March 8, 2019

The future need for higher education provider categories

A critical part of the Australian higher education system is effective regulation of the bodies that educate students and issue qualifications.  The regulation should ensure that:

  • each registered provider is clearly capable of providing higher education, guiding out any that fail to do so; and
  • students and other interested parties are well informed about the bodies providing higher education.

The current Provider Categories do not provide a good description of the breadth of providers within the Australian higher education system. They provide the basis to identify the universities.  The nature and intent of all Higher Education Providers should be explicitly considered in the registration process and publicly stated through the TEQSA national register.

The title of university should remain targeted at providers that have significant education and research outcomes. The argument to alter the scope of what it means to be a university would conflate different styles of education rather than highlighting them to assist effective student choice.

Other higher education providers do not need to dilute the meaning of a familiar term to establish themselves.  This will only confuse potential students and others interested parties.  They need to establish their own offerings demonstrating their value and delivering it for their students.  Over time some new institutional terms may become established.

The concern that the “university” category somehow disadvantages unfairly other providers is in reality about access to Australian Government funding. Funding follows Government policy and political need.

The review is not tasked to consider funding issues.  It should not allow funding issues to shadow its outcomes. Rather, the resolution of the contribution of non-university providers to the tertiary system, and the support for students who would choose them, should be one consideration in explicating a tertiary system for Australia in the 2020s and beyond.

To ensure that the suitability and capacity of each higher education provider is known the IRU makes four recommendations.

  1. Part B of the Higher Education Standards Framework should be rewritten to guide the registration of each provider based in defining the scope of its operations.
  2. The Framework should continue to describe the requirements for a provider to call itself a university or any other title whose use is to be controlled. The current criteria at B1.2 for an Australian University are suitable for this, encompassing the role of universities as significant providers of higher education and research.
  3. The TEQSA national register, should then set out for students and interested parties the basis of each provider’s registration so that good, clear, information about each provider is available.
  4. Part B of the Higher Education Standards Framework should:
  • continue to allow for the approval of a university of specialisation;
  • outline the routes to becoming a university, and allow for approval ab initio as a “university college” where sufficient case can be established; and
  • specify any additional requirements for a non Australian provider to be registered.

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