ACPET

Representing quality private education
providers in Australia

TEQSA - changes to deliver on the deregulation agenda

Monday, March 3 2014

For ACPET members, whether delivering in the VET, ELICOS and higher education sectors, Thursday’s second reading speech by Minister Pyne, introducing the TEQSA Amendment Bill 2014 will come as very good news. It shows a government clearly committed to lifting onerous and unnecessary regulation on high performing higher education institutions.

As the Minister stated:

"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."

While the specifics of the legislation relate to those providers regulated by TEQSA, the Minister’s speech clearly indicates a government committed to reducing red-tape and making it easier to do business. ACPET anticipates that measures to reduce regulation in the VET sector will shortly be announced.

In the meantime, ACPET’s higher education members will be pleased to note that:

The Bill will enable TEQSA to delegate its functions and powers to appropriate level staff within the organisation, which will speed up decision making and ensure faster processing of applications. The amendment will also ensure providers wishing to appeal a TEQSA decision will be able to access an internal review mechanism first, rather than having to seek review through the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (as the current first step).

The Bill will also allow TEQSA to extend the period of registration and accreditation of providers, allowing for greater flexibility in TEQSA’s regulatory response.  As the Minister’s speech notes, specific examples of this greater flexibility will include “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.”

ACPET has somewhat mixed views that 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. While the Minister’s speech correctly states that the reviews which TEQSA conducted were “time and resource intensive” for both providers and TEQSA; this does not mean that sector-wide analysis of issues and trends impacting on providers and sector performance is not useful. ACPET is keen to work with its members, other providers, stakeholders and government to ensure that sector-wide trends continue to be identified.

The legislation, when passed, will also allow the Minister 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 these changes to be made immediately after the legislation passes, the Bill ends the terms of the current Commissioners. The existing Commissioners will be invited to reapply for their jobs.

There is no doubt that the current Commissioners have been hampered by aspects of the current legislation, in delivering on a proportionate regulatory approach. Despite some differences of opinion, ACPET has worked well with the current Commissioners. They and the Minister will decide if they can deliver on the government’s deregulatory agenda.

A balanced deregulatory approach should have been at the forefront of thinking at the time TEQSA was established. ACPET and its members are heartened to see it is now at the forefront of government thinking.
 

Claire Field
Chief Executive Officer


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