister Dan Tehan, who has been leading these efforts, confirmed in a media statement that the government has accepted all 10 recommendations. He said the revisions would cut red tape to ensure higher education is fit for purpose for students, providers, industry and the wider community.
“The reforms to the Provider Category Standards will ensure the regulation of our higher education sector continues to deliver for students, industry and the community,” he said.
“These changes will support the innovation, aspiration and quality the sector needs to keep producing high-quality graduates and world-class research.”
The approved recommendations include the following:
- Universities must conduct world standard research in at least three, or at least 30 percent, of the broad fields of education in which it teaches, whichever is the greater
- Higher education provider categories will be cut down from six to four
- Adding greater differentiation between the large majority of private providers
- Greater regulatory transparency to facilitate new entrants into higher education and progression to various levels of oversight and self-accreditation.
- Creating a new category for teaching-intensive, high performing higher education providers
On creating a new category for top-performing institutions, Tehan said institutions that fall into this bucket would be labelled “University Colleges” to reflect international standards.
This, he said, was in response to stakeholder feedback on the matter.
“‘University College’ is a recognised title internationally, and providers in this category will be able to use this title for marketing and branding purposes, both in Australia and worldwide,” the government said in its response to the recommendation.
Noting that creating the new category would require legislative amendments, Tehan said the Higher Education Standards Panel has been instructed to provide advice on the matter, as well on the steps necessary to implement new research benchmarks for universities.
“We’ll continue to consult closely with the sector and the regulators to ensure a smooth transition to the new Standards,” he said.
Australia’s universities said they were pleased the government had decided to go ahead with all 10 of Coaldrake’s recommendations.
“The review reaffirms the nexus between teaching and research as a defining feature of Australia’s universities,” Universities Australia Chief Executive Catriona Jackson said in a statement.
Australia’s higher education policy environment has undergone several renovations this year, the result of a comprehensive bid by the government to bring education delivery into the 21st century, especially amid a rapidly evolving jobs landscape.
These efforts have seen a series of reviews handed to the government, from Coaldrake’s review to Professor Peter Noonan’s on simplifying post-school education qualifications, Debis Napthine’s on boosting education access in rural, regional and remote communities, and one from a panel of five vice-chancellors on how to design performance funding.
These will continue into the new year, as performance funding is finetuned and review recommendations are approved, adopted, legislated and then funded.