Increased transparency and accountability

The higher education sector will be more accountable—and more open to scrutiny—for the manner in which it expends taxpayer funding. The retention of a system that provides broad and uncapped access to higher education needs greater transparency to show that the institutions are making the right decisions about who to enrol and what they are enrolling.

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The Australian Government's proposed higher education reform package remains in the Senate. The Government is currently considering options as reforming the higher education system remains a priority, both to maintain and enhance Australia's world-class higher education sector, and to ensure future funding arrangements remain sustainable, in line with the reforms announced in the 2017-18 Budget. For current information, visit the Government's reform package webpage.

Performance contingent funding for universities

From 1 January 2018 the Government is introducing a performance-based element to the CGS, worth 7.5 per cent of total CGS cluster funding.

From 1 January 2018, 7.5 per cent of a university's CGS cluster funding, creating a total pool of around $500 million, will be contingent on the university's meeting performance requirements. 

This offers significant opportunities for the Australian Government to encourage universities to not only participate in activities, such as the transparency and accountability of teaching and research costs project, but also to improve the quality of education they deliver. The Government will work closely with the sector during 2017 to develop the performance assessment and distribution mechanism.

From 2018, universities will be required to participate in the reform of admission information and cost of teaching and research transparency initiatives.

From 2019, in addition to the above requirements, performance contingent funding will be linked to institutional performance metrics, according to a formula developed in close consultation with the sector in 2017-18. Funding to the sector will not be reduced as a result of this measure, as any unused funds will be redistributed among the remaining universities.

Improving the transparency of higher education admissions

The Government has accepted all recommendations of the Higher Education Standards Panel (HESP) report, Improving the Transparency of Higher Education Admissions . The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) will be provided $3.3 million over four years to work with key stakeholders in Australia's higher education sector to develop a joint plan to implement the Panel's key recommendations.

TEQSA will conduct a baseline audit of sector compliance with the agreed sector-led response in the first year. It will then actively monitor and report on sector progress as providers improve to meet the Standards.

When implemented, this reform will enhance the accountability of higher education providers for the information they publish about their admissions policies:

  • adopt common language about admissions processes and publish consistent information
  • widen the accessibility of information to prospective students, and
  • improve the comparability of admissions and entry information across providers.

Transparency for teaching and research expenditure by universities

The Government will work with the higher education sector to establish a more transparent framework for the collection of financial data from higher education providers in order to regularly report on the cost of teaching and research by field of education.

Institutions are not currently required to provide data to the Government about their expenditure on teaching and scholarship, making it difficult to assess the efficiency of the current funding architecture.

During 2017, the Department of Education and Training will work in consultation with a stakeholder reference group to establish an annual cost of delivery data collection for a further three years commencing in 2018.

Once the data collection is established, the Department will work with the higher education sector to agree on arrangements for publication of the data on the Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching website.

Review of the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF)

The Australian Government will undertake a review of the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) commencing in the second half of 2017, to be completed by 31 December 2018.

The AQF is the agreed policy of Commonwealth, state and territory governments on regulated qualifications in the Australian education and training system. It was last thoroughly reviewed in 2009-2011 with the subsequent revised AQF first edition released in 2011. Minor changes were made to the revised AQF with a second edition released in 2013.

The review will provide an opportunity to work with the states and territories, and education providers to identify the changes required. For example, a priority will be to identify the linkages between matriculation standards from senior school to entry standards in higher education and the preparation required for successful completion of higher education courses. The review will develop proposed revisions to the AQF for approval by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) councils responsible for vocational education and training (VET), higher education and secondary school education.

For further information please send queries to the AQF email inbox at:

Review of the Higher Education Provider Category Standards

The Higher Education Standards Panel (HESP) will oversee a review of the Criteria for Higher Education Providers commencing in the second half of 2017 to be completed during the first half of 2018.

A review provides an opportunity to ensure a coherent tertiary education sector with clear but permeable demarcations to reflect changing VET and higher education requirements and expectations. Even if no change flows from this examination, it is timely to consider the effectiveness of the provider category descriptions to ensure that they:

  • are fit for purpose for the current needs of students and the sector generally
  • are comparable to international benchmarks
  • are flexible enough to accommodate innovation and changing practices, and
  • assist TEQSA in its regulatory activities especially with regard to non-university providers.

It is expected that the Government will consider the outcome of the review in the 2018–19 Budget context.

Provider FAQs

For further information about how these reforms affect universities and private higher education providers, visit Provider FAQs.

Student FAQs

For further information about how these reforms affect students, visit Study Assist.


Factsheets on the Higher Education Reform measures.