The Higher Education Standards Panel (HESP)

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The Higher Education Standards Panel (HESP) is an expert statutory advisory body, established under the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Act 2011, (TEQSA Act), with responsibility related to the standards for delivery of higher education in Australia.

Panel membership

The current members of the Higher Education Standards Panel are:

  • Professor Ian O'Connor AC (Chair)
  • Professor Kerri-Lee Krause (Deputy Chair)
  • The Hon Phil Honeywood (member)
  • Dr Krystal Evans (member)
  • Dr Don Owers (member)
  • Ms Sadie Heckenberg (member)
  • Ms Adrienne Nieuwenhuis (member)
  • Professor Kent Anderson (member)

The Panel has been appointed for the period 26 March 2018 to 25 March 2021.

Higher Education Standards Panel role and responsibilities

The Higher Education Standards Panel (the Panel) is an expert advisory body established under the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Act 2011 (TEQSA Act 2011). The Panel was established to provide independent advice to the Commonwealth Minister(s) responsible for tertiary education and research. The Panel's work is independent of the quality assurance agency, the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA).

The primary functions of the Panel are to advise and make recommendations to the Minister – either at the Minister's request or the Panel's own initiative – on making or varying the Higher Education Standards Framework (the Standards), and other matters relating to the Standards. The Panel is responsible for advice on how to maintain the quality and standards of Australia's higher education system.

The Panel can also advise and make recommendations to TEQSA on matters relating to the Standards – either at TEQSA's request or the Panel's own initiative. The Panel must consult interested parties in carrying out its work. If needed, the Panel can establish advisory committees to assist in performing any of its functions.

Improving retention, completion and success in higher education

Minister for Education and Training, Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham has released the Higher Education Standards Panel's Final report: Improving retention, completion and success in higher education.

The report makes 18 recommendations for Australia's higher education community to help ensure students have the best chance of successfully completing their studies and transitioning into the workforce. The recommendations are made under the broad headings of:

  • Expectations of completion in the current context
  • Supporting students to make the right choices
  • Supporting students to complete their studies
  • Sharing best practice
  • Clarity of definitions and enhancing transparency
  • Accountability and regulation

The final report was informed by a consultation process which included forty-three written submissions made in response to the Panel's June 2017 discussion paper.

Minister Birmingham has thanked the Panel for its work and agreed to all 18 recommendations. He has asked Universities Australia and the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency to work with the department in developing an implementation plan for the recommendations. Response Document.

Advice on the impact of professional accreditation in higher education

In 2016 the Minister for Education and Training requested the Higher Education Standards Panel's (the Panel) advice on the impact of professional accreditation in Australian higher education and opportunities to reduce the regulatory burden on higher education providers.

The Panel has given substantial consideration to this matter over the course of 2016 and 2017. The Panel's advice has been informed in part by a report commissioned from PhillipsKPA consultants, Professional Accreditation – Mapping the territory.

Throughout its deliberations, the Panel's vision has been for a system of professional accreditation that adds value to higher education delivery and outcomes, that is delivered effectively and efficiently without duplication of, or overlap with, the regulatory oversight responsibilities of TEQSA.

The Panel's advice to the Minister was provided in December 2017. The Panel has recommended that:

  • the Government consider a legislated code of practice that limits professional accreditation bodies to matters that are profession-specific, rather than issues already assured by TEQSA;
  • TEQSA work with accrediting bodies to build their capacity to work more effectively and efficiently – by establishing formal guidance, participating in workshops, encouraging a focus on outcomes-based quality assurance, and promoting best practice regulation;
  • a stakeholder forum is held to discuss the future of professional work and ways to further streamline accreditation.

The Government has accepted the Panel's advice in principle.

Improving transparency of higher education admissions

On 1 February 2016, Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham, Minister for Education and Training, asked the Panel to provide him with options to improve the transparency of higher education student admissions policies, without significantly increasing regulation.

In response to the Minister's request, the Panel released a consultation paper on 6 April 2016.

The Panel received 82 written submissions in response to the consultation paper.

Final report

The Panel made 14 recommendations in its report, which was published on 16 November 2016. Key recommendations include that providers use common and consistent language to describe ATAR thresholds and other admission requirements; and publish information on admissions processes in agreed templates to ensure ease of comparison for prospective students and their parents.

Australian Government response to the Panel's report

The Government has accepted the Panel's recommendations and announced its response to the report. The Government will work with key stakeholders in Australia's higher education sector to develop a joint plan to implement the Panel's recommendations.

As a follow-up to the work on admissions transparency, the Minister has asked the Panel to investigate trends in student completion and attrition, and how institutions can be encouraged to support enrolled students through to course completion wherever possible. More information on admissions transparency implementation can be found on the Admissions Transparency Implementation Working Group page.

Higher Education Standards Panel Research Fellowship

To support the work of the Higher Education Standards Panel (the Panel), the Office for Learning and Teaching (OLT) provided funding for a single National Senior Teaching Fellowship. A Higher Education Standards Panel Research Fellowship was awarded to Emeritus Professor Christine Ewan. Emeritus Professor Christine Ewan commenced her Fellowship in August 2014. Her Fellowship program title is National consensus on higher education standards in a disaggregated learning environment. The final report titled, Higher Education Standards in a Disaggregated Learning Environment, can be found on the Australian Learning and Teaching Fellow's website.