New National Higher Education Threshold Standards


This article applies to higher education providers across Australia (e.g. universities, university colleges, TAFEs).

Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) 2021 (Cth)

On 1 July 2021, the Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) 2021 (Cth) (the new Standards) replaced the Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) 2015 (Cth) (the previous Standards).

Overview

The new Standards underpin and protect the quality and reputation of the higher education sector as a whole. The new Standards were drafted to reflect the recommendations of the 2019 Review of the Higher Education Provider Category Standards (PCR Review) which recommended substantial reforms to the categorisation of higher education providers.

Like the previous Standards, the new Standards specify the requirements that a higher education provider must meet (and continue to meet) in order to be registered by the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) to operate in Australia.

What are the differences between the new Standards and the previous Standards?

Like the previous Standards, the new Standards consist of 2 Parts (being Part A and Part B).

Part A  

It is important to note that Part A of the new Standards is substantively the same as Part A of the previous Standards.

We note however that while Standard 7.3 of Part A of the new Standards still specifies the same range of information about the higher education provider that must be available to the general public, and the need for accurate and up-to-date record keeping, an amendment has been made to Standard 7.3.2 of Part A. Standard 7.3.2 now ensures that information about the higher education provider’s credit and recognition of prior learning policy, and any articulation or credit arrangements applicable to each course of study, is also readily and publicly accessible.

Part B

The criterion contained in Part B have been completed rewritten. Most notably (to reflect the recommendations of the PCR Review mentioned above), there are now 4 categories of higher education provider, which is a change from the 6 higher education provider categories as contained in the previous Standards. The new 4 categories are:

  1. Institute of Higher Education
  2. University College
  3. Australian University, and
  4. Overseas University

We note that Part B of the new Standards sets out the criterion for each of these 4 higher education provider categories. Importantly Part B1 of the new Standards requires that all providers of higher education must meet the requirements of Part A of the new Standards and must satisfy the requirements set out under the ‘Institute of Higher Education’ category in order to gain registration by TEQSA.

Part B1.2 of the new Standards sets out the requirements that a higher education provider registered in the ‘University College’ category must meet.

Part B1.3 sets out the requirements that a higher education provider must meet to be registered in the ‘Australian University’ category. For example, Part B1.3 provides that, where an ‘Australian University’ has self-accrediting authority in only one or two broad (2-digit) fields of education, it is deemed to have a specialised focus. Moreover, where an ‘Australian University’ with a specialised focus delivers courses of study in new broad (2‑digit) field/s of education, the provider must be successful in seeking authorisation to self-accredit courses of study in the new field/s within 10 years from the commencement of those courses of study.

Transitional arrangements

It is important to note that Part B3 of the new Standards contains some transitional arrangements which apply to those higher education providers that were already registered on 1 July 2021. Part B3 provides that a higher education provider that is registered in the ‘Australian University’ category after the Threshold Standards came into force on 1 July 2021, and immediately before 1 July 2021 was in a provider registration category that permitted use of the word ‘university’, must achieve the benchmarks set out in criterion B1.3.16 within ten years, and B1.3.17 within five years, from 1 July 2021.

Criterion B1.3.16 provides that the higher education provider, within ten years after entry to the ‘Australian University’ category, undertakes research at or above one or both of the benchmark standards described in B1.3.19 that leads to the creation of new knowledge and original creative endeavour in:

  • at least three, or at least 50 per cent, of the broad (2-digit) fields of education in which it delivers courses of study, whichever is greater, or
  • all broad (2-digit) fields of education in which it has authority to self-accredit, in the case of a university with a specialised focus.

Criterion B1.3.17 provides that until the standard set out in criterion B1.3.16 is achieved, the provider undertakes research at or above one or both of the benchmark standards described in B1.3.19 that leads to the creation of new knowledge and original creative endeavour in:

  • at least three, or at least 30 per cent, of the broad (2-digit) fields of education in which it delivers courses of study, whichever is greater, or
  • all broad (2-digit) fields of education in which it has authority to self-accredit, in the case of a university with a specialised focus.

We understand that on 1 July 2021, TEQSA registered existing higher education providers in one of the new 4 categories mentioned above, and that providers were notified by TEQSA of the revised category applicable to their organisation. Please note your organisation can search the updated National Register for Providers and Courses available on the TEQSA website here to search your organisation’s updated category under the new Standards.

Conclusion

Organisations that are higher education providers should ensure relevant staff are made aware of the changes introduced by the new Standards (as applicable to their relevant provider category), as discussed above.


Contact

For further information please contact the Law Compliance team:

Phone: 1300 862 667

Email: info@lawcompliance.com.au