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Thursday, 27 February 2014
Page: 1080


Mr PYNE (SturtLeader of the House and Minister for Education) (09:14): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Reducing red tape and enhancing quality in higher education are key priorities for the government. The government has committed to deliberate action to remove red tape and is determined to implement an appropriate deregulatory agenda to ensure that higher education institutions have more time and resources to devote to doing what they do best—that is, delivering the highest quality teaching, learning and research.

To support higher education institutions to focus their energies and resources on their core business, the government committed to implementing the recommendations from the independent Review of higher education regulation(the review). The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Amendment Bill 2014 (the bill) will give effect to key recommendations contained in the review.

The bill will deliver measures to improve the efficiency of the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) and reduce the regulatory burden on higher education institutions. The measures will enable TEQSA to focus on its core functions of provider registration and course accreditation, and the development of more efficient processes around these functions.

To support TEQSA's focus on its core functions, the bill will remove TEQSA's quality assessment function, which allowed the agency to conduct sector-wide, thematic reviews of institutions or courses of study. Such reviews are time and resource-intensive of TEQSA itself but also of the higher education institutions, which are asked to provide input to the reviews. They do not relate directly to TEQSA's core responsibilities to register providers and accredit courses. Broader issues around quality in higher education and risks to quality are better supported through the constructive engagement with and initiatives of institutions themselves.

The bill will enhance TEQSA's capacity to delegate its functions and powers to appropriate level staff within the organisation. This will support swifter decision making and faster turnaround of provider applications. This amendment will also assist to ensure that applicants seeking to appeal a TEQSA decision can access TEQSA's internal review mechanisms rather than, as a first step, having to seek review through the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

The bill will enable TEQSA to extend the period of registration and accreditation in particular cases on its own initiative, thus improving TEQSA's ability to take a more flexible approach to managing the registration and accreditation processes. For example, in cases where institutions have multiple course accreditations with different end dates or which do not align with the period of registration, or where they are registered under both the TEQSA Act and the Education Services for Overseas Students Act, TEQSA would be able to adjust the period of accreditation or registration to achieve better alignment. This will make the processes much more efficient for higher education institutions.

In line with TEQSA's refined functions, the amendments will provide the minister with the flexibility to appoint fewer commissioners, remove the requirement to appoint full-time and part-time commissioners, and separate the roles and responsibilities of the chief commissioner and the chief executive officer. To enable effect to be given to these amendments, the bill will curtail the terms of the incumbent commissioners, allowing the minister the flexibility to better determine the number of commissioners required to support TEQSA's renewed focus on its core activities.

The bill enhances the minister's ability to give a general direction to TEQSA in relation to the performance of its functions and the exercise of its powers, and a specific direction in regard to the fees that TEQSA charges for its services.

Finally, the bill provides for a number of technical amendments suggested by TEQSA to improve the efficiency of the notification requirements. I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.