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Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Bill 2011
09-08-2011 10:04 AM
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Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Bill 2011
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2010 - 2011
THE PARLIAMENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA
TERTIARY EDUCATION QUALITY AND STANDARDS AGENCY BILL 2011
SUPPLEMENTARY EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM
Amendments to be moved on behalf of the Government
(Circulated by authority of the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations)
The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Bill 2011 (the Bill) establishes the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) and a new national regulatory and quality assurance environment for Australian higher education.
On 10 May 2011, the Senate’s Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Legislation Committee released its report on the TEQSA Bill. Among other things, the Committee recommended that:
- the Bill be amended to provide that universities have the authority to self-accredit courses of study, except where TEQSA limits or removes that authority consistent with the basic principles of regulation stated in Part 2 of the TEQSA Bill (Recommendation 1)
- the definition of Threshold Standards in section 5 be amended so that it does not include ‘any other standards made under paragraph 58(1)(e)’ (Recommendation 4)
- the Bill be amended to provide for a nine month maximum period for TEQSA to accredit a course under subclause 49(2) and a further nine months under subclause 49(3) (Recommendation 6)
- clause 167(2)(b) of the Bill be amended to include reference to the interests of staff working in the higher education sector (Recommendation 5).
Amendments 1, 2, 3, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13 give effect to Recommendation 1 concerning the authority of universities to self-accredit courses of study.
Amendments 4, 5, 6, 16 and 17 give effect to Recommendation 4 concerning amending the definition of Threshold Standards.
Amendments 14 and 15 give effect to Recommendation 6 to reduce the time limits within which TEQSA must make decisions on accrediting courses. Amendments 7 and 8 make similar reductions to the time limits within which TEQSA must make decisions on applications for registration as higher education providers.
Amendment 19 gives effect to Recommendation 5 concerning amending subclause 167(2) of the Bill so that the membership of the Higher Education Standards Panel includes the interests of staff working in the higher education sector. Amendment 18 amends paragraph 167(2)(a) to require the Minister to ensure that Panel members collectively possess appropriate knowledge and experience in higher education and the development of quality standards.
Amendment 20 corrects a typographical error in the table of reviewable decisions in clause 183.
There is no direct financial impact on Government revenue arising from these amendments.
NOTES ON AMENDMENTS
Amendments 1, 2, 3, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13
In response to Recommendation 1 of the report of the Senate’s Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Legislation Committee (the Committee), these amendments explicitly provide that universities have the authority to self-accredit courses of study, except where TEQSA limits or removes that authority consistent with the basic principles of regulation stated in Part 2 of the Bill.
Amendment 1 recognises the self-accrediting authority of universities in the simplified outline of the Bill.
Part 4 of the Bill covers the accreditation of courses of study where either a higher education provider is a non self-accrediting entity, or the provider is not authorised to self-accredit a particular course of study. Amendment 13 replaces clause 45 in Part 4 to make it clear that higher education providers that are registered in the Australian university provider category have the authority to self-accredit courses of study. Such providers must also either be established under or recognised by a Commonwealth or State or Territory law, or registered as a company under Part 2A.2 of the Corporations Act 2001 (subclause 45(1)).
Subclause 45(2) clarifies that TEQSA retains the power to impose conditions to restrict or remove the authority to self-accredit from a provider, however in doing so TEQSA must consult with the provider and comply with the principles for regulation specified in Part 2 of the Bill. Subclause 45(3) makes it clear that subclause 45(1) does not limit the authority of a provider that is not registered in the Australian university provider category to self-accredit courses of study if authorised to do so by TEQSA (pursuant to clause 41 of the Bill).
Amendments 2 and 3 amend the simplified outline at clause 4 of the Bill to reflect that Australian universities have the authority to self-accredit courses of study and that TEQSA regulates higher education using principles relating to regulatory necessity, risk and proportionality, and using a standards-based quality framework. The language used highlights the basic principles of regulation to which TEQSA must adhere to at all times when carrying out its regulatory activities, as well as the fact that, even though universities are self-accrediting, they will still be subject to regulatory action underpinned by the basic principles.
Amendment 11 provides, for the avoidance of doubt, that if TEQSA removes a university’s authority to self-accredit a specific course of study, the accreditation of that course of study is cancelled. When making a decision to remove a self-accrediting provider’s authority to self-accredit, it would be open to TEQSA to make the removal of the provider’s authority to self-accredit take effect on a date such that the provider would have, in the meantime, the opportunity to apply to TEQSA, under Part 4, for TEQSA to accredit that course of study effective from the date on which the removal of the provider’s authority to self-accredit the course of study took effect.
Amendments 9, 10 and 12 are consequential to amendment 11 and make minor technical amendments to clause 33 and the heading to Division 1 of Part 4.
Amendments 4, 5, 6, 16 and 17
In response to Recommendation 4 of the report of the Committee, these amendments remove the Minister’s authority to make any ‘other standards against which providers can be assessed’. The Committee considered this authority to be excessively broad.
Amendment 16 removes paragraph 58(1)(e) which establishes the authority. Amendments 4, 5, 6 and 17 are consequential amendments to amendment 16.
Amendments 7, 8, 14 and 15
Under clause 49 of the Bill, TEQSA is required to make a decision with respect to an application by a provider for a course to be accredited within 12 months of receiving the application. If TEQSA is satisfied that, for reasons beyond its control, a decision cannot be made within that period, it may extend this period for a further 12 months.
The Committee agreed with representations from the Australian Council for Private Education and Training that the maximum 24 month period was too long and recommended that the 12 month periods be reduced to 9 months (Recommendation 6).
Amendment 14 changes the requirement in paragraph 49(2)(a) for TEQSA to make a course accreditation decision from within 12 months to within 9 months. Amendment 15 reduces the maximum extension to that period to 9 months (subclause 49(3)).
Similarly, amendments 7 and 8 amend clause 21 of the Bill to reduce the decision making period and maximum extension for TEQSA to make a decision on an application for registration as a higher education provider from 12 months to 9 months.
The Bill as introduced does not specifically state that members of the Higher Education Standards Panel should have experience or expertise in the higher education setting. Although not all panel members necessarily need to be drawn from the higher education sector, stakeholders have expressed concern that the Bill did not specify the type of experience required.
This amendment will amend subclause 167(2) to require the Minister to ensure that the Panel members collectively possess appropriate knowledge and experience in higher education and the development of quality standards.
In its report, the Committee recognised the role of staff in the higher education sector and recommended that, in developing the Higher Education Standards Framework, the Higher Education Standards Panel should have regard to the interests of staff (as well as the interests of students and States and Territories).
Amendment 19 amends subclause 167(2) to insert the interests of higher education provider staff into the list of matters that the Minister must have regard when appointing Panel members.
Amendment 20 corrects a typographical error in the table of reviewable decisions in clause 183 relating to decisions under section 38 (once the Bill is enacted) to change the category in which a registered higher education provider is registered.