To ensure that universities are able to focus their energies on the things that they do best and spend less time on compliance and reporting, the Government has accepted all of the recommendations of the Review of Higher Education Regulation Report, and is committed to deliberate action to remove red tape.
The first important step in this higher education deregulatory agenda has been to give a direction to the CEO of the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) today to consult with the sector in the formulation of TEQSA’s strategies and implementation plans and their execution, including consulting with a new Advisory Council and with the National Advisory Group for Higher Education Data and Information. The direction further requires the CEO to improve the focus and timeliness of regulatory activities and to advance appropriate deregulation for the sector. The CEO is required to report to the Minister on progress toward achieving these goals, including estimated cost savings from deregulatory activities.
As an immediate next step, the Government is looking to establish the TEQSA advisory council in line with the Review’s recommendation. The council will provide the Minister and TEQSA with a mechanism for seeking and giving advice on how to reduce regulation in the most informed and sensible ways. The council will include experts in higher education, deregulation and quality enhancements.
As these actions progress, further work will include consideration of amendments to the TEQSA Act and to the various pieces of legislation that intersect with the work of TEQSA and which support further deregulation for the sector.
In addition, the Government has also received the Review of Reporting Requirements for Universities undertaken by PhillipsKPA. This will further assist in reducing the burden of reporting and red tape on universities.
The Government is committed to consulting across the sector to ensure that the best possible options are considered to decrease regulation and red tape.
The eleven recommendations of the Review of Higher Education Regulation Report are:
- The Government should reduce TEQSA’s functions to focus on its core activities as a regulator; to reduce the number of Commissioners over time and revise their roles and responsibilities to allow greater decision making-responsibilities to be assigned to case managers or other TEQSA staff as appropriate;
- The Government should establish mechanisms for TEQSA to consult with stakeholders and receive sector advice; for example by creating an overarching advisory council with stakeholder representatives and subject experts. Such a council could also provide advice to the Minister on how TEQSA is progressing against its Strategic Plan;
- TEQSA should detail how the principles of risk, necessity and proportionality apply to different types of providers, for example, publicly funded institutions, for profit providers and/or not-for-profit. This could be effected through a set of legislative guidelines.
- TEQSA should identify how existing regulatory processes such as Mission-based Compacts, funding agreements and the Institutional Performance Portfolios could be used to streamline the re registration processes for established providers;
- TEQSA should prioritise improved timeliness in delivering TEQSA’s key activities of initial provider registration and course accreditation. This could be effected through a Ministerial direction to the TEQSA CEO regarding allocation of resources.
- The Government must reduce duplication across within the regulatory architecture by requiring specific consideration of how any matter in question, for example the ESOS National Code, aligns with its other regulatory components and partners. This could be enacted through structured MoU and letters of arrangements between TEQSA, the department and other regulatory bodies to cover such items as:
- Financial viability assessments for providers approved under HESA;
- Risk assessment priorities;
- Consultation forums.
- The Government must align better the work of existing players, such as the Higher Education Standards Panel and the Australian Qualifications Framework Council and how they are structured to support a quality tertiary education system. Government also needs to address and manage concerns for the sector regarding the role of the AQF and the outcomes of the review of higher education standards in a way which usefully guides their implementation by higher education providers in support of a quality system.
- The Government must reduce duplication between the four Acts. This could be commenced by formalising, and extending the roles of information sharing / policy advisory groups, such as NAGHEDI, the tertiary education standards setting agencies and meetings of the regulators and the department. Any requirements related to the business nature of providers must be considered against the principle of ‘collect once, use multiple times’, such as:
- Corporate governance; and
- Financial reporting.
- The Government must identify and agree the alignment of activities between the Acts with ASQA and TEQSA that can be undertaken (i) without legislative change; and (ii) with legislative change, such as:
- Improving information sharing provisions through identifying what data and information is available and how constraints are applied
- Aligning the registration periods; penalty processing, nature and format of national registers and fee structures; and
- Assigning responsibility for registering dual sector providers, fit and proper persons, and financial viability assessments.
- The Government engage with TEQSA to agree where duplication, reporting or otherwise, can be addressed immediately; and
- The Government identify as soon as possible how NAGHEDI’s role can be formalised and strengthened with the aim of creating a single national higher education data collection agency; and include a role for NAGHEDI as the data clearinghouse / survey advisory body for TEQSA.
In May 2013 Professor Kwong Lee Dow AO, former Vice Chancellor of the University of Melbourne, and Professor Valerie Braithwaite of the Regulatory Institutions Network at the ANU were commissioned to undertake the review of higher education regulation. The Review Panel's report was released to the public on 5 August 2013: