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Tuesday, 13 March 2012
Page: 2775

Australian Learning and Teaching Council

(Question No. 481)

Mr Oakeshott asked the Minister representing the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research, in writing, on 16 August 2011:

(1) For what reasons has the Government abolished the Australian Teaching and Learning Council (ALTC), despite restoring $50 million of the $88 million ALTC budget over four years expressly to maintain its grants and programs under the same terms of reference and conditions. (2) Has the Government made public its vision for how Australian teaching and learning innovation will be encouraged and recognised internationally; if so, what is it.

Mr Combet: The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) The Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC) was abolished as a budget savings measure to fund rebuilding after the floods. There are significant cost savings generated by continuing the work of the ALTC within DEEWR with staff costs less than half of what was incurred by the ALTC. These savings occur because DEEWR already has areas of support in place, such as IT and human resources, which do not need to be duplicated.

The ALTC was established in 2004, at a time when funding for university teaching was significantly lower than it is today. The Government is investing $35.7 billion over the next four years in teaching and learning in our universities to drive greater participation and improve access and equity. This will be supported by new regulatory and quality arrangements to be funded through the $1.1 billion Advancing Quality in Higher Education initiative announced in the last Budget. The suite of quality initiatives includes: the establishment of the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA), which will carry out regulatory functions from January 2012; Reward Funding for achieving performance targets for participation of students from low socioeconomic backgrounds and other underrepresented groups; the Structural Adjustment Fund to assist universities adjust to the new operational requirements of a demand driven funding system; and the My University website which will improve transparency and inform choice.

(2) Quality teaching and learning will continue to be a high priority for the Government as the sector moves towards a demand driven environment and student numbers expand. TEQSA's primary task will be to ensure that students receive a high quality education at any of Australia's higher education providers. It will register providers, accredit courses for those institutions without the authority to self-accredit, carry out evaluations of standards and performance, streamline current regulatory arrangements and protect and assure the quality of international education.

The Office for Learning and Teaching will promote and support excellence in learning and teaching in higher education institutions with funding of $50 million over four years for a Grants and Awards Program. The Office will be guided by a Strategic Advisory Committee to ensure the ongoing involvement of the higher education sector.

The Office's responsibilities include:

providing grants to academics and professional staff to explore, develop and implement innovations in learning and teaching and to develop leadership capabilities

commissioning work on issues of strategic significance to the higher education sector to inform policy development and practice in relation to learning and teaching

managing a suite of awards to celebrate, recognise and value teaching excellence and programs that enhance student learning

funding fellowships and secondments for leading educators to address significant national educational issues

disseminating resources on innovations in learning and teaching

supporting the development of effective mechanisms for the embedding of good practice in learning and teaching in Australian higher education

encouraging collaboration and sharing of good practice for improved student learning outcomes

facilitating networking and professional development opportunities for academics and professional staff.