The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) report into the work of the nation’s higher education regulator, the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) has given the regulator a broad tick, but also noted areas for improvement.
Key Issues —
The audit of TEQSA was undertaken in accordance with a rolling series of reviews of government programs and agencies undertaken by the ANAO. A major advantage of this audit activity is that it provides an assessment of where TEQSA can make improvements to the regulation of the higher education sector and better protects the interests of students.
The advice from ITECA members is that, on balance, independent higher education providers are comfortable with the work of TEQSA. As a regulator, there is little doubt that it acts fairly and impartially; however, the ANAO audit has highlighted opportunities to improve TEQSA’s compliance activity.
TEQSA received around $17.5 million in public funding during FY2019-20 and regulates a sector with around 1.6 million students, of which 10% of these are with independent higher education providers. The ANAO audit of the higher education regulator is significant in this context.
The ANAO report into TEQSA’s activities is comprehensive and reviews its approach to risk assessment of providers, regulatory approvals processes, compliance and enforcement activities plus emerging issues such as academic cheating and cyber security. It is available from the following link:
ANAO Audit Report —
The ANAO audit identified the shared experience of ITECA members, that TEQSA’s approvals processes were effective but not always timely, particularly with re-registration and re-accreditation. That TEQSA has acknowledged the areas in which regulatory approvals processes can be improved is an important first step in better meeting the expectations of ITECA members.
“Of concern was that as at December 2019, TEQSA’s compliance and enforcement policy was not supported by implemented operational plans or procedures. The ANAO noted that TEQSA has not undertaken annual or other periodic compliance reporting, with compliance assessments largely taken in response to adverse media coverage of providers advising TEQSA of issues relating to compliance,” said Mr Troy Williams, ITECA Chief Executive.
ITECA has noted, and agrees with, concerns associated with the absence of operational plans and procedures which may give rise to inconsistent compliance activity, and its apparent reliance on adverse media reporting is disconcerting. However, that these issues are now actively being addressed by TEQSA is encouraging.
ITECA noted that TEQSA has yet to take action to respond to cyber security risks, an issue that the independent sector looks forward to working with the regulator to address. Cyber security is a growing concern for both independent providers and public universities and given TEQSA’s reputation for first-rate stakeholder consultation, ITECA is confident that an approach to cyber security will reflect the shared experience and risk of ITECA members.
On balance, ITECA believes TEQSA to be a good regulator and one that is positively engaged with the independent tertiary education sector. ITECA members are largely comfortable with the approach of TEQSA to its compliance activity and there is a shared belief that it’s the best of the four regulators in the tertiary education sector across Australia.
ITECA has formally written to ANAO requesting an audit of the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA), the nation’s vocational education and training sector regulator.
Member Engagement —
ITECA’s ability to play a lead role in matters associated with this issue rests on the advice and guidance of individuals serving on the ITECA Higher Education Reference Committee.
Further Information —
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