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Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs

Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education
Grant Harman V Lynn Meek Centre for Higher Education Management and Policy University of New England 00/2 May 2000 Evaluations and Investigations Programme Higher Education Division

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© Commonwealth of Australia 2000 ISBN 0 642 23992 4 ISBN 0 642 23993 2 (Online version) DETYA No. 6474.HERC 00A This work is copyright. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be reproduced by any process without permission from AusInfo. Requests and inquiries concerning reproduction and rights should be addressed to the Manager, Legislative Services, AusInfo, GPO Box 84, Canberra ACT 2601. This report is funded under the Evaluations and Investigations Programme of the Department of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs. The views expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs.

Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education

Contents
Executive summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .v 1 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1 2 Quality assurance and accreditation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .7
Quality and higher education . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8 The concept of quality . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9 Quality assurance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11 Related concepts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12 Accreditation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14 Main quality assurance approaches and methodologies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .16 Concluding comments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .26

3 Australian higher education providers and current arrangements for accreditation and quality assurance . . . . . . . . . . . .29
International education enrolments . . . . . Current accreditation arrangements . . . . Special protection for international students Assessment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ... ... .. ... . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .33 .35 .50 .51

4 The changing quality environment and the Modern Australian Model . .53
The changing quality environment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .53 The Modern Australian Model . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .62 Other options . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .63

5 Accreditation of courses and institutions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .73
Responsibility for accreditation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .74 Greater uniformity of legislation, criteria and processes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .76 Reporting on accreditation of institutions and courses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .79 Other compliance functions for accrediting agencies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .79 Staffing and resourcing of State and Territory accreditation agencies . . . . . . .80 Links between accreditation and quality assurance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .80

6 Quality assurance and improvement plans . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .81
Comments on suggested model . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .81 Who should require and publish plans and links with institutional audits? . . . .83

7 Quality audits and a new quality agency . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .85
Characteristics of and criteria for the new mechanism . . . . . . Legal basis and structure of new agency . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Preferred model . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Review teams will report to the Council. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .86 . . . . .91 . . . . .92 . . . . .94

Appendix A Project brief . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .95 Appendix B List of interviews . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .99 References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .103
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TABLES AND ACRONYMS

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Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education

Tables
Table 2.1 Table 3.1 Table 3.2 Table 3.3 Table 3.4 Table 3.5 Table 3.6 Main approaches and methodologies at the national level Higher education accredited awards offered by private providers Total ‘off-shore’ student enrolments of major higher education providers, 1998 Largest off-shore enrolments in particular countries by institutions, 1998 Legislation providing for accreditation of courses and institutions Legislation relevant to the establishment and operation of Australian universities Summary of legislative protection offered nationally to Australian universities 17 31 34 34 35 40 41

Acronyms
AAU ANTA AQF AVCC CNAA CNE CRUI DETYA HEFCE Academic Audit Unit Australian National Training Authority Australian Qualifications Framework Australian Vice-Chancellors’ Committee Council for National Academic Awards Comite National d’Evaluation Italian Standing Conference of Rectors Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs Higher Education Funding Council of England

NOOSR National Office of Overseas Skills Recognition MCEETY A Ministerial Council on Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs OECD RAE RTO TAFE VET VSNU Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Research Assessment Exercise Registered Training Organisation Technical and Further Education Vocational Education and Training Association of Cooperating Universities of the Netherlands

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Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education

Executive summary

Introduction
1. This report has been prepared for the Commonwealth Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs (DETYA) to assist in developing an improved national approach to both quality assurance and accreditation. The current arrangements are inadequate and Australia needs a more rigorous quality assurance and accreditation system: to protect the international reputation of our higher education; for public accountability purposes; to inform student choice; and to promote and improve quality processes and outcomes as well as disseminate good practice. Various models for a new approach to quality assurance and accreditation have been reviewed, including refinement of the current Australian model, the recently modified New Zealand model, the new United Kingdom model, the model used by the Vocational Education and Training (VET) system in Australia and a ‘Modern Australian Model’. The Modern Australian Model provides separate arrangements for both institutions which have been given power to accredit their own courses and for non-self accrediting providers. For institutions with power to accredit their own courses, the main requirements will be: (a) rigorous scrutiny of financial and quality aspects before founding legislation is passed or other authorisation is given; (b) annual publication of Quality Assurance and Improvement Plans for the forthcoming triennium; (c) a quality audit of each institution every five years following a detailed self-assessment; and (d) compliance with any additional measures which may be necessary to ensure the maintenance of acceptable high standards of degrees. For non selfaccrediting providers, the main features may include: (a) rigorous scrutiny of provider capacity before accreditation; and (b) review of provider performance and accredited courses every five years. The task for the project was to develop the Modern Australian Model as an alternative to the other four models; advise under whose authority it should be run and whether a legislative base is needed; assess whether it would be sensible and appropriate to make use of the AQF; elaborate the possible nature of the five yearly

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Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education

self-assessments for self-accrediting institutions; comment on the desirability of focussing on outcomes and standards as well as processes; consider how to achieve rigour and independence while retaining the cooperation and confidence of universities; and advise on the role of professional associations within the model and the nature of the audit of the courses of non self-accrediting providers. We were requested to evaluate the Modern Australian Model against the following criteria: credibility; effectiveness; ability to provide legal clarity for students and providers; ability to promote and enhance improvement and good practice; how well the model could build on the key features of the current system and possibly exploit the role of professional associations in accrediting courses; minimum bureaucracy; and cost.

Quality assurance and accreditation
5. Quality assurance in higher education is defined as systematic management and assessment procedures adopted by a higher education institution or system to monitor performance and to ensure achievement of quality outputs or improved quality. Quality assurance aims to give stakeholders confidence about the management of quality and the outcomes achieved. Accreditation refers to a process of assessment and review which enables a higher education course or institution to be recognised or certified as meeting appropriate standards. In Australia, the term accreditation has developed three specialist meanings: a process of review or assessment conducted by a government agency to enable a Minister or approved authority to recognise and approve a higher education institution or course; a process of review carried out by a government registration body to enable graduates of particular courses to practise in the particular State or Territory; and a process of assessment and recognition carried out professional associations. In this report, we are primarily concerned with the first usage. Quality in the context of higher education can be defined as a judgement about the level of goal achievement and the value and worth of that achievement. It is also a judgement about the degree to which activities or outputs have desirable characteristics, according to some norm or against particular specified criteria or objectives.

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strong moral and professional pressures usually produce in a high level of participation. even when participation is voluntary. participation is compulsory and. Reporting and follow-up activities are important. The main approaches can be summarised under the following headings: the agency or unit with responsibility for the management of quality assurance. Over the past decade. use of relevant statistical information and performance indicators. Most quality assurance mechanisms depend on one or a combination of a limited number of methodologies. there is a gap between stated purposes and actual purposes. and surveys of key groups. 10. the main methodologies employed. graduates and employers. with national reviews of disciplines. improvement and renewal. participation in reviews and other activities. Many countries began with institutional audits on a voluntary basis.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education 8. At the national level. and frequently there is tension between accountability and improvement purposes. 9. the focus of quality assurance activities. the purposes of such activities. however. or with the central department responsible for higher education coordination. In some cases. An important variation between quality assurance systems is whether participation is voluntary or compulsory. The most common pattern at national level is for responsibility to lie with a specialised government agency. however. 11. efforts to ensure credibility. In a small number of countries. with a major challenge being to devise fair and effective methods likely to lead to improvements without damaging the institution being reviewed. the most common forms of assessment are ‘horizontal’ reviews of disciplines and ‘vertical’ evaluations of institutions. reports are provided solely to the institution concerned but increasingly the practice is to make the results more widely available. Various approaches are used with regard to the distribution of reports. vii . extensive experimentation has taken place internationally with quality assurance and how it is managed. Quality assurance programs serve a variety of purposes but generally their primary purposes are a combination of public accountability. 12. such as students. the most important of which are self-studies or self-evaluation. The literature reporting these developments points to tremendous variety in approaches and methods. 13. In some cases. and reporting and/or follow-up. responsibility lies with an agency set up by higher education institutions themselves. peer review by panels of experts. Generally.

Queensland and Tasmania.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education Higher education providers and current arrangements 14. The current system of quality assurance operates at a number of levels and includes the activities of professional associations and associations and networks set up by groups of universities for benchmarking and other quality assurance purposes. 18. legislation provides control over the use of the terms ‘university’ and ‘degree’. The considerable differences between the provisions of State and Territory legislation and the criteria and processes constitute a major problem needing attention. New South Wales. In a number of cases. reviews of courses. institutions not established by legislation but who have been given government approval to operate. use of performance 15. Australian higher education providers can be categorized into five distinct groups: public universities and other public higher education institutions established under State. legislation provides for accreditation of both institutions and courses. units and departments. and private providers whose courses have not yet been accredited. the relevant legislation makes provision for private providers to secure accreditation and approval to offer courses. The most detailed legislative controls operate in Victoria. In other cases. For the purposes of this study. Accreditation of higher education institutions and courses is under the control of State and Territory Governments who view this responsibility as flowing from their responsibilities for education under the Commonwealth constitution. and over degree titles. Generally. Additional protection is afforded with regard to the establishment and recognition of universities by other Commonwealth. 16. non-government institutions which operate under their own legislation and have self-accrediting powers. private providers whose courses have been accredited by State or Territory accrediting agencies. 17. student evaluation of teaching. use of external examiners for higher degree research theses and sometimes bachelors honours theses. State and Territory legislation. surveys of graduates and employers. Recently the States and Territories have agreed on procedures for considering applications and authorisation to offer higher education courses in two or more States and Territories. Internal quality assurance processes in universities include: assessment of new courses and units of study. Territory and Commonwealth legislation. 19. and operational guidelines to achieve this were endorsed by MCEETYA in April 1999. viii .

For example. law. and publication of Characteristics and Performance of Higher Education Institutions. These can be categorised under the headings of: globalisation and changes in educational technology. 21. Various professional bodies conduct accreditation of professional courses in fields such as medicine. consisting of legislation and a register of courses. benchmarking and participation in benchmarking networks. and special projects for the improvement of teaching and special awards for teaching excellence. 20. encouragement of innovation and good teaching. While there are various desirable characteristics of the current quality assurance and accreditation arrangements. at the same time there are clear weaknesses that need attention. Changing quality environment and the Modern Australian Model 24. Professional associations have formed a peak body. 22. engineering and architecture. provide protection for international students.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education indicators. recent changes in quality assurance in other industrialised countries. Important recent changes have taken place in the quality assurance environment. ix . The Education Services for Overseas Students (Registration of Providers and Financial Regulation) Act 1991 helps ensure that only quality courses are offered to foreign students studying in Australia. increased accountability pressures at home. Special Commonwealth mechanisms. the needs of Australia’s education export industry. the Australian Council of Professions. The major weaknesses in quality assurance is lack of a national agency that can publicly vouch for the quality of Australian higher education while with regard to accreditation there is need for uniform approaches and criteria across States and Territories and a better system of reporting and providing public access to information concerning which courses and institutions have been accredited. new quality assurance arrangements in ‘off-shore’ education countries. incidents with private providers and increases in the number of private providers. The current national quality assurance mechanisms include: reports by universities on quality assurance and improvement plans. international recognition of qualifications. 23. and complaints from applicants seeking accreditation.

not unnecessarily intrusive and be able to retain the cooperation of public universities. DETYA documentation specifies that quality assurance and accreditation mechanisms should satisfy a number of criteria: the mechanisms relating to self-accrediting institutions should not be solely at their discretion. The new United Kingdom model is still developing its procedures but to date its proposals have been somewhat controversial and have yet to secure support from the well-established universities. while the French model uses both disciplinary reviews and institutional audits. The Dutch program is operated by the VSNU. or to lend additional international credibility to Australian awards.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education 25. any audit mechanism should have rigour. the mechanisms should be credible with international and domestic interest groups and be able to protect the international reputation of Australian awards. and between the possible treatment of self-accrediting institutions and non-self accrediting providers. The current VET model of accreditation and quality assurance is now well accepted in the VET sector and widely supported by industry but this model does not appear suitable for the higher education sector. The recently modified New Zealand Model provides for a national government agency but there is some uncertainty about how successful will be the plan for the new agency to approve various accrediting bodies. 27. the association representing the heads of Dutch universities. and the mechanisms should provide legal clarity for students and providers and be able to promote good practice and facilitate improvement. there needs to be some external review or audit of the claims made by institutions about quality and standards. x . but at the same time be cost effective. while the French program is the responsibility of a special government agency. the mechanisms should help satisfy Australian taxpayers of value for money. Important models not canvassed in DETYA documentation are the Dutch and French models of quality assurance. 26. The Modern Australian Model of quality assurance and accreditation has many strengths. It makes important distinctions between the functions of accreditation and quality assurance. The Dutch model is based on a well-organised program of disciplinary reviews. Refinement of the current Australian model of accreditation and quality assurance would provide valuable improvements but Australia’s arrangements would still fall far behind international good practice and do little to provide additional safeguards for the education export industry.

approval and accreditation of courses of study leading to degrees and other awards by other higher education providers. and library holdings and specialised laboratories. whether 29. whether the recognition of new and overseas universities should automatically carry with it the rights of self-accrediting powers.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education Accreditation of courses and institutions 28. This has raised issues about the distinguishing characteristics of universities today in Australia and what criteria should be used in accrediting new and overseas universities. and the processes of governance. Continuation and extension of the present work being undertaken by the MCEETYA Multilateral Joint Planning Committee seems likely to produce a professional national approach to accreditation. There is strong support for the proposition that accreditation is a matter for government and not the higher education sector. whether accredited institutions should be required to seek special approval to offer courses to international students at special international student campuses. and to offer degrees and other awards. requirements with regard to ‘out-state’ Australian institutions operating in other States and Territories. to use the name university. Other issues that need attention include: protocols and procedures for the accreditation of institutions other than universities. and that the States and Territories should continue to exercise their responsibilities in this area. the legal basis of the institution. There differences in views over use of the titles of ‘university’ and ‘degree’. State and Territory officials see value in maintaining and strengthening current controls over these titles. buildings and facilities. whether all institutions need some form of accreditation before their courses can be accredited. 30. internal quality assurance and accountability but less agreement about whether the criteria should include quantitative indicators with regard to staff. xi . There appears to be agreement that criteria should include topics such as financial viability. Any process of accreditation would need to be concerned primarily with: approval for new universities to operate. 31. Perhaps more important for the Multilateral Committee will be to develop uniform protocols for the recognition of new and overseas universities and agreement on the criteria to be applied. To date the Multilateral Committee has put most of its efforts into developing a common approach to the accreditation of universities. and re-accreditation of institutions and awards.

the governance structures to be employed and its accountability arrangements. and whether legislation in all States and Territories should provide for both the accreditation of institutions and courses. Institutions should be encouraged to document in detail their monitoring and quality assurance procedures for ‘off-shore’ efforts. 33. and submission of these to some outside body provides useful discipline for institutions to keep plans up to date. Continuation and strengthening of the current requirements of the Commonwealth with regard to institutional quality assurance and improvement plans appears to be a well-conceived and sensible strategy. In our discussions four main models were identified: a Ministerial Committee set up by the Commonwealth Minister.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education universities and other self accrediting institutions need special approval to enter into franchise arrangements to offer higher education courses with non accredited institutions such as VET providers. 36. With regard to quality assurance plans currently required by DETYA. One important issue is the legal basis of any new agency. xii . Certainly there is wide appreciation of some of the strong influences that require establishment of a new national mechanism. this development has not been uniform across the sector and that it may be helpful to provide additional assistance. it will be important that discussions take place with any new quality assurance agency to ensure that DETYA requirements do not in conflict with any documentation requirements for institutional audits. A non-intrusive and sensibly conceived quality assurance mechanism involving both the higher education sector and the State and Territories seems likely to attract considerable support. including ‘off-shore’ efforts and distance education offered internationally. While some universities have made major advances in benchmarking. Quality audits and a new quality agency 35. Such plans should cover all major aspects of operations. 34. Good management practice requires that all institutions should have in place appropriate quality assurance and improvement plans. Quality assurance and improvement plans 32.

CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education an agency established by Commonwealth legislation. two representatives of the higher education sector and one representative drawn from those professional associations involved in accreditation within the higher education sector. 37. details on methods used to monitor and benchmark achievements and the results of monitoring and benchmarking. at ‘arms length’ from both government (Commonwealth and State) and from the higher education sector. Participating institutions will be reviewed every five years. quality assurance and improvement plans. together with documentation on institutional mission and objectives. and higher education initiative with the aim of strengthening public accountability. protecting academic standards and the reputation of Australian higher education providers and awards. Our preferred model for the new quality assurance mechanism and agency is as follows: • A new quality assurance mechanism should be established as a joint Commonwealth. an agency established by joint Commonwealth and State legislation. and promoting good practice in quality assurance. following completion of self-assessments carried out by institutions. Institutions will provide review teams with a report of their self-assessments. We suggest that the new mechanism should be called the Higher Education Quality Assurance Council. State/Territory. It will be governed by a board consisting of an independent Chair. Commonwealth representatives will be appointed by the Minister for Education. • The Council will be established as an independent agency. possibly responsible to MCEETYA. • The central function of the Council will be conduct of program of institutional reviews or audits. two members representing the States and Territories. Members will serve four year terms. xiii . Review teams will carry out site visits. and an agency set up as a company. which will include reviews of the processes of managing quality including monitoring performance and benchmarking. The Executive Director will be an exofficio member and the board will have the power to coopt up to two additional members with special expertise in academic audits and assessment. while the two State and Territory representatives will be appointed by MCEETYA. two Commonwealth nominees. Training and Youth Affairs.

monitoring performance and academic standards. – to report publicly from time to time on the effectiveness of quality assurance procedures in participating institutions. review teams appointed by the Council will focus particularly on: – appropriateness of quality assurance and improvement plans in relation to institutional contexts and missions. and from business and industry. will be appointed by the Council. – to identify and disseminate good practice in quality assurance in higher education. Members of review teams will be drawn from the higher education sector. and – success in communicating the results of the monitoring outcomes and academic standards to stakeholders. xiv . and enhancing quality. Members may also be drawn from the professions and professional associations. and – to undertake and sponsor studies related to effective quality assurance management practices and academic standards in higher education. and monitor performance against institutional plans. • In carrying out reviews. both nationally and internationally. – to publish the reports of reviews. and other relevant matters. the extent to which procedures ensure academic standards and reflect good practice in maintaining and improving quality. • Each year the Council will draw up a program of reviews for the following year.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education • Funding for the work of the Council will come from annual grants from the Commonwealth and from the States and Territories. generally of no more than five members. Review teams will report to the Council. the Commonwealth and the States. – rigour of the mechanisms employed to review courses and academic organisational units. • The terms of reference of the Council will be as follows: – to review within participating higher education institutions the mechanisms for quality assurance. after consultation with institutions likely to be reviewed. • Review panels. – effectiveness in monitoring outcomes and in benchmarking. and annual membership fees paid by individual higher education institutions who wish to participate in the program of reviews.

the institution concerned will be given up to 12 months to correct weaknesses prior to a supplementary review. One possible action would be to remove the name of the institution from the AQF list of accredited institutions until such time that as minimum standards are achieved. • Prior to arrangements for the Council being finalised. • Following the visit of the review team. • Every effort should be made to encourage private universities and non self-accrediting institutions to participate in the review program. Copies will be provided free to DETYA. and relevant professional associations. the composition of the Council’s board and the method of conducting reviews. Once the report is completed it will be considered by the Council and then published. Institutions offering courses ‘off-shore’ for international students should document in detail the procedures followed for safeguarding and monitoring quality. For each review. State and Territory accrediting agencies. xv . a single report will be prepared and published. all participating higher education institutions. the higher education sector should be consulted about the proposed terms of reference for the Council. • Should a review reveal serious weaknesses. Failure to rectify weaknesses would be a matter for DETYA to address (in the case of Commonwealth funded institutions) or for the relevant State or Territory accrediting agency. the draft report will be forwarded to the institution for comment. and the results of any assessments.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education Review panels will normally visit institutions for two consecutive days after the institution has completed a self-assessment and supplied other documentation as required.

which will have responsibility for the quality of publicly funded tertiary education. and • to promote and improve quality processes and outcomes at individual institutions as well as disseminate good practice. Refinement of the current model could include strengthening the internal processes within universities through benchmarking and accreditation by external agencies as well as some modification to existing legislation relating to accreditation of new providers and new courses. and modifications of guidelines relating to Corporations Law.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education 1 Introduction 1. The current arrangements are judged to be inadequate and DETYA considers that Australia needs a more rigorous quality assurance and accreditation system: • to protect our international reputation in respect of both the quality of our educational processes and our standards. • to inform student choice. particularly to satisfy the taxpayer about value for money and that government subsidies are supporting education activities of an appropriate standard. the recently modified New Zealand model. the model used by the Vocational Education and Training (VET) system in Australia and a ‘Modern Australian Model’.3 1.4 . • for public accountability purposes. 1. The newly proposed modified arrangements for quality assurance in New Zealand will require providers to be quality assured through a recognised quality validation process in order to be eligible for government funding. 1. especially in the light of diversity of offerings. The Quality Assurance Authority of New Zealand. rather than carrying out quality audits itself.2 Various models for a new approach to quality assurance and accreditation have been reviewed. leading to overall system improvement (DETYA Project Brief 1999. the new United Kingdom model. will grant recognition to those bodies that are able to provide credible and rigorous quality validation processes in the sector. Training and Youth Affairs (DETYA) to assist in developing an improved national approach to both quality assurance and accreditation. including refinement of the current Australian model.1 This report has been prepared for the Commonwealth Department of Education. p 3). Presumably the New Zealand universities may seek to have quality validation carried out by the Academic Audit Unit which was established in the early 1990s (Malcom 1993).

The new approach requires independent verification of programs delivered to ensure that: • they achieve their intended outcomes. and • the quality of learning opportunities. Under the Australian Recognition Framework that came into effect on 1 January 1998. The Quality Assurance Agency has responsibility to assure • the standards of awards.5 In the United Kingdom. are endorsed nationally by the National Training Framework Committee of ANTA and by Education and Training Ministers. The Standards also specify national competency standards and assessment guidelines. Under the Australian Recognition Framework. • program outcomes against standards. a considerable amount of audit effort will be carried out by professional staff of the Agency. following establishment of the Australian National Training Authority (ANTA). While use will be made of members of panels from universities and the professions. and conduct periodic audits of overseas and other collaborative arrangements. 1. quality assurance is the responsibility of the Quality Assurance Agency which was established in 1997. It is expected. 2 .6 The model of accreditation and quality assurance for the VET sector has been developed and further refined in recent years. which are developed and validated by industry. and any other requirement of the relevant State or Territory. Continuing registration is dependent upon compliance measured through monitoring and audit. following submission of the Dearing Report (Higher Education for the Learning Society 1997) to the Blair Government.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education 1. and Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) outcomes. that Quality Assurance Agency reviewers will interact with subject/departmental review processes within universities. which the organisation needs to demonstrate to the recognition authority to become registered. Training Packages. there is also provision for the accreditation of courses where no relevant Training Packages exist. review overall academic management. The Standards represent the core requirement. for example. and • student achievement meets the standards required of the institution for its awards by reference to subject benchmarks and the views of accrediting bodies. initial registration of a training organisation is dependent on demonstrated capacity to meet National Core and relevant Product/Service Standards.

the main features of the approach may include: • rigorous scrutiny of provider capacity before course accreditation.9 The task for our project was to develop Model 5 (a Modern Australian Model) as an alternative to the other four models. and • review of provider performance and accredited courses every five years. advise under whose authority it should be run. advise whether the framework would need a legislative base. More specifically. 1. and • compliance with any additional measures which may be necessary to ensure the maintenance of acceptable high standards of degrees. comment on the desirability of focussing more than in the past on outcomes and standards as well as processes. consider how to achieve rigour and independence for the process while retaining the cooperation and confidence of universities. It provides separate arrangements for both institutions which have been given power to accredit their own courses and for non-self accrediting providers.8 For non self-accrediting providers. elaborate the possible nature of the five yearly self-assessments for self-accrediting institutions.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education 1. and advise on the role of professional associations within the model and the nature of the audit of the courses of non self-accrediting providers. assess whether it would be sensible and appropriate to make use of the AQF. • Effectiveness (ability to address learning outcome standards as well as quality assurance processes). 3 . For institutions with power to accredit their own courses. • annual publication of Quality Assurance and Improvement Plans for the forthcoming triennium. and the marketability of the arrangements). • a quality audit of each institution every five years following a detailed self-assessment.7 The Modern Australian Model for quality assurance and accreditation that has been developed by DETYA seeks to build on current and recent practice. we were asked to make a comprehensive assessment of the Modern Australian Model against the following criteria: • Credibility (how well the model would be credible with international and domestic interest groups and potential customers. 1. the main requirements will be: • rigorous scrutiny of financial and quality aspects before founding legislation is passed or other authorisation is given.

12 4 . and material supplied by Universities and other higher education providers. Documents analysed included Commonwealth and State government reports and legislation. This definition implies that missions. Quality assurance enables key stakeholders to have confidence about the management of quality and the outcomes achieved. reviewed relevant literature and analysed key documents to which we gained access.10 The brief required consultation with key stakeholders (eg the Australian Vice-Chancellors’ Committee (AVCC). materials supplied by ANTA and the Australian Qualifications Framework Board Secretariat. • How well the model could exploit the role of professional associations in accrediting courses. pp 8–9). For the purpose of this report. As researchers. quality assurance in higher education is defined as systematic management and assessment procedures adopted by an higher education institution or system to monitor performance against objectives and to ensure achievement of quality outputs or improved quality. goals and objectives will be clearly specified and available to stakeholders. 1. • How well the model could build on the key features of the Australian higher education system. materials from the Ministerial Council of Employment and Education.11 1. that 1. and where higher education courses developed and delivered by other providers are accredited by State/Territory bodies. and • Cost (DETYA Project Brief 1999. A copy of the project brief is reproduced in Appendix 1. In carrying out the project. Stakeholders are individuals and groups who have a major interest in the higher education institution or system and its achievements. State accrediting bodies. where universities are established under State/Territory/Commonwealth legislation as autonomous institutions with the power to accredit their own courses. Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA). materials from the AVCC and professional associations. the National Office of Overseas Skills Recognition (NOOSR) and professional associations) as appropriate. we acknowledge the generous assistance we received from many individuals and organisations. we have interviewed a range of key stakeholders. A list of interviewees is provided in Appendix 2. • Minimum prescription and bureaucracy. • Ability to promote and enhance improvement and good practice.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education • Ability to provide legal clarity for students and providers.

In some cases. to approve or recognise a higher education course and/or award as being of an appropriate standard and being delivered in an appropriate manner. that the results of monitoring and review will be available to all stakeholders. A third specialist use is in relation to assessment and recognition carried out professional associations in such areas as engineering. accreditation is often one of the main mechanisms of quality assurance but. In any higher education system. it would be assumed that quality assurance mechanisms would address particular issues of concern. law and architecture.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education appropriate procedures will be in place to monitor and review performance. accreditation refers to a process of assessment and review which enables a higher education course or institution to be recognised or certified as meeting appropriate standards. the term accreditation has developed three specialist meanings. while it other cases accredited institutions must also seek accreditation for each course. on the other hand. and that mechanisms will be in place to ensure improvements in performance and the adoption of good practice. A second specialist use of the term accreditation in Australia is in relation to processes carried out by a government registration body to enable graduates of particular courses to practise in the State or Territory. acting under the authority of appropriate legislation. its graduates will be eligible for membership of the professional association. In this report we are primarily concerned with the first specialised Australian usage outlined above. Quality assurance. accounting. or the quality of courses offered to international students studying in Australia and for awards from an Australian provider through some ‘off-shore’ arrangement. 1. refers to processes of on-going review. accreditation of a higher education institution means that from then on it is able to accredit or certify the quality its own courses. One important practical and theoretical question is the relationship between quality assurance and accreditation. If a particular course is accredited. In Australia. such as the quality of awards during a period of rapid expansion in student numbers.14 . 5 1. assessment and monitoring that should apply to all recognised providers in order to ensure that courses and awards are of a high standard and that institutional monitoring of performance is effective. this report is concerned primarily with accreditation carried out by government agencies and relating in the first instance to new providers and new courses.13 In its generic form. as already noted. Internationally. The first is of process a review or assessment conducted by a government agency to enable a Minister or an approved authority.

1.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education While the standards and criteria used in the assessment of institutions and courses should inform quality assurance mechanisms. At the same time it is obviously desirable that Australia should have an overall consistent and robust approach to both quality assurance and accreditation. a more detailed discussion is provided of the concepts of quality assurance and accreditation. there is no clear reason why the same agency should be responsible for both accreditation and quality assurance. 6 .15 In Chapter 2.

Apart from this. and Craft 1992 and 1994). Quality and quality assurance have become key issues for higher education internationally in the 1990s (Kells 1992. as ministers. Quality issues dominate the higher education debate in many countries. Many people question whether their societies are getting real value for their massive investment in higher education and urge the adoption by governments of mechanisms to achieve more control over the work that higher education institutions do. there is more emphasis on quality associated with increased mobility of professional and skilled labour. 7 2. while rapid increases in enrolments and often falling financial support per student unit raise doubts about whether quality is being maintained.2 . A final section reviews in summary form the main approaches to the management of quality assurance at the national level that have been adopted internationally over the past decade. Governments are concerned about the costs of providing credible academic and professional awards and the need to ensure that standards are maintained at an appropriate level. employers and business interests become increasingly concerned about the outputs of higher education institutions and the suitability of graduates to meet the needs of employers. Kells and van Vught 1988. Quality and accountability thus have become key elements in the efforts of many countries to become and remain internationally competitive in a world where interdependence in trade is rapidly growing. In many countries. and the greater need for recognition of qualifications across national boundaries. bureaucrats. It also comments on the concept of quality and other concepts related to quality assurance and accreditation. managers of higher education systems and institutions are concerned about quality and how to put in place appropriate quality assurance mechanisms. and so both institutions and nation states are keen to learn more about each other’s procedures for assuring the quality of tertiary education provision. As Craft (1994. p viii) points out: ‘globalisation’ and international migration mean that academic and professional qualifications need to be ‘portable’ across national borders.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education Chapter 2 Quality assurance and accreditation 2.1 This chapter explores in greater detail the concepts of quality assurance and accreditation.

management approaches likely to improve outcomes from universities and colleges. while the old was concerned largely about inputs and national and international academic standards. van Vught and Westerheijden 1992. One of the big differences between the old quality debate and the new quality debate is that. improvements in the quality and adaptability of graduates.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education 2.3 The main issues in the quality debate about higher education in many countries are the maintenance and improvement of levels of teaching. Quality and higher education 2. how to define and measure quality. Craft 1992. Sizer 1990. Various studies and papers produced over the past decade or so have documented key aspects of the quality debate in OECD countries. the establishment of appropriate management processes to monitor achievement and the extent to which specified goals and objectives are being met. the main issues in the quality debate were largely about maintaining academic standards according to some national or international norm. Frazer 1991.4 In one sense. and how to provide sufficient financial and other resources to achieve quality higher education. and providing information to stakeholders in order to assure them of the quality and credibility of outputs. the new is much more concerned about management processes and their effectiveness. Anwyl 1992. student assessment. and how well outputs meet employer and other needs. learning. 2. Many of these issues are still important today. Williams 1991. and in major geographic regions such as Western Europe and North America (eg. and Harman 1996a).5 8 . research and scholarship. Ball 1985. the assessment of outputs and monitoring performance. Lindsay 1992. the maintenance and improvement of levels of teaching and learning. assessing the suitability of graduates for the workforce and professions. and accountability (Harman 1994). the quality debate in higher education is not new. but the new quality debate is largely about the achievement of quality outcomes. the use of benchmarking and performance indicators. Lindsay 1994. Neave 1991. although in the past universities and government agencies used different terms such as academic standards. and how to convince stakeholders that institutions and systems are doing a competent job in ensuring quality outputs. standards of degrees and diplomas. In the past too. Craft 1994.

we mean a judgement about the level of goal achievement and the value and worth of that achievement. about what characteristics of institutional work are regarded as being of the greatest value and why. Apart from differences of views in the academic debate.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education But quality is also becoming a major issue in the higher education systems of Asia and the Pacific. and about which graduates have the most valued characteristics. according to some norm or 2. Within many universities too. and what constitutes academic performance at the highest level and how such performance can be recognised.8 9 . This is not surprising as quality deals with a number of complex notions.6 The recent international literature on quality and quality assurance in higher education reveals considerable difficulties and ambiguities in the definition of a number of key terms.7 2. there are often quite surprising variations of views about the essential elements of quality. It is a judgement about the degree to which activities or outputs have desirable characteristics. meaningful only from the perspective of particular judges at particular points of time. Sometimes too there is disagreement within many higher education institutions about what constitutes good teaching. But despite these differences in views. managers and experts in educational measurement for many years have been wrestling with difficult technical questions about such matters as measuring academic performance of students. Many see quality as a relative concept. The concept of quality 2. By quality in the context of higher education. Apart from this confusion and lack of agreement. and devising means to ensure that teaching in academic departments or institutions is of consistently high quality. measured against some either explicit or implicit standard or purpose. although within the region there are very considerable variations about how quality issues are perceived and in the priorities that different governments and higher education systems are giving to tackling quality problems. in the literature only in the widest sense is there broad agreement about what quality is. there is an increased degree of consensus emerging about key terms. For this report we draw on this growing consensus and set out a number of working definitions. comparing academic standards over time and between different institutions. and how to define a number of key concepts used in the current debate about quality. For example. scholars interested in researching quality issues differ significantly in their views about key terms.

treats quality as a synonym for performance. goals and objectives and then be evaluated against these. Ball (1985) refers to quality as ‘fitness for purpose. social. 2. 2. Thus the reference point are the views of a particular community. The value of different perspectives can be well illustrated from the work of the American scholar. He describes these as the meritocratic. and so discussions of quality revolve around the definition and measurement of resources and outcomes.’ According to this definition. Birnbaum found that college presidents assess quality in relation to conformity to some institutional or universalistic professional or scholarly norm.9 While the variety of different definitions of quality can be confusing and frustrating. (Birnbaum 1994). which he terms the ‘production-measurement’ view. and so generally use the academic profession as a reference group.10 10 . and their dependence on contested value positions’ (Lindsay 1992. Presidents who take an individualistic view emphasise the contributions that the institution makes to the personal growth of students.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education against particular specified criteria or objectives. These assessments may incorporate ‘imponderable elements of our conceptions of educational processes and outcomes. Robert Birnbaum. which Lindsay terms the ‘stakeholder judgement’ view. In the absence of any overall agreed standards in a higher education system. One approach. who in a study of American college presidents reports on three different views of quality in higher education that he found in practice. is based on assessments by various key actors involved in higher education. it is necessary for institutions to specify their mission. a course of study in a higher education institution is of satisfactory quality when it conforms to the particular standards or levels of achievement for the purpose it was designed. The other approach. pp 154-156). different perspectives on quality have their positive aspects. With the meritocratic view. using the individual learner as the reference point. identifying two distinct approaches to discussions of quality in higher education. and individualistic views of quality. Lindsay (1992) has categorised key approaches differently. Those presidents who take a social view of quality base their judgements on assessment about the extent to which the institution satisfies the needs of important constituencies and audiences -what people have now come to refer to as the stakeholders.

While the concept of quality assurance is new. primarily in the United Kingdom. is a more systematic and far reaching approach to monitoring performance and ensuring that institutions and systems have in place appropriate and effective mechanisms for review and assessment. van Vught and Westerheijden 1992). and for renewal and improvement. by virtue of general consensus and reasonable stability over time. seeking the views of employers and graduates and. see Ball 1985. Birnbaum 1994. follow-up efforts aimed to achieve improvement. As already noted. The quality assurance movement of the past decade has sprung from a variety of factors. quality assurance refers to systematic management and assessment procedures adopted to monitor performance and achievements and to ensure achievement of specified quality or improved quality. However. quality assurance in this report is thought of as a broader term which embraces not only assessment but also other activities including.13 2.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education 2. the new mechanisms also put much more emphasis on external scrutiny. Some authors (eg Brennan 1997) prefer use of the term quality assessment instead of term quality assurance. These are quality as a defining characteristic or attribute. making the results of assessments more widely available. in essence. for example.11 Middlehurst (1992) usefully identifies four different ways that the term quality has been used in the recent higher education debate. while a great deal of effort in quality assurance relates to quality assessment. many of the ideas behind the concept are by no means new.12 The term quality assurance has come into the higher education vocabulary only over the past decade or so. Lindsay 1992. in various ways. quality as a particularly high level of performance or achievement which. apart from the new language. But the quality assurance movement has also 2. quality as a grade of achievement.14 11 . While there are many definitions of quality assurance in the literature (eg. Quality assurance 2. particularly important have been community and government concerns about academic standards and the levels of achievements of graduates in a time of major expansion in student numbers associated with decreasing government funding support per student unit. What is new. as already noted. comes to be seen as a standard against which to judge others. Compared with past approaches. however. and quality as fitness for purpose achieved through performance that meets specifications.

The business-oriented type is distinctively different depending on Total Quality Management. 2. and pressure from employers and the professions for university courses to become more relevant to work place needs.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education been driven by the impact of increased international competitiveness. the main approaches are action groups concerned about quality and the introduction of alternative social models. quality assessment. the need for increased mobility of professional labour. citizen-based. The term appears to have been adapted from 2. governments set the policy framework and steer from some distance but put a major emphasis on monitoring performance (van Vught (1994b). Quality control refers to the processes or mechanisms within an institution or system used to ensure compliance with quality standards or achieve improvements in performance. With this approach.17 There are a number of related concepts that are frequently used in discussion about quality. quality audit. quality awards and benchmarking. as a result of increased government emphasis on competition. The most important of these are quality control. service standards and quality indicators. demands for greater accountability by public institutions which flows from the emergence of the ‘evaluative state’ (Neave 1997). 2. there are community concerns about the possibility of quality being sacrificed in the search for profits. while the professional type depends mainly on professional training and professional ethics. Thus quality assurance becomes of vital importance. peer review and self evaluation. quality management and self-study.16 Related concepts 2. It is about evaluating and guaranteeing standards. business-oriented. Under the citizen-based type. ISO 9000. and professional.15 Quality assurance has become a particularly important element in those higher education systems which have adopted a self-regulation approach to relationships between government and higher education.18 12 . the main approaches used are legislation. Under the political-administrative type. market forces and encouragement of private providers. quality assurance becomes of great importance in countries where. concerns related to the expansion of private higher education. professional audits. Rajavaara (1998) has developed a typology of four different types of quality assurance: political-administrative. In addition.

to determine whether quality activities comply with planned arrangements and whether the ‘product’ (the educational process) is implemented effectively and is suitable for achieving the stated objectives. usually conducted externally. The term self-study has come from the work of American accreditation agencies and refers to the internal preparation of detailed evaluation document to be presented to an outside review panel who will visit the institution and provide a written report. the mechanisms used to monitor quality. The concept was developed and popularised following the establishment of an Academic Audit Unit in 1990 by the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals in the United Kingdom (Frazer 1991). monitor the production process and particularly the quality of outputs. Many quality assurance approaches put a major emphasis on a self-study or self-evaluation. on the mechanisms to achieve quality. Quality assessment has come to mean a review or systematic examination. (van Vught and Westerheijden 1992). or some combination of these. and on the notion of a detailed report which becomes available to the institution to assist in improving procedures and achieving enhanced outputs. Quality management has come to refer to the management of quality control and quality improvement. outputs. or the educational process and outcomes. somewhat independent of the main workforce. However. or should be.22 13 . In higher education.19 Quality audit refers to the processes of external scrutiny used to provide guarantees about the quality control mechanisms in place. It is also about the design and maintenance of quality assurance mechanisms. but rather the workforce as a whole needs to be convinced of the importance of quality in order to achieve the highest levels of production performance. 2. there are some differences of opinion in the literature as to whether the focus is.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education industry where quality inspectors or quality controllers.20 2.21 2. Quality audit is based on the ideas of self-study and peer review. 2. or all of these. Experience in industry has shown that it is not sufficient to have an efficient quality monitoring group. quality control can focus on inputs. and to those aspects of the overall management functions that determines and implements the quality policy.

This section will briefly review the development of voluntary systems of accreditation in the United States and more recently the development of accreditation by professional bodies and government backed accreditation systems in Britain and Commonwealth countries.26 14 . accredit institutions (Dill 1997).CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education Accreditation 2. Today there is a wide variety of professional accrediting organisations covering traditional professional areas such as medicine. Federal funding for the 2. In the 1990s the United States moved to establish a much more comprehensive national system of quality assurance beginning with passage of amendments to the Higher Education Act of 1992 which involved the Federal Government for the first time in quality assurance. designed to place greater institutional attention on the improvement of student learning. In the United States. By 1990.23 The term accreditation in higher education originally came from the United States. Regional accrediting associations. engineering. Such associations accredit particular courses of study. In the 1980s. which proposed more rigorous national standards for academic accreditation with particular emphasis on student learning. In addition. law. a new quality assurance mechanism emerged in the United States under the rubric of assessment. over two thirds of the states had passed legislation encouraging public institutions of higher education to implement various forms of student assessment. independent of government. dentistry and architecture and well as many newer occupational areas. on the other hand. This legislation required States to create State Postsecondary Review Entities with responsibility for reviewing the quality of all postsecondary institutions and their eligibility for federal student financial aid. for almost a century accreditation has been associated with quality assurance processes in higher education associated mainly with voluntary self-regulation carried out by professional accrediting organisations and regional accrediting associations. in addition to the traditional processes of voluntary accreditation. Ultimately. These changes were widely expected to lead to a more rigorous national system of quality assurance but. following the 1994 Congressional elections. under pressure from the Federal Department of Education the various accreditation agencies formed a National Policy Board on Academic Accreditation.24 2.25 2. but over the years many of the key ideas have been adopted by professional associations and government agencies internationally. all five regional accrediting associations also adopted an assessment criterion as one of their criteria for reviewing institutions of higher education.

Korea. accreditation systems on the American model have been established in many countries of Asia and Latin America. resulting in more emphasis on assessment of quality management mechanisms within institutions. • the curriculum. Colombia and Chile (Ayaraza 1994). well-established accreditation systems have been strengthened with academic associations being given an enhanced role (Su 1993). accreditation systems play a key role in the higher education systems of Japan. in Taiwan. space and equipment). but only in the last decade has this been extended to public universities and colleges (Arcelo 1992). • resources currently available to the unit (including financial resources. although generally there is not a strong tradition of quality assurance. over the past decade important changes have been made to the traditional American approach to accreditation in response to public criticism.28 Over the past three decades. In the Asian region. personnel. a system of voluntary accreditation was developed among private colleges in the 1960s.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education proposed State Review Agencies was eliminate. 2. In Latin America. and • statistics showing the performance or other outcomes for graduates (El-Khawas 1993).27 Prompted by the new pressures for strengthening quality assurance. Similarly. In the Philippines. 15 . has developed common accrediting standards. Recent efforts have attempted to strengthen accrediting agencies and their procedures. accreditation systems operate in Brazil. 2. This has led many of the regional accreditation associations to revise key elements of their approach. While there is considerable variation between accrediting agencies. The Federation of Accrediting Agencies of the Philippines. Accreditation agencies now have more detailed guidelines with clearly specified evaluative criteria. The following year proposals from the National Policy Board on Academic Accreditation were rejected by public and private higher education institutions (Dill 1997. detailed written guidelines generally focus on four main areas: • organisational and administrative matters. despite the extensive expansion of private higher education. while a Congressional Commission recommended that the policies and practices of the accrediting agencies be reviewed periodically (Cooney and Paqueo-Arrezo 1993). Taiwan and the Philippines. pp 15–16). for example. and making the results of accreditation processes more generally available to the public (Crow 1994). reconsideration of the practice of making reports available only to the institution concerned.

31 16 . somewhat similar mechanisms were developed for accreditation of courses by professional associations and government registration boards. 2. Quality assurance policies in most countries currently are in a process of rapid evolution and change. The main approaches to quality assurance management are summarised in Table 2. it is important that any procedures and approaches fit well within the culture of the particular system or institution. although for many countries the history of these mechanisms is not well documented. the focus of quality assurance activities. the current accrediting functions carried out by a number of State and Territory agencies grew out of the accrediting bodies for advanced education which operated in the 1970s and 1980s. The literature reporting these developments points to tremendous variety in approaches and methods. and reporting and/or follow-up activities.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education 2. the main methodologies employed. the purposes of such activities.29 In Britain and many Commonwealth countries. although at the same time there is an increasing convergence internationally in terms of approaches. and for accreditation or validation of courses in non-university sectors. for example. participation in reviews and other activities. Accreditation by professional associations goes back certainly to the pre Second World War period.1 which is drawn from a published paper by one of the authors (Harman 1998). As Craft (1994 p ix) has warned. Accreditation conducted by government agencies was first developed for non-university higher education and the particular approach of the Council for National Academic Awards (CNAA) in Britain soon became the model adopted by many Commonwealth countries. ‘procedures need to be adopted and adapted with care and sensitivity if the quality assurance/accreditation movement is not to be a new form of cultural imperialism’.30 Over the past decade or so extensive experimentation has taken place with quality assurance and how it is managed. the Academy for Performing Arts and the Open Learning Institute (Tsim 1993). This table sets out under separate categories information on the agency or unit with responsibility for the management of quality assurance. Main quality assurance approaches and methodologies 2. In 1990. In Australia. and also to a significant degree of borrowing by national systems of higher education from one another. such a system was established in Hong Kong for non-university institutions with the tasks of advising on academic standards and validating degree courses offered by the two polytechnics. Lingnan College. While such borrowing is to be commended.

with some measure of pressure/persuasion C. Participation in reviews and other activities • Voluntary • Compulsory • Voluntary. usually with use of external panel members and site visits • Analysis of statistical information and/or use of performance indicators • Surveys of students. graduates. teaching.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education Table 2. management. professional bodies • Testing the knowledge. Responsible agency/unit • Unit or section within a Government agency • Separate quality assurance agency established by Government • Separate agency established collectively by higher education institutions • Agency established jointly by Government and institutions B.1 Main approaches and methodologies at national Level A. skills and competencies of students D. employers. research. and other activities • Institutional evaluations – reviews of teaching only – reviews of research only – reviews of quality assurance processes – comprehensive reviews usually including teaching. Focus • National reviews of disciplines – reviews of research only – reviews of teaching only – reviews of combination of research. and quality assurance processes • Comprehensive national evaluations of higher education system 17 . Methodologies of review and assessment • Self study or self evaluation • Peer review by panels of experts.

Ministry. develop appropriate methods for assessing academic programs. The two major issues concerning government quality assurance agencies are what degree of independence they should have both from Ministers and from major ministries and departments. inspire and guide institutions in quality and evaluations. and what links there are between quality assurance and funding. and enhance professional judgments. Korea.33 18 . the main arguments for a high degree of independence are that such independence will lead to greater trust and confidence. In summary. whether it be a Ministry or a University Grants Commission. Reporting and follow-up activities • Report provided solely to the institution or unit concerned • Report provided to the institution or unit but also published or made more widely available • Formal reports provided to the Minister. and Thailand. On the other hand.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education E Purposes • Accountability • Improvement and renewal • Combination of purposes F. Somewhat similar arrangements operate in France. in Sweden control of quality assurance lies with the Swedish National Higher Education Agency while in South Africa the Higher Education Quality Committee is a sub-agency of the Commission for Higher Education (Strydom 1997). and compile information on national and international experiences (Thune 1994). or coordinating board • Public reporting • Use of ranking and wide publication of the results of such ranking • Performance funding • Accreditation or validation • Improvement and renewal activities Administrative responsibility 2. whereas others argue for government control 2. Thus in Denmark there is the Evaluation Centre set up by the Government with a mandate to initiate evaluation processes.32 The most common pattern at national level is for responsibility to lie with a specialised unit or agency set up by Government. Finland. or with the central agency responsible for higher education coordination.

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in order to integrate quality assurance more closely with planning and coordination. An agency with considerable independence from the Minister and the agencies of executive government is the French Comite National d’Evaluation (CNE) which reports to the President and is independent of the Prime Minister, the Minister of Education and other executive agencies (van Vught 1994a). In other cases, attempts have been made to ensure that the management of quality assurance is captured neither by the Ministry nor by the higher education institutions; in Finland, for example, the Higher Education Evaluation Council is made up of 12 members appointed by the Ministry, together with representative of universities (4), polytechnics (4), student organisations (2) and business and industry (2) (Liuhanen 1997). 2.34 In a small number of countries, responsibility for aspects of quality assurance at the national level is under the control of an agency set up by higher education institutions themselves. Such examples are found in the Netherlands, Italy and in New Zealand (at least up to the present), where quality assurance programs are conducted by agencies set up by the peak association of universities. In the Netherlands, the current system of quality assurance for both the University and the non-University sectors sprang from a restructuring in the mid-1980s of the relationship between the Ministry of Education and Science and higher education institutions. An understanding was developed that, in exchange for a greater degree of financial and managerial autonomy, the institutions would demonstrate that they were offering quality education. Originally it was planned that this assessment of quality would be a responsibility of the Inspectorate for Higher Education but, in the end, after negotiations, the two voluntary bodies representing higher education institutions in both university and non-university sectors respectively agreed to take responsibility. However, follow-up activities are the responsibility of the Inspectorate of Higher Education, an independent body set up by the Government (Zijderveld 1997). In Italy since 1992 an important role in quality assurance has been performed by the Italian Standing Conference of Rectors (CRUI) which stimulates reflection and dialogue on issues related to the establishment within universities of periodic evaluation practices, and provides assistance to universities in setting up their internal evaluation systems. The CRUI has also created a common information system based on evaluations (Boffo and Moscati 1997). The New Zealand scheme for University audits has been under the control of universities rather than the Government (Malcom 1993).

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2.35

An example of joint government-university control is in Korea where responsibility lies with both the Ministry of Education and the Korean Council for University Education. In 1992, the Ministry and the Council agreed to establish an independent accreditation body within the Council, called the Council of University Accreditation. The latter body is composed of 16 representatives from universities, industry and government. The Ministry of Education and the Korean Council for University Education jointly decide annually which university departments will be evaluated, while the Council for University Accreditation consults with relevant professional associations and organises accreditation committees made up of university staff. After each evaluation, staff of the Korean Council for University Education reviews reports and produce total scores for each department, leading to grading of departments as good, moderate, or poor. The list of good departments is announced and reports and documentation are considered by the Ministry of Education’s Advisory Council for Higher Education (Lee 1993).

Participation in the program
2.36 An important variation between quality assurance systems is whether participation is voluntary or compulsory. Many countries began with institutional audits on a voluntary basis. Thus, in Britain the institutional audits run by the AAU were voluntary (Williams 1991), while the Research Assessment Exercise run by the Higher Education Funding Council of England (HEFCE) for the funding councils continues to be based on the principle of voluntary participation. In Finland, when the Ministry of Education launched the program of university reviews in 1991 on an experimential basis, two universities—Oulu and Jyvaskyala—volunteered to be involved. When the Evaluation Centre was set up in Denmark one of its three guiding principles was that participation would be voluntary (Thune 1994). Generally, however, with national reviews of disciplines participation is compulsory and even when participation is voluntary strong moral and professional pressures usually result in a high level of participation.

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Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education

Methodologies
2.38 Most quality assurance mechanisms depend on one or a combination of a limited number of key methodologies, the most important of which are self studies or self evaluation; peer review by panels of experts; the use of relevant statistical information and performance indicators; and surveys of key groups, such as students, graduates and employers. Self studies have proved both effective and cost efficient, achieving a high degree of ownership since key staff are heavily involved and such involvement increases the chances of improvements being achieved. Experience points to the value of combining self-studies with external peer review to ensure that evaluation is taken seriously and outside perspectives are included. Self-studies first developed in the United States with institutional and course accreditation, but over the last decade or so it have become an important feature of many quality assurance systems. Self-studies have many positive features: they are cost effective, since the main work is done internally, often with little additional resources being necessary; they usually achieve a high degree of ownership since key staff are heavily involved and such involvement increases the chances of substantial improvement being achieved; and the process of review or assessment is made less threatening. On the other hand, experience points to the value of combining self study with some element of external peer review, especially to ensure that the self-study is taken seriously and to bring in outside perspectives. Combination of self-study with external peer review provides a strong incentive for staff to take the activity more seriously. One of the strongest pressures on any group of academics is the prospect of being judged by senior peers in the discipline. Peer review is a well-established academic process and generally works well provided external members are included and panel members show respect for the values of those being evaluated and accept that often their main contribution will be in assisting with self-learning. At the same time, it must be recognised that peer review can easily introduce outside values and constructs. In its traditional format, peer review generally involves a visit by a group of well-regarded academics in the particular field but recent practice, especially for reviews of programs or disciplines, has been to add other experts to panels, such as persons from industry or business, practising professionals, or elected public officials.

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2.40

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containing key statistics about university performance by institutions and disciplines (Liuhanen 1997).44 22 . continuing education. appropriations.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education 2. In Finland. In the case of France. for example. a national program of reviews is accompanied by the use of national statistical collections and published performance indicators.43 2. particularly the United States. researcher visits abroad. In some cases. skills and competencies. The main efforts here have been at institutional level. This data base covers the following topics: applications for admission. government offices and the institution (van Vught 1994a). various initiatives have been taken to develop tests to assess student knowledge. the CNE quality assessment disciplinary reviews begin with self-evaluation reports produced by the institutions being reviewed and statistical reports produced by the CNE. teaching and other staff. graduates and employers.42 External reporting often is thought necessary in order not only to ensure accountability requirements but that staff take a self-study seriously. Related questions are to whom should external reports go. By 1990. Most evaluations combine self-study with the use of statistical information and/or performance indicators. and the target number of degrees agreed in Ministry-University consultations. graduate placements. and how widely and publicly should such reports be distributed. open university instruction. premises. home and foreign students. 2. In a number of counties. Regional accrediting bodies also have adopted new assessment criteria for reviews of higher education institutions (Dill 1997). although there are examples of statewide initiatives. over two thirds of states had passed regulations encouraging public institutions of higher education to implement various forms of ‘student assessment programs’ designed to place more emphasis on improvement of student learning. degrees including the duration of masters degrees. an extensive nationwide university data base (KOTA) was established in the late 1980s. scientific publications. and now frequently the results of surveys of students.

Thus in Britain. although in Sweden the brief of the new Swedish National Higher Education Agency includes investigating and evaluating the higher education system and its results in relation to the society’s overarching general goals for higher education (Asking and Bauer 1997). the most common forms of assessment are ‘horizontal’ reviews of disciplines and ‘vertical’ evaluations of institutions. A general report is prepared for the university as a whole.45 At the national level. comprehensive reviews of higher education. In many cases. much of which is usually produced by the academic units being reviewed.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education Focus 2. Under this approach. Practice varies on whether reports are published. and more extensive comprehensive reviews. and these teams make an on-site audit using a checklist of good practice. rather than an assessment of the quality achieved.46 2. Some disciplinary reviews concentrate on teaching only. Generally disciplinary reviews result in published reports.47 23 . The international practice of institutional academic audits has been considerably influenced by the methodology developed a decade ago by the AAU in the United Kingdom. and whether the results are reported officially to the government or funding agency. however. In a number of countries. there was the Robbins Committee in the 1960s and more recently the Dearing Committee. often conducted by special committees or panels. some on research only. Reviews of disciplines are usually carried out by panels of experts using site visits and analysis of documentary information. while in Australia parallel reviews have been held under the leadership of Sir Leslie Martin and Mr Roderick West. with often detailed comments being made on the work within each department or faculty. Institutional reviews include academic audits of quality assurance processes and outcomes. Institutions are visited by small teams of academics. while confidential reports on sensitive issues are produced for the Vice-Chancellor. such comprehensive reviews are not considered as part of a national program of quality assurance. there is a long tradition of periodic national. the focus is a meta-evaluation of the mechanisms and approaches to quality assurance management. following a ‘negotiated invitation’. while others look at both teaching and research. 2.

reports are provided solely to the institution or the unit concerned. 24 . the current system of quality assurance in the Netherlands was clearly linked to a new philosophy about the relationship between the state and higher education institutions and on a belief that the assessment process should be as non evasive as possible (van Vught 1994a). to date it has given clear priority to supporting and enhancing activities. but increasingly the practice is to make the results more widely available. Similarly. particularly one which includes critical comments. Ministries and funding agencies. but a major challenge is to devise fair and effective methods likely to lead to improvements without damaging the unit or units being reviewed. While participants in the institution or department being assessed often wish to limit circulation of a report.50 Reporting and follow-up 2. While the Agency has a number of functions including both enhancing and controlling quality.49 2. In its own guidelines. In some cases.48 Quality assurance programs can often serve a variety of purposes but generally their primary purposes are a combination of public accountability. A variety of approaches are widely used with regard to the distribution of reports. improvement and renewal. Precisely what happens to a report can be one of the most contentious issues in quality assurance programs. As already noted. there is a gap between stated purposes and actual purposes and frequently there is tension between accountability and improvement purposes. the approach adopted by the Swedish National Higher Education Agency stems from the transition from ex-ante regulation to devolution of authority and ex-post control (Bauer and Franke-Wikberg 1993). 2. Frequently the stated purpose of a national quality assurance program is linked to a particular philosophical approach to evaluation and to particular views about the role of government in the control of higher education.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education Purposes 2. the Agency has underlined its supportive role and expressed its strong commitment to a ‘soft’ approach to its evaluative tasks (Askling and Bauer 1997). At national level.51 Reporting and follow-up activities are vital components. the demands of accountability usually require wider circulation. reports for institutional evaluations or disciplinary reviews now are frequently provided to Ministers. In some cases. in the case of Sweden.

In the United Kingdom. performance in research as measured by the Research Assessment Exercise (McNay 1997) is used as the basis by the three funding councils and the Department of Education of Northern Ireland for allocating substantial research funding to institutions. and these results are publicly announced. In this way both reviewers and the unit being reviewed will know from the outset who will see the final report. In a minority of cases. it is widely accepted that whatever the final distribution of a report. the final result is accreditation or validation of the program or institution. institutions took the initiative and developed mechanisms of quality assurance which included accreditation of institutions and academic programs. growing diversity in institutional forms and lack of centrally defined standards led to a degree of chaos. by denying funding to lesser performing departments or institutions. and their capacity to improve. $27 million was allocated. What is desirable is that the issues of reporting and follow-up should be explicitly addressed in guidelines prior to commencement of any review. damage the links between evaluation and improvement and. participating university departments are ranked in separate reviews of performance in both teaching and research. for example. In a limited number of cases.56 . A number of arguments are advanced in favour of performance funding: key ones are that such mechanisms provide strong incentives towards excellence and sends out clear messages from government agencies to institutions and academic staff.53 2. accreditation has had a long history in the United States. opponents argue that performance funding can distort the purposes of evaluation. In late 19th century America. the institution or unit being assessed should have an opportunity to comment on the draft report. On the other hand. some element of performance funding is used as part of a quality assurance program.54 2. Some agencies have adopted systems of rankings based on performance in relation to established criteria.5 per cent of an institution’s overall budget. In the end. However.55 2. In the fiscal year 1995. In the United States. performance funding has been used for many years by the state of Tennessee to improve higher education by adopting a single set of outcomes and rewarding institutions for their performance (El-Khawas 1997).CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education 2. damage their reputations. their ability to recruit staff and students. In the United Kingdom. Currently the maximum reward for performance is an amount equal to 5.52 Associated with this is a difficulty often experienced by review panels in preparing reports which will be considered by different stakeholders. As already noted. 25 2.

as well as an assessment of achievements in relation to goals. especially with the effects of increased of increased trends towards globalisation and increased economic competition between nations. Concluding comments 2. In many countries. One lesson to be learnt is that great care should be taken is selecting mechanisms likely to enhance credibility both nationally and internationally and in estimating resource implications. although with most methodologies there are usually ways of keeping administrative costs in check. resources.58 In reviewing recent international practice with regard to the management of quality assurance. A number of the methodologies in frequent use can prove expensive to implement in terms of both personnel time and financial resources. resulting in the development of extensive documentation with detail on goals. providing a rich source of models of evaluation and review. The current experimentation seems likely to continue. especially for academic activities. and of reporting and follow-up activities. including improvements in academic programs. closer links with employers and professions. questions are being asked about the financial and administrative costs of quality assurance mechanisms in relation to the benefits derived. there is now a growing body of experience and evidence available about how well different approaches are working in particular settings. this chapter has pointed to the tremendous variety in experimentation that has taken place in recent years. Many of the experiments appear to have produced positive benefits. and increased confidence among key stakeholders. facilities and internal evaluation mechanisms. Production of the self-study is usually followed by a visit of a team of external assessors and a final decision. As a result of the experimentation of the past decade. and reviews of disciplines and professional areas.59 26 . On the other hand.57 Accreditation usually involves a process of self-review by the organisation or unit seeking accreditation. at least to some extent. 2. or modifying existing systems. using pre-defined standards on whether or not the institution or the program meets the specified criteria. Such information can be of considerable assistance to national higher education systems or institutions interesting in developing new quality assurance systems. the main emphasis at the national level has been on academic audits and institutional evaluations.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education 2.

• Administrative arrangements provide for an overseeing committee or group to have responsibility for the organisation of any review. and likely to be cost effective and attract the support of staff. and • The program places major emphasis on improvement. In particular. it is highly desirable that all quality assurance programs be deliberately designed to achieve improvement and renewal. with the overall direction fitting well with the culture and values of the particular system or institution. peer review. the benefits will be disappointingly limited unless academic and administrative staff can be persuaded to participate and provide support. In order to succeed and produce major benefits at either institutional or system levels. and review of the reports of panels. where judgements will be based on analysis of evidence and the procedures will be fair to all parties involved. 27 2.61 2. • Approaches and methodologies are congruent with the stated purposes of the program. • Guidelines provide for checklists to assist review panels.60 International experience demonstrates well the value of placing a major emphasis on quality improvement within a quality assurance program. and for the institution or unit being reviewed to have input into the choice of external panel members. any quality assurance program needs the support of the higher education community.62 . • The methodology incorporates elements of self-study. including the appointment of panels. the following criteria are suggested as constituting highly desirable features: • The purposes of the program are explicitly stated. Gaining this support may not be easy. renewal and the application of ‘good practice’. While most quality assurance programs quite understandably have accountability as a major driving requirement. and external reporting. • Clear external reporting arrangements are specified in the guidelines. since in a number of the recently introduced quality assurance programs academics have seen the particular initiative as constituting a threat to their professional independence and work. or the procedures provide for reporting arrangements to be agreed by the parties concerned prior to commencement of any review. • Guidelines are clear and provide for a transparent process.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education 2. In developing a new quality assurance program or evaluating an existing program.

CONTENTS
Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education

Chapter 3

Australian higher education providers and current arrangements for accreditation and quality assurance
3.1 This chapter describes and categorizes Australian higher education providers in the context of accreditation and quality assurance, and then outlines the current arrangements for accreditation and quality assurance. This is intended to provide a basis for assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the current system in relation to particular providers and proposed changes.

Australian higher education providers
3.2 For the purposes of this study, Australian higher education providers can be categorized into five distinct groups. The first group comprises public universities and other public higher education institutions established under State, Territory and Commonwealth legislation. This group includes the 37 public universities and also a small number of non-university higher education institutions, such as the Australian Maritime College in Launceston and Batchelor College in the Northern Territory. All these institutions have the power to approve or accredit their own courses and all receive operating grant funding from the Commonwealth under Higher Education Funding legislation. Significantly, the Australian Maritime College was established under Commonwealth rather than Tasmanian legislation. A second group of institutions is made up of non-government institutions which operate under their own legislation and have selfaccrediting powers. The oldest of these is the Melbourne College of Divinity, established in 1910 by an act of the Victorian Parliament. The College was established because the University of Melbourne was unable to offer degrees in Divinity springing from traditions of separation of church and State (Smith 1998, p 3). It is operated by participating Christian denominations as a private institution, without the benefit of government funding. Costs are met through student fees and endowments. More recent institutions are Bond University on the Gold Coast and Notre Dame University at Fremantle, both of which enjoy their own acts of parliament, giving them similar powers to public universities. These two universities depend on

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CONTENTS
Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education

fee and endowment income, although the Commonwealth Government has agreed to fund Notre Dame courses for indigenous students at Broome. 3.4 The third group comprises institutions not established by legislation but who have been given government approval to operate. The best known example is Melbourne University Private, which is a joint venture between the University of Melbourne and private partners. It gained approval in 1998 to operate for a period of five years under the Victorian Tertiary Education Act 1993 (Smith 1998, p 11) but this was conditional on the University of Melbourne bering responsible for certification of its courses (but not for accreditation, which lies outside the statutory powers of the University of Melbourne) This category also includes the National Art School in Sydney, which was once a TAFE institution but now an independent higher education institution funded by the state. However, it is not self-accrediting and each of its courses must be considered separately for accreditation. In 1998, the School gained approval for a Bachelors Degree in Fine Arts under the approval process provided under the New South Wales Higher Education Act 1988. The fourth group comprises private providers whose courses have been accredited by State or Territory accrediting agencies. In 1998 there were 68 authorised providers offering 225 accredited undergraduate degree and postgraduate award courses. Details of these are set out in Table 3.1

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Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education

Table 3.1

Higher education accredited awards offered by private providers

Bachelor Vic NSW SA ACT Qld WA Tas NT Nat. Total

Grad Cert 17 24 26** 6** 9 1 – – 83

Grad Dip 2 2 9 25 3 – – – 41

Master 10 26 14 15 6 – – – 71

Doctoral 5 6 9 – 3 – – – 23 1 0 1 – – – – – 2

* appropriate numbers as advised by State and Territory Officials, August, 1998 ** includes TAFE degrees Source: Smith 1998, p 3.

3.6

Private providers have existed for a long period, generally operating in relatively small but often well-established market niches. The most durable of these providers are the theological colleges and churchrelated colleges, whose courses generally closely resemble university courses. The largest are Avondale College operated by the Seventh Day Adventist Church and the Australian College of Theology, which is a national federation of various denominational theological colleges. The Commonwealth funds teacher education courses at Avondale College. Another sub-group in this category are long-term ‘industry’ commercial providers who conduct courses at tertiary level to meet the needs of their particular market areas. Notable features of this subgroup are high motivation of students, a focus on particular discipline areas and user-pays principles. Smith has further divided this sub-group of commercial providers into two separate sub-groups, with a third emerging (Smith 1998, p 3). First, there are the highly specific professional associations, such as the Securities Institute, the Institution of Engineers and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. For many years, these and similar bodies have conducted ‘in service’ professional education programs for their members, awarding credentials on completion.

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Alternative health practitioners themselves are recognising that the growth of their profession will be dependent on having agreed minimum acceptable academic standards. While training courses in these areas have been available from private providers for many years. Victoria University of Technology and RMIT have already responded to industry demands and are offering degree programs in acupuncture. Last year over thirty Traditional Chinese Medicine organisations across Australia have been meeting to reach agreement about minimum standards of training.8 The second set within the sub-group consists of established commercial providers such as general business colleges offering programs across the full spectrum of commercial courses. A third set consists of loosely coordinated but rapidly growing institutions in the area of alternative health practice. Traditional Chinese Medicine and other alternative approaches to health care such as Naturopathy and Homoeopathy have become increasingly popular throughout Australia in recent years. 3. Sydney and the Sydney Institute of Business and Technology which has been established by Macquarie University) and private providers who have established special relationships with particular university faculties (such as the Faculty of Economics at the University of Sydney with the Universal Education Centre). notably Southern Cross.10 3. Relatively little is known about this group. the considerable public interest at the present time and the need to ensure that such practices are safe to the public. While there have been some spectacular individual failures in this area. these colleges have generally met an important market need and continue to do so.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education Courses have been conducted at a level which has led to consistent success in obtaining accreditation for their courses. but it includes providers who offer sub-degree work and providers whose courses are approved for credit transfer for entry to degree programs at various public universities. These practitioners seek to determine standards appropriate for achieving professional status.9 3.11 32 . Private provider programs in naturopathy have been approved in Queensland and Victoria. 3. Several universities. is causing public health authorities to review the level and nature of training offered in alternative health practice. A fifth category comprises private providers whose courses have not yet been accredited. Examples of the latter include providers established by universities (such as Insearch owned by the University of Technology.

Indonesia. it is important to consider more closely details of international student enrolments. Comparatively little is known about enrolments in the other five categories. Together.12 In 1998. Singapore. according to UNESCO figures. and third behind the United States and the United Kingdom in Taiwan. In terms of total numbers of 3. 37 719 were males and 34 464 were females. In 1997.8 per cent are external and the remainder are classed as multi-modal. India.13 Since pressures for strengthened accreditation and quality assurance arrangements are being driven substantially from concern to protect the higher education export industry. 65. Total load was 59 463 EFTSU. However. Australia ranks second behind the United States in Hong Kong. The three most important sources of international higher education students by country. 60 per cent of total Australian ‘off-shore’ higher education students are internal. are Malaysia. a total of 22 583 were enrolled in ‘off-shore’ programs. In terms of mode of attendance. Thailand and China. With the exception of Singapore (where Australia is the top provider) and Malaysia (where the United Kingdom is top provider). Australia outranks Canada and New Zealand in all of Australia’s top 10 source countries. Of the total number of international students enrolled in 1998. the United States is the most popular destination for international students from all of Australia’s top 10 source countries. one State officer has estimated that there may be 15 000 higher education students enrolled in courses accredited by State and Territory agencies while a Commonwealth official estimates that total enrolments in higher education courses outside Commonwealth funded institutions may total 40 000 to 50 000 students. Australia ranked third after the United States and the United Kingdom in terms of the total number of enrolled overseas students. South Korea and Japan.6 per cent were enrolled in masters degrees by course work.9 per cent were enrolled in bachelors degrees while 21. the National Institute of Dramatic Art and the Australian Defence Forces Academy). International education enrolments 3. 38.2 shows the total off-shore enrolments of Australia’s major ‘off-shore’ providers. and Hong Kong. these seven providers account for almost 15 000 students. Table 3. public higher education institutions in category 1 enrolled about 671 853 students of whom some 72 183 were international students.14 33 .CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education 3. Of the total of 72 183 international students enrolled in 1998 in institutions funded by Commonwealth operating grants (plus the Australian Film and Television School. Of these. in rank order.

Table 3. the largest number are in Hong Kong (7 204) followed in rank order by Singapore (6 898).3.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education Australian off-shore students in different countries. Selected Higher Education Statistics 1998 34 . 1998 Institution RMIT VUT Uni of South Australia Curtin University Curtin University Uni of South Australia Country Singapore Hong Kong Hong Kong Hong Kong Singapore Malaysia Enrolments 2202 1255 1035 975 952 928 Source: DETYA. New Zealand (584) and Japan (560). Selected Higher Education Statistics 1998 Enrolments 2323 2211 2181 1836 1711 1549 Table 3. The largest concentrations per country for single institutions are shown in Table 3. 1998 Institution RMIT 3008 University of Southern Queensland Curtin University of Technology Monash University University of Ballarat University of South Australia Charles Sturt University Source: DETYA.2 Total ‘off-shore’ student enrolments of major higher education providers.3 Largest off-shore enrolments in particular countries by institutions. Malaysia (2 994).

4 Victoria Queensland South Australia Tasmania New South Wales Australian Capital Territory Northern Territory Western Australia Source: Smith 1998. Some of the legislation also aims to protect students from providers who cease to be financially solvent. Most acts listed make provision for private providers of higher education to secure accreditation and approval to offer courses.15 Accreditation of higher education institutions and courses in other than universities and other institutions established under their own legislation (State. legislation provides for accreditation of institutions and courses. to ensure that the provision of higher education services by private providers is consistent with that offered by publicly-funded institutions and. The main aim of the various legislation is to protect the status and quality of awards. p 6. ensures that private providers to offer courses which meet appropriate standards. in keeping with National Competition principles.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education Current accreditation arrangements 3. Tertiary Education Act 1993 Higher Education (General Provisions) Act 1993 Vocational Education and Training Act 1994 and Business Names Act Universities Registration Act 1995 Higher Education Act 1988 ACT Vocational Education and Training Act 1995 Northern Territory Education Act 1995 Business Names Act 1962 35 . Legislation providing for accreditation of courses and institutions Table 3. Territory or Commonwealth) is under the control of State and Territory Governments who view this responsibility as flowing from their responsibilities for education under the Commonwealth constitution.4. to ensure that private providers have met minimum criteria with regard to facilities and staff capacity. The relevant legislation in each of these jurisdictions is shown in Table 3. In other cases.

(viii) qualifications and experience of staff (Tertiary Education Act 1993. Applications are subject to a rigorous review process carried out by expert panels which include experienced personnel from public universities. obliges the Minister to have regard to whether the course of study is equivalent in standard to a course leading to an award of that type or level in a University.19 36 . (vi) premises. For committees assessing courses leading to the award of a bachelors degree or higher level. In New South Wales. in each case providers make applications following a specified format. under the Higher Education Act 1988. p 8). (iii) class sizes. Each of the States and Territories has developed criteria and procedures that determine the way that applications for course accreditation are assessed. detailed guidelines have been developed dealing with the documentation requirements of applications for course accreditation. 3. and the role of chairperson and secretary of assessment committees. (iv) student contact hours. 3.16 While the details of the arrangements differ between the various states and territories. For example. Panels make recommendations to the Minister. the Victorian Tertiary Education Act 1993 .17 (ii) the number of students. 3. The 1988 Act was drafted with accreditation of advanced education courses in mind and. the composition and selection of new assessment committees. In deciding whether or not to accredit a course. or to a person or body with powers delegated from the Minister or provided for in legislation.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education Accreditation of courses 3. materials and resources. one who is knowledgeable in the major academic field being addressed in the course under assessment and the second who is experienced in course planning and assessment. the Minister may take into account all or any of the following matters: (i) student selection procedures. (vii) course nomenclature.18 The Victorian Minister is advised by University academics and industry specialists through a Ministerial Standing Advisory Committee and various ad hoc expert panels (Smith 1998. (v) curriculum. p 10). the New South Wales Vice-Chancellors’ Conference nominates two members. equipment.

the breadth and depth of course content. the financial standing of institution. criteria for accreditation. before recommending accreditation. in terms of the overall goals for the course. The section on criteria then goes on to specify information required on such matters as statement of mission and purpose of the course. qualifications and expertise of staff. • the course proposed is comparable in standard and educational value to a course leading to a similar award in a university. it is stated that. Detailed documentation is available to applicants from the Office of Higher Education in Education Queensland.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education possibly for that reason. educational oversight. and required documentation. the levels of skills and knowledge developed. and a substantial body of scholarship and/or reflective professional practice. composition of the course advisory committee. Office of Higher Education 1997. the structure of the course in terms of the mix of general and specialised skills and knowledge. are appropriate to the type of award’ (Section 10 (2)). 3. legal status of body providing the course and governance arrangements. These procedures and criteria are probably the most detailed of any State and Territory and cover topics including the nature and purpose of accreditation. The Minister may accredit a course for a higher education award or proposed award if he or she ‘is satisfied. accreditation of higher education courses is governed by the Higher Education (General Provisions) Act 1993. following an assessment made in accordance with accrediting procedures and criteria approved by the Minister. no explicit specification is provided of the assessment criteria to be used. The extended section on criteria states that a course assessment panel ‘must satisfy itself that the application before it meets the criteria with respect to the standard and quality of the course and the capacity of the provider to deliver it’ (Education Queensland. supported by an appropriately developed theoretical framework. a course assessment panel must be satisfied that: • the field of study in which the course is proposed does indeed constitute a coherent body of knowledge. the 37 . and educational requirements. Under this legislation. that the course. and the way of delivering it. This sets out procedures and criteria for the accreditation of higher education courses offered by non-university providers. accreditation fees. the accreditation process. p 19).20 In Queensland. course entry requirements. Under educational requirements. the Minister is the accrediting authority for courses leading to higher education awards.

determination of which state or Territory authority should consider an application. concurrent assessment panels. the operations of a non-university provider. fee structure. procedures and criteria in use in the Australian Capital Territory are much briefer. • the course satisfies the guidelines for the proposed qualification laid down in the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF).21 In contrast. Such examinations may take place during the period for which a course is accredited. or cause to be examined. Significantly. and the ability (including financial ability) of a non-university provider to deliver the course. reflecting the smaller staff capacity of the relevant section of the Department of Education and Community Services. Recently the States and Territories have agreed on procedures for considering applications and authorisation to offer higher education courses in two or more States and Territories. Power to accredit higher education courses in the ACT comes from the Vocational Education and Training Act 1995 which gives the Accreditation and Registration Council power to ‘accredit courses in the higher education sector. The Act gives the Minister power to examine. these are specifically referred to and the Department must provide on request copies of assessment criteria. and accreditation outcomes. format of applications. the document endorsed by MCEETYA made no mention of the criteria for assessment and accreditation. including the standard of the course. the way of delivering it. and the methods of delivery and assessment. including but not limited to vocational education and training courses. whether provided in the Territory or elsewhere’ (Section 13 (c)). and the processes adopted for monitoring the operation of the educational program. and operational guidelines to achieve this were endorsed by MCEETYA in April 1999. These guidelines cover the procedures for considering applications. 3.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education duration and workload of the course. While assessment criteria are not set out. are adequate to maintain the offering of the course (Education Queensland. 3.22 38 . Office of Higher Education 1997. p 23). Joint or concurrent accreditation procedures are now in place and the states and territories are currently working to achieve greater consistency in criteria and procedures. and • the general educational practices and standards of the provider.

5 summarises the provisions in the various States and Territories with regard to recognition of new universities. and over degree titles. In Victoria.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education Accreditation of new or overseas universities 3. and regulates the establishment of new universities in the State. regulates the titles of all higher education awards. while Table 3. Table 3. there are significant differences in terms of legislation and the processes by which new or overseas universities can be recognised. The difficulties arising from the breadth of the guidelines in The Corporations Law is currently the subject of discussion between the Treasury and DETYA.6 summarises legislative protection offered nationally to Australian universities. New South Wales. It will be noted that the most detailed legislative controls operate in Victoria. with a five year sponsorship by an existing major 3.25 39 . although they must have Ministerial approval if they wish to deliver courses to overseas students. From Table 3. Queensland and Tasmania. This includes a foreign body accredited outside Australia. There is no impediment to universities recognised elsewhere in Australia operating in Victoria.23 The States and Territories have overall responsibility for the higher education institutions that operate within their jurisdictions and in a number of cases through legislation there is control over the use of the terms ‘university’ and ‘degree’.6 it will be noted that The Trade Practices Act and related State/ Territories legislation protects against misleading advertising. recognition of universities established in other States and Territories. However. Business names legislation restricts the use of the word ‘university’. and recognition of foreign universities. Under relevant guidelines consent will normally be granted to use the word ‘university’ where a body has been given accreditation to operate as a university. The guidelines established as part of this process may be useful to the States in relation to their business names legislation. the Panel placed considerable emphasis on 1989 criteria for the essential characteristics of Universities published by the AVCC. the Tertiary Education Act 1993 protects use of the terms ‘university’ and ‘degree’. It recommended that a new University be established under its own act of Parliament. The Corporations Law places restrictions on the use of the name ‘university’. Foreign universities require Ministerial approval to operate.24 3. major reviews have been conducted under the 1993 Act to consider applications from Ballarat University College and Melbourne University Private. For the 1993 review of the application of Ballarat University College. To date.

However. The 1998 review of Melbourne University Private also used the 1989 AVCC criteria but noted that the AVCC had in 1997 published further criteria. There is no explicit provision covering the establishment of a new university. Northern Territory • The NT Education Act places certain restrictions on the conferring of higher education awards (this includes overseas institutions. The report of the panel commented as follows: The proposal from Melbourne University Private asserts that the AVCC criteria are not applicable. 40 . Foreign universities require Ministerial approval. The panel does not agree with this view.5 Legislation relevant to the establishment and operation of Australian universities State/Territory Western Australia Legislation • No generic legislation protecting title ‘university’.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education university (Report of Review Panel 1993. • The NSW Higher Education Act 1988 regulates accreditation of higher education courses & nomenclature and protects the use of the title ‘university’ • Varying levels of regulation apply to overseas universities seeking to operate in NSW. p 23). including a foreign university. the Victorian Government’s policy commit ment to the AVCC criteria relates to the earlier statement rather than the later one (Report of Panel 1998. However. but not to other Australian universities • Universities are regulated by individual university enabling acts. p 16). Victoria • The Tertiary Education Act 1993 protects the title ‘university’ and ‘degree’ and regulates the establishment of universities in Victoria • There is no impediment to universities recognised in other Australian States/Territories operating in Victoria. Table 3. but not other State/ Territory universities). or degree or regulating establishment or operation of a university • There is no impediment to a university from another State operating in WA and no explicit protection against ‘bogus’ or overseas institutions. they must have the Minister’s endorsement. if they want to deliver courses to overseas students in Victoria. Australian Capital Territory New South Wales • There is no explicit legislation protecting the title ‘university’ or ‘degree’ or regulating the establishment and operation of a university.

but requires an overseas accredited university to seek Ministerial approval. from operating except in South Australia. but requires tighter guidelines Protects titles ‘university’ & ‘degree’—but may need tighter guidelines • Protects the title ‘university’ in Victoria. It allows other Australian universities to operate in QLD. Source: Papers for Meeting of Multilateral Joint Planning Committee. Source: Papers for Meeting of Multilateral Joint Planning Committee. • The University of Tasmania was established under its own legislation. 30 June 1999 Table 3.6 Summary of legislative protection offered nationally to Australian ‘universities’ The Trade Practices Act and related State/Territory legislation Corporations Law State Business names Legislation State Higher Education Legislation Protects against misleading advertising Protects term ‘university’. but including universities from other Australian States and overseas universities). 30 June 1999 41 . Employment and Training Act 1994 (VEET Act) provides for the accreditation of degree courses (except for a South Australian university. • There is no impediment to universities from other States operating there. NT. Tasmania • Prevents overseas institutions operating except with permission in Victoria. QLD. which has been accredited in a State or Territory.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education Queensland • The Higher education (General provisions) Act 1993 explicitly protects the title ‘university’ and ‘degree’ and regulates the establishment of universities in the State. NSW. It also controls foreign universities. South Australia Tasmania • Tasmania has explicit legislation (Universities Registration Act 1995 and Universities Registration Amendment Act 1997) protecting the title ‘university’ and ‘degree’ and regulating the establishment of universities in the State. • There is no explicit education legislation protecting the title ‘university’ or regulating the establishment or operation of universities in South Australia. South Australia. • The Vocational Education. NSW. Tasmania Note: The legislation does not provide protection against an institution of questionable quality. QLD.

26 In applying the original AVCC criteria. p 23). In these two assessments and in assessments in other States and Territories. the following minimum quantitative indicators were to be used: (i) the institution should have a significant student load (of the order of 5 000 EFTSU) in each of at least three broad fields of study. the review panel for Melbourne University Private saw the need for some flexibility in view of the special nature of the proposed institution. engineering or education. it placed considerable importance on the maintenance of standards. This led it to recommend that.27 (ii) the institution will require a minimum proportion of its student load to be allocated to postgraduate research students (3 per cent of total student load). It also recommended that Melbourne University Private plan to develop its own independent research profile and have at least three per cent of its student load in graduate research programs (Report of Panel 1998. as a condition of approval. 3. (iv) staff of the institution will be expected to have an average of 0. and ‘a high level of material and financial resources to support its educational activities on a continuing basis’ (AVCC 1989). ‘a fundamental commitment to the training of researchers’. In assessing whether an institution met the detailed criteria. In order to achieve the status of a university. academic staff with ‘high qualifications and professional standing in the community and with their peers’. science. and 42 . ‘courses which meet national and international standards at a high level’. At the same time. The 1989 criteria were detailed and highly restrictive. the original 1989 AVCC guidelines have played an important role. awards be offered only if they were certified by the University of Melbourne. such as humanities. even though these were developed at the time of the foundation of the Unified National System as a device for controlling entry to membership of the AVCC.5 refereed publications per annum per full-time equivalent staff member.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education 3. the AVCC guidelines specified that an institution must meet twelve criteria including a commitment by its staff ‘to the search for and preservation of knowledge by teaching and research’. (iii) staff of the institution will be expected to have obtained a minimum number of competitive research grants (one per full-time equivalent staff of lecturer and above per annum).

and the publication and research grants records of academic staff. but requires overseas accredited universities to seek Ministerial approval. 3. In New South Wales. the Higher Education (General Provisions Act) 1993 explicitly protects the titles ‘university’ and ‘degree’ and regulates the establishment of new universities in the State.30 43 . and South Australia. postgraduate load. It allows other Australian universities to operate in the State. In Tasmania. Various senior officers of the AVCC have commented that it would be interesting to apply all these indicators to all established public and private universities today. staff qualifications and staff achievements in attracting research grants and in publications. and there being an extensive library. No longer is there mention of courses meeting national and international standards and requirements having a commitment to research training. a postgraduate load of more than 7 per cent. The revised 1997 AVCC criteria are expressed in much broader and less restrictive terms and do not include specific indicators of performance (AVCC 1997). a higher profile was expected including more than 5 000 EFTSU across four or five broad fields of study. In Queensland. particularly those relating to research and research training activities. an average of three research grants to 20 full-time equivalent staff. the titles university and degree are protected and there are powers under 1995 and 1997 legislation to regulate the establishment of new universities and the operation of foreign universities. 3. and there are varying levels of regulation applying to overseas universities wishing to operate in the state. but not to other Australian universities.28 For a well established university. the Australian Capital Territory. In Western Australia.29 3.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education (v) at least 25 per cent of all academic staff (both full-time and parttime) of the institution will be expected to have both a relevant PhD and research experience. Also there are no longer specific quantitative requirements about size. there is no legislation protecting the titles university and degree. the Higher Education Act 1988 protects the use of the title ‘university’. except in the case of the Australian Capital Territory and South Australia where there are some controls through accreditation powers. and two to five refereed publications per annum per equivalent full-time staff.

31 As Table 3. Action can be taken by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission against an institution engaging in such conduct under The Trade Practices Act. even when registration is not mandatory. additional protection is afforded with regard to the establishment and recognition of universities by other Commonwealth. membership of the appropriate professional body is often helpful for employment purposes and in these cases generally only the graduates of courses accredited by the appropriate professional association are eligible for full graduate membership. Later in the report the accreditation processes used by professional associations are discussed in more detail. Regulated professions include most health-related professions. law and architecture. It is believed that inclusion on the AQF register signals that governments 44 . There are a number of other professions. entry to regulated professions is a matter for various registration authorities operating under State and Territory legislation.6 indicates. notably accountancy and engineering. be registered on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS).32 National recognition and guarantee 3. for which registration or licensing is confined to specific areas of professional activity.33 Currently the only national policy instrument guaranteeing with regard to accreditation and quality assurance is the AQF. Commonwealth Corporations Law and State and Territory business names legislation prevents a company from carrying on a business as a university unless it registers its names. be approved to provide those courses to overseas students by the relevant State/Territory authority. The Education Services for Overseas Students Act (ESOS) protects students’ fees and provides for certain other protection. 3.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education Protection through other legislation 3. Universities established by legislation and institutions otherwise accredited by State and Territory accrediting bodies are listed on the AQF as being empowered to accredit courses of study and to issue qualifications. However. The Trade Practices Act 1974 and related State and Territory legislation protect against misleading advertising while both Business Names legislation and Corporations law place restrictions on use of the word university. or by State consumer affairs offices under relevant legislation. State and Territory legislation. All Australian providers offering education and training services to overseas students in Australia must be accredited to provide specific courses by the relevant State/Territory authority. In addition.

these processes have been considerably strengthened since the early 1990s.34 The current system of quality assurance operates at a number of levels and includes the activities of professional associations and associations and networks set up by groups of universities for benchmarking and other quality assurance purposes. the main quality assurance mechanisms for universities currently are as follows: Internal processes within universities 3. faculties and research centres. and • Special projects for the improvement of teaching and special awards for teaching excellence. • Benchmarking and participation in networks which offer special opportunities for benchmarking and sharing of information. 45 . • Regular review of courses and units.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education represented in MCEETYA vouch for the quality of the awards given by the institutions concerned. One major factor leading to improvements was the 1993–1995 national quality assurance program and the publication of detailed reports including information on good practice. • Use of performance indicators for management purposes and for the allocation of funding. • Reviews of departments. In summary.35 The internal quality assurance processes in Australian universities are similar to those in other OECD countries. while others are local. The main internal processes include the following: • Processes of assessment for new courses and units of study. • Student evaluation of teaching. Some mechanisms such as peer review of research proposals and articles for refereed journals are international in character. Current system of quality assurance 3. • Use of external examiners for higher degree research theses and sometimes bachelors honours theses. However. • Surveys of graduates and employers to assess graduate satisfaction and information on course experience and suitability of graduates for employment.

• Encouragement of innovation and good teaching through Committee on University Teaching and Staff Development and specific initiatives funded by under the Higher Education Innovation Program. 3. This involved self-assessment on a number of aspects following detailed guidelines. distribution of expenses. from 1993 to 1995. Further. this program was based on academic audits of participating universities. course breadth and staffing as well as graduate satisfaction with their courses and employment experience. overseas students.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education National mechanisms 3. Like a number of other national quality assurance programs that were established in the late 1980s and early 1990s. all universities participated. mode of study. the strategies adopted to achieve these. including the development of an instrument to test graduate generic skills. gender and age distribution of students. evaluation of institutional submissions and review teams. the scheme also included: 3. there are traditional peer review and assessment systems which are widely used in considering applications for competitive research grants. But what was markedly different was that in the audits in the Australian program assessed not only quality assurance processes but also quality outcomes. research funding. As already noted. basis of admissions. Although participation was voluntary. the indicators they use to assess their success in achieving these goals.37 In addition. visits to campuses and public reporting by the Committee for Quality Assurance in Higher Education.36 The current mechanisms include the following: • Universities currently report on their quality assurance and improvement plans that set out their goals. • Publication of Characteristics and Performance of Higher Education Institutions. a major national quality assurance program operated. The first set of institutional plans in relation to quality is about to be published by the Commonwealth. and in handling articles and book manuscripts submitted for publications to refereed journals and scholarly publishers including University presses. a report which provides indicators covering such topics as source of funds.38 46 . This was a three-year program introduced by Peter Baldwin as Minister for Higher Education.

with reports going to both universities and the Minister responsible for the institutions visited. and • performance funding. leading particularly to a more serious approach to evaluation. 3. Even now. engineering and architecture. increased attention to the assessment of outputs and increased integration of strategic planning with budgeting. 3. there is doubt about whether the gains were worth the effort and costs involved and certainly there is a large measure of agreement that the program had serious effects on the reputations of lower performing universities and their subsequent ability to attract both students and staff. even though the 1993-1995 program was not followed by any substantial quality assurance mechanism. At the same time. More recently. law. and publication of these rankings.40 Accreditation by professional bodies 3. there was no system of rankings and the results of the assessments were not used directly in making annual allocations to institutions (van Vught 1994a). Most depended on either ‘horizontal’ national reviews of disciplines or ‘vertical’ reviews of quality assurance processes in individual universities. the quality assurance programs introduced in a number of European countries in the late 1980s and early 1990s did not publish overall rankings of institutions or detailed reports on individual institutional assessments. based on annual assessments of particular specified aspects of quality assurance. accreditation systems have been developed for newer areas such 47 . • publication of detailed individual annual reports on each participating institution. or a combination of these approaches. for example. While published reports discussed study programs in each institution visited. In the Netherlands. or used performance funding in an overt way. it appears that many of these achievements remain. In France. the system of quality assurance developed in the late 1980s was based on horizontal reviews of academic disciplines. with funding coming from a special additional government allocation (Harman 1996b). the program included both institutional evaluations and disciplinary assessments. there was no system of rankings of institutions and no use of performance funding (Zijderveld 1997). both critics and supporters agree that the positive effects of the program were substantial.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education • ranking of institutions into bands. However. In contrast.41 For many years. various professional bodies and association have conducted accreditation of professional courses in fields such as medicine.39 In retrospect.

CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education as computer science. The report went on: The present emphasis placed on engineering science resulting in graduates with high technical capacity has often acted to limit their appreciation of the broader role of engineering professionals. A panel of three members is appointed to conduct the review and in addition consultant panel members are appointed for each engineering speciality to be considered. The accreditation process proceeds as follows. 3.42 One of the oldest and most highly organised accreditation systems is that run by the Institution of Engineers. consultant members may join the visit if they have particular concerns. following a review of engineering education in 19961997 conducted jointly with the Australian Council of Engineering Deans. a draft report is prepared by the Chair and the other core members of the panel and this is circulated to the university and consultant members for comment. In its accreditation system. Engineering schools make a detailed application following a prescribed format. the three core members visit the institution for two days for discussions with staff and students. There is no compulsion on engineering schools to have their courses accredited except that only graduates for accredited courses are eligible for membership of the Institution. After receiving advice from the consultant members. Currently the Institution of Engineers is implementing a new approach to accreditation. However. especially in promoting best practice and methods of benchmarking. Following the visit. Australia. the review explained that an initial finding was ‘the need for a culture change in engineering education. ultimately to extend throughout the profession’ (Changing the Culture 1996. In its work in accreditation and quality assurance the Institution of Engineers works closely with the Council of Deans of Engineering Schools. the Australian Council of Professions. Panels may recommend accreditation or provisional accreditation. In its executive summary. and the Academy of Technologicial Sciences and Engineering (Changing the Culture 1996. Accreditation is for a period of five years after which each course must be re-accredited. or may recommend that accreditation is refused. p 7).43 48 . and to view facilities. Professional associations have also formed a peak body. Graduates must understand the social. whose secretariat is located in Canberra. economic and environmental consequences of their 3. software engineering and various health science areas. the Institution does not rank universities or publish performance data. and Beyond the Boundaries 1998).

p 7).46 .CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education professional activities if the profession is fully to assume its expanding consequences (Changing the Culture 1996. p 1). global. engineering education at university level ‘provides the learning base upon which competence for a professional engineering career is built’ and that it is important ‘that the education provides the graduate with … generic attributes’ (Policy of Accreditation of Courses 1999. • ability to function effectively as an individual and in multi-disciplinary and multi-cultural teams with the capacity to be a leader or manager as well as an effective team member. • ability to utilise a systems approach to design and operational performance.45 3. and the need for and principles of sustainable development. and • a capacity to undertake lifelong learning. • in depth technical competence in at least one engineering discipline. cultural. • ability to undertake problem identification. Generic attributes for a graduate are specified as follows: • ability to apply knowledge of basic science and engineering fundamentals. Documentation explains that. The Institution is now well advanced in implementing the new approach. the new approach will have been employed in assessments in half the total number of engineering schools.44 The review was conducted because of concern that engineering education tended to be somewhat introverted and in the modern world needed to produce graduates better able to interact with other professionals. under the new approach to accreditation. 49 3. not only with engineers but also with the community at large. By the end of 1999. 3. The framework was piloted in 1998 and since then two rounds of reviews have been completed. environmental and business responsibilities (including an understanding of entrepreneurship and the process of innovation) of the Professional Engineer. This in turn prompted the review committee to think much more in terms of the desired outcomes for graduates. • ability to communicate effectively. This new approach focusses mainly on graduate attributes rather than inputs. • understanding of the social. • understanding of an commitment to professional and ethical responsibilities. formulation and solution.

the Institution of Engineers has not been requested to accredit courses offered by private universities or other private providers. To date. or through twinning of franchise arrangements. All providers offering education and training services to overseas students must be accredited to provide specific course (and approved to provide these courses to overseas students) by relevant State and Territory authorities. Overall. but the view of the Institution is that it is the responsibility of engineering schools to explain what they are doing and how they make educational judgments and on what basis.47 In implementing the new system of accreditation. an agreement between eight industrial countries about equivalence of engineering degrees. and regularly exchanges information and documentation with fraternal associations.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education 3.48 3. and be registered 50 . it is well aware of the likely problems with ‘off-shore’ teaching of international students and has adopted the policy that in accrediting an engineering program the engineering school must provide documentary detail on all pathways to graduation including courses offered at branch campuses. However.49 Special protection for international students 3. by distance education. overseas campuses. have been put in place to provide protection for international students. In the case of off-shore campuses. and academic standards. accreditation of a twinning or other off-shore teaching operation may be treated as a separate accreditation.50 Special Commonwealth mechanisms. Alternatively. 3. It has been deeply involved in the development of the Washington Accord. staff qualifications and staff development for all academic personnel involved. whether they are employed by the University or a partner. The Institution of Engineers has close relationships with parallel bodies in other countries. the Institution has found that it is necessary to try to achieve a balance between an emphasis on outcomes and processes. As already noted. Engineering schools also have found some difficulties in assessing particular graduate attributes. The Education Services for Overseas Students (Registration of providers and Financial Regulation) Act 1991 helps ensure that only quality courses are offered to foreign students studying in Australia. the Institution considers that engineering schools have been receptive to the changes. consisting of legislation and a register of courses. and twining and franchise arrangements the Institution requires information especially on teaching and assessment methods.

51 Some additional protection is provided by State legislation. a tuition assurance scheme.52 While there are many strengths associated with the current quality assurance and accreditation arrangements for higher education. Amongst both government officials and 51 . France. institutions must supply additional information including audited balance sheets. even though there are some safeguards with the requirement to have quality assurance and improvement plans and with the use of publication of various performance indicators. Assessment 3. and a specific student fee refund policy. student grievance procedures. The lack of a national agency is widely acknowledged as a drawback in the international marketing of Australian higher education. at the same time there are clear weaknesses that need attention. However. For Commonwealth registration. This stands in contrast to the situation in the Netherlands. Associated with this is the problem that the rigour with which individual universities pursue quality assurance across all aspects is almost entirely at their discretion. Perhaps the major weakness with respect to quality assurance is that there is no national agency. marketing and promotional material. use of agents contracts with respect to students. welfare of students and student housing and accommodation as well as more academic matters including student selection procedures curriculum and course nomenclature (Section 6). and have a designated trust account. responsible for quality assurance that can publicly vouch for the quality of Australian higher education. these mechanisms generally do not apply to international students studying ‘off-shore’ in campuses established by Australian providers. the Minister may take into account a number of matters including financial planning. the United Kingdom and New Zealand. This legislation was amended in 1998 to provide for a three year extension to the original sunset clause. or under twinning of franchise arrangements. 3. In Victoria. In deciding whether or not to endorse a course.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education on the Commonwealth register of International Courses for Overseas Students. the Tertiary Education Act 1993 gives the Minister power to endorse or cancel the endorsement of any course offered by a post-secondary education provider as suitable for overseas students. following a review which demonstrated universal agreement amongst stakeholders that continuation of the cooperative model as provided under the act was appropriate for the future regulation of the industry. for example.

In most cases there is some difficulty with regard to what extent accreditation should be dependent on minimum standards of facilities including library holdings. Some have lists available of the courses that have been accredited whereas others do not. Some State agencies are well staffed while others have been reduced to a bare minimum of personnel and thus unable to offer effective services. Also needed are an increase degree of sharing of information and documentation on an ongoing basis between the various accrediting agencies and a better system of reporting and public access to information concerning which courses have been accredited and which providers have been given approval to operate as self-accrediting institutions. 3.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education university management there is wide recognition of the need for a stronger mechanism related to off-shore education. Some provide for the accreditation of both institutions and courses while others deal with course accreditation only. there is clearly a need for uniform approaches and criteria across the States and Territories. 52 . and this is becoming more difficult with the use of distance and on-line teaching and use of on-line library and reference sources.53 With regard to accreditation. Some accrediting agencies cover areas related to business plans and financial viability. Some accrediting agencies have detailed criteria whereas in other cases the criteria are brief and possibly inadequate.

4. and complaints from applicants seeking accreditation.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education 4 The changing quality environment and the Modern Australian Model 4. The changing quality environment 4. which make review and strengthening Australia’s accreditation and quality assurance arrangements urgent. Peter Baldwin. About the same time. In the late 1980s and early 1990s. these changes led the Commonwealth Minister for Higher Education at the time. In the past four years.1 In a number of important respects. recent changes in quality assurance in other industrialised countries.2 The changes over the past decade in the environment with regard to quality assurance and accreditation have been substantial and somewhat unexpected. This chapter will first outline some of these changes and the pressures that are driving them. a number of States introduced new legislation giving additional powers of accreditation and control over providers offering higher education courses to international students. since the end of the 1993–1995 quality assurance program.3 53 . new quality assurance arrangements in Australia’s ‘off-shore’ education destinations. increasing accountability pressures at home. and then comment on key features of the proposed Modern Australian Model of quality assurance and accreditation. however. These various changes can be summarised under the headings of globalisation and changes in educational technology. incidents with private providers and the increased number of private providers. to request the Higher Education Council to review quality assurance practices and outcomes in Commonwealth funded institutions and to recommend a process of external review. the needs of Australia’s education export industry. international recognition of qualifications. the quality assurance environment for Australian higher education has changed to a marked extent in recent years. there have been various further important developments.

Another side of globalisation is the increased ability by both governments. Now in many disciplines students may use resources available on the web as much as traditional library resources. Electronic communications are also providing students with access to new forms of educational resources. This in turn raises important questions about the standards of qualifications offered by Australian providers and the mechanisms used to guarantee quality and the academic and professional standards of awards. In addition. Staff in NOOSR experience considerable frustration about the lack of a national quality assurance mechanism in Australia. Bad news affecting international education now circulates more rapidly. government agencies. They explain that. especially in Asia.4 Globalisation and rapid changes in educational delivery technologies are creating substantial changes internationally. students and potential students to compare the courses and awards of courses offered by providers in different countries. enquirers from government agencies and professional bodies in other countries are often puzzled by the lack of a government backed national quality assurance agency in Australia. In many cases detail of courses is available on the web.5 International recognition of qualifications 4. both in Australia and overseas. Globalisation has meant that employers. They speak openly of the ‘charade of Australian quality assurance’. in their experience.6 Globalisation. All this in turn is creating pressures for concerted action by institutions and government agencies within and across countries to improve quality assurance and controls over new providers. professionals and students are better acquainted than ever with developments in other countries. increased mobility of skilled personnel. international mobility of students and offering of higher education courses across national boundaries has led to increased mobility of labour and to increased pressures for reciprocal relations in the recognition of academic and professional qualifications.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education Globalisation and changes in educational technology 4. while at other times spokespersons in other countries are openly critical of lack 4. the new electronic communications are enabling overseas higher education competitors to provide education services within Australia as well as targeting Australian overseas education markets.7 54 . Developments in electronic communications enable higher education providers to offer courses in new forms by distance education. 4.

it seems reasonable to predict that in the 55 4. and or programmes leading to. NOOSR staff also see the need for a strong quality assurance framework to facilitate the international marketing of education and to assist in the recognition of Australian qualifications in other countries. Article VIII. While the requirements of these conventions may not be regarded as particularly onerous. The three key conventions where Australia is a signatory are the UNESCO convention on the recognition of qualifications for the European region. the Netherlands and New Zealand.1). France. ‘fly-by-nighters’ and degree mills. higher education qualifications. and of the standards of quality specific to each type of higher education institution granting. there is considerable concern about the activities of private higher education institutions. According to the Lisbon Convention.9 . belonging to their higher education systems (Council of Europe 1997.8 In many overseas countries with which NOOSR has close cooperation. (ii) in the case of Parties which have not established a system of formal assessment of higher education institutions and programmes: information on the recognition of the various qualifications obtained at any higher education institution.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education of equivalent agencies to that found in the United Kingdom. each signatory country is required to provide adequate information on any institution belonging to its higher education system and on any program operated by these institutions with a view ‘to enabling competent authorities of other Parties to ascertain the quality of the qualifications issued by these institutions’. A particular need for a strong national quality assurance agency relates to international conventions and agreements signed by Australia with regard to the recognition of post-secondary education qualifications. the UNESCO convention for the recognition of qualifications in Asia. 4. they do require signatory countries to provide pathways for the recognition of overseas qualifications and detailed information on local higher education qualifications and their standing. With many European countries establishing more rigorous national systems of quality assurance. or within any higher education programme. According to the Convention. such information shall take the following form: (i) in the case of Parties having established a system of formal assessment of higher education institutions and programmes: information on the methods and results of this assessment. and the recent Lisbon Convention on the recognition of qualifications concerning higher education in the European region.

it is likely that in future negotiations national quality assurance mechanisms may become of increasingly importance. For the future an issue of particular importance is whether the Australian graduates from off-shore operations will be included in bilateral agreements and multilateral conventions. In particular. and the considerable variations in the length of courses.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education future international conventions may well expect all signatories to have national systems of quality assurance in place. These developments reinforce the view that Australia’s quality assurance mechanisms do not stand up well internationally. there is a wide appreciation that a number of other countries have made recent changes to strengthen their accreditation and quality assurance arrangements. Associated with this is a generally growing concern about the proliferation of awards especially at the postgraduate level. Further.12 Among both many senior officials in government and senior management in universities. While neither agreement explicitly mentions quality assurance.11 Recent changes in quality assurance made by other industrialised countries 4.10 In addition to conventions. 4. 4. Two recent agreements were the agreement with Italy of 1996 and the memorandum of understanding with Germany of 1998. Australia has signed various agreements or memoranda of understanding with other countries concerning the recognition of qualifications. 56 . At a recent international quality assurance conference. it is clear that in the various bilateral negotiations to date there have been various points of dispute and in the future on such points it is possible that much more weight could be given to the views of national quality assurance agencies. In addition. Australia needs an exemplary record in quality assurance and efforts to monitor academic standards. speakers from Britain drew attention to Australia’s lack of a national quality assurance agency. there has been considerable interest in the establishment and development of the new Quality Assurance Agency in Britain and the proposed Qualifications Authority in New Zealand. since countries in the Asia Pacific region often look to Australia not only as a source of university education but to benchmark for their own university standards.

Malaysia recently has established an Accreditation Board that will cover the activities of foreign providers as well as local institutions. a case went to the High Court of Madras in 1997 concerning the operations of an overseas university within India and to date this case has not been concluded. directly or indirectly. The catalyst for this was a series of advertisements inserted by a number of agents regarding admission to various international courses without making it clear that these courses were being offered in countries outside of India. One such advertisement was by two Australian agents for admission to an MBA course. it seems likely that more effort will be made by countries within the region to regulate the activities of foreign institutions. 4. the Monopoly and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission restrained 16 institutions from offering courses on the grounds they were not approved institutions. The establishment of the Accreditation Board in Malaysia has been prompted by the Malaysian Government’s wish to encourage high quality foreign universities to establish campuses in Malaysia. The case came up for hearing on 27 August 1997 with the Government of India being named as one of the respondents. this legislation specifies that only universities incorporated under Indian federal or state legislation can grant degrees.14 57 . while in July 1997 the High Court of Madras issued an order restraining foreign universities from granting degrees. In March 1997.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education New quality assurance arrangements in off-shore education countries 4. in India. Essentially.13 Another factor prompting review and strengthening of quality assurance mechanisms is that a number of counties in the Asia Pacific region have recently strengthened their own quality assurance mechanisms and are showing increasing concern about allowing foreign universities to operate within their borders. One common allegation made in India is that some foreign universities are dumping low quality courses in Asian countries that these institutions would not be allowed to offer in their home countries. In view of various allegations made in Asian and Pacific countries about the operations of foreign universities. At issue here is whether institutions other than those specified under the 1956 University Grants Commission legislation can grant degrees in India. In India. while in Hong Kong new regulations govern the activities of foreign universities operating in the Territory.

To safeguard this industry. with only $4.17 58 . Disaffected staff can do considerable damage in making allegations about low academic standards and failure to follow specified procedures. particularly the closure of private institutions.16 4. Various unfortunate events in the late 1980s and early 1990s. it is widely argued that there needs to be a national quality assurance agency as well as better mechanisms to accredit private higher education providers and courses. 4. Closures of colleges in the late 1980s. the Commonwealth expended over $66 million in refunds to students. Australia’s export education business continues to expand and is a major source of income both for providers and the country. led to students in many cases being without a higher education place and the funds to pay fees. Many make the point that the VET system is much better placed than higher education to guarantee quality through government sponsored agencies.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education Needs of Australia’s education export industry 4. This in turn led to the 1991 Commonwealth Education Services for Overseas Students Act. a number of informants made the point that while the number of unfortunate incidents related to quality and accreditation with Australian providers were few to date. As a result of these incidents. predominantly from the People’s Republic of China.3 million in assistance to students. prompted the passage of both Commonwealth legislation and separate legislation in some States. In 1993.5 million being eventually recovered. Such cases are often difficult to repair and their effects can continue for substantial periods. whether or not these allegations might be true. resulting from the inability of a number of private providers to refund prepaid course fees to students who were refused student visas under tightened entry measures applied by the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs in response to evidence of non-compliance with student visa conditions.15 One of the strongest arguments put by many of those interviewed for strengthening quality assurance and accreditation mechanisms relates to providing additional safeguards to protect Australia’s higher education and VET export business. In our discussions. and that in a number of cases the Commonwealth had to provide substantial funds to assist affected students. it is possible that even fairly minor but widely-publicized incidents could have particularly damaging effects. two liquidated colleges closed in Western Australia with no funds being held in special trust accounts and the Commonwealth had to provide $1.

has in place regular internal reviews of each of its ‘offshore’ operations. the University has been admitting unqualified students to degree courses and that it has been ‘dumbing down’ courses. detailed administrative procedures and review mechanisms even more necessary. or a combination of distance education and face-to-face teaching. Monash University. another concern about ‘off-shore’ operations is whether all ‘off-shore’ courses in particular professional areas such as accounting are covered by accreditation conducted by Australian professional associations. twinning and franchising arrangements.19 4.21 59 . ‘Off-shore’ delivery creates special management problems for providers and makes the need of well-developed. As already noted. 4.18 Expansion of off-shore operations through the establishment of university campuses in foreign countries. It is alleged that. The most recent case was about the University of Derby and its off-shore operations in Israel (Times Higher Education Supplement. almost 23 000 of Australia’s international higher education student are enrolled through various ‘off-shore’ arrangements. As already noted. In addition.20 4. A number of the major Australian higher education providers well recognise the dangers in off-shore delivery and in response have developed additional management and monitoring processes and have put in place their own quality assurance audits. Monash has contracted with an international quality assurance agency to conduct regular external audits of each off-shore operation. and the delivery of courses to students in other countries by distance education. 23 July 1999).CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education 4. with each of these being chaired by an external member with special expertise in quality assurance and accreditation. is creating new needs for more rigorous quality assurance mechanisms. Comparatively little information is available on this matter. RMIT has similar internal reviews in place and in addition has used auditors from the Quality Assurance Services to gain ISO certification. Various well publicised incidents pointing to administrative and other failures of British higher education providers in ‘off-shore’ endeavours point to the kind of difficulties that similar incidents could have for Australian education exports. for financial reasons. for example. but it could be a particular problem in cases where all teaching and examining is conducted by academic staff employed by partner institutions operating under franchise arrangements. These allegations have prompted an enquiry by the Israeli quality assurance agency.

various informants mentioned the University of Greenwich case. These overseas providers include major American universities as well as ‘no-frills’ providers. 60 . this is likely to increase further as public universities become more commercial in orientation. Apparently the University of Greenwich made enquiries from at least two government accrediting agencies in States and Territories before approaching the Norfolk Island administration. Incidents with private providers and increased numbers of private providers 4.23 A small number of well-publicised cases concerning private providers has raised the level of concern generally about quality assurance and accreditation mechanisms.24 4. Further. In the case of higher education. 4.26 Another reason why State and Territory officials are concerned about current accreditation and quality assurance arrangements is that over the past five years there have been an increasing number of complaints from private providers seeking accreditation.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education Increasing accountability pressures at home 4. This concern has been felt particularly by Ministers.25 Complaints from applicants seeking accreditation 4. the case of the two institutions from South Australia which had secured approval for the use of the word university in company titles and various cases of private VET providers and language training schools closing because of insolvency. The number of private providers offering accredited higher education courses clearly has increased substantially over the past five years and there are rumours of considerable interest by overseas universities about establishing campuses in Australia or delivering courses to Australian students by distance education. In our discussions. community concern seems likely to demand stronger quality assurance mechanisms as the higher education system moves increasingly to further competition between institutions and possibly towards a system of student based funding. government officials and those universities with large commitments in the areas of international education and with links with private institutions.22 Generally in the Australian community pressures continue to grow for increased accountability of public institutions and of government funding or subsidies.

for example. 4. Private providers also suspect that the time taken in considering some course accreditation proposals is evidence that members of panels from public universities are trying to protect vested interests.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education 4. In Victoria. p 10). 4.28 4. but this function is not part of the formal responsibilities of panels. it is sometimes alleged by applicants that the ‘playing field’ is not level and that University academics on accreditation committees are not flexible enough to appreciate different paradigms and emerging disciplines. to date there have been few appeals and no appeal has proceeded to a formal hearing or judgment (Smith 1998. In each case. panels often provide comment which applicants sometimes take aboard to modify and improve their proposals.27 Smith (1998) reports that there have been various complaints from private providers who sometimes complain that the accreditation process is biased against them. In particular. Smith (1998.30 61 . panels are appointed to evaluate submissions and offer advice to the Minister or the approving authority. At the same time in making assessments. On the other hand. unsuccessful applicants have the right of appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal which has been in place since 1993. it should be noted that most of the relevant legislation is sufficiently general in wording and intent to cater adequately for diversity in course applications. p 8) points out that in New South Wales accrediting panels: … are required to assess whether a proposed course displays academic objectivity and rigour and enables intellectual inquiry and discourse which are essential features in any higher education course. Still another problem is that often the appeal process is not well understood.29 Another common problem is that the role of review panels in accreditation is often not well understood. and are not responsible for offering advice and assistance to applicants. However. other than to be satisfied that there is sufficient demand to make a program academically viable. Panels do not concern themselves with the desirability of or need for a course.

In the first place. In our interviews. Both terms are used internationally in a variety of ways. and should and be able to 4. whereas quality assurance generally relates to the activities of established institutions. it makes important distinctions between the functions of accreditation and quality assurance and between the possible treatment of self-accrediting institutions and non-self accrediting providers. while closely related the two processes are somewhat different. The mechanisms relating to self-accrediting institutions should not be solely at the discretion of the institutions themselves. In summary. With regard to the distinction between self-accrediting institutions and others. As already noted. DETYA documentation specifies that quality assurance and accreditation mechanisms should satisfy a number of criteria. it is important that adequate consideration should be given to the special characteristics of both sets of institutions. In Chapter 2. since they often differ significantly in size and administrative depth. to ensure the quality of outputs and to give stakeholders confidence.33 62 . However. quality assurance in Australian higher education has come to refer to a range of management and assessment procedures to monitor performance. all higher education providers should be treated in a similar manner. ideally any new quality assurance mechanism should have the capacity to cover all higher education providers. but in the Australian context they have developed particular meanings. whereas in relation to government agencies accreditation refers to a process of assessment and review leading to recognition of a higher education provider or higher education course.32 4. It should be noted that for the 1993–1995 quality assurance program only public universities participated. At the same time. there needs to be some external review or audit of the claims made by institutions about quality and standards. This need for linkages is even more important if the functions are to be carried out by separate levels of government. a number of respondents made that point that.31 The Modern Australian Model of quality assurance and accreditation proposed by DETYA has many strengths. the mechanisms should be credible with international and domestic interest groups. For one thing accreditation is primarily concerned with new institutions and new courses. it is seems highly desirable that there should be linkages between accreditation and quality assurance procedures and that information should be shared in the case that the two functions are carried out by separate agencies.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education The Modern Australian Model 4. as far as possible. we defined both accreditation and quality assurance.

the British Quality Assurance Agency Model and the VET sector model. The recently modified New Zealand model has a number of strengths. it provides for a strong national government agency with an appropriate legislative base. the New Zealand model. the major difficulty is that Australia’s arrangements would fall far behind practice in a number of competitor countries and would do little to provide additional safeguards for the higher education export industry.34 In its documentation. or to lend additional international credibility to Australian awards. Other options 4.35 4.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education protect the international reputation of Australian awards. it is by no means certain how successful will be the approach of the Quality Assurance Authority in granting recognition to accreditation providers. but at the same time be cost effective. and the mechanisms should provide legal clarity for students and providers and be able to promote good practice and facilitate improvement.36 63 . especially in terms of achieving a reasonably uniform coverage in audits across different sectors and in gaining international recognition and local credibility. with institutions continuing to take major responsibility for their own quality assurance but with encouragement to strengthen these processes through benchmarking. Presumably one reason for adopting this 4. The biggest gap is the absence of some national agency that can certify the quality of Australian higher education. DETYA refers to four alternative options to the Modern Australian Model. not unnecessarily intrusive and be able to retain the cooperation of the public universities. In particular. These are refinements to the current Australian model. the mechanisms should help satisfy Australian taxpayers of value for money. any audit mechanism should have rigour. and use of external audits such as having processes assessed according to ISO standards. While the suggested improvements would provide for worthwhile improvements. Refinement of the current Australian model provides for enhanced accreditation processes which remain in the hands of the States and Territories. The appointment of only one accreditation agency that failed to deliver according to specifications could be sufficient to do major damage to the system. On the other hand. it includes an institutional audit process and it provides for a coordinated approach for the whole tertiary education sector. and minor modifications to legislation. We support these as desirable principles.

Audit reports are public documents and there is considerable pressure on universities to take seriously any criticisms made. • to comment on the extent to which procedures in place in individual universities are applied effectively. external examiners. universities carry out self audits before the visit of panels. professional bodies and employers. we assume that the New Zealand universities may choose to retain the services of the Academic Audit Unit. the Academic Audit Unit has not covered the work of the 25 polytechnics and four colleges of education. in the judgement of many experts. As in other institutional audit programs. • to comment on the extent to which procedures in place in individual universities reflect good practice in maintaining quality.37 The New Zealand Academic Unit was set up with the following terms of reference: • to consider and review the universities’s mechanisms for monitoring and enhancing the academic quality and standards which are necessary for achieving their stated aims and objectives. However. It should be noted. the Academic Audit Unit focuses on mechanisms for quality assurance in the design. 4. to date its proposals have been somewhat controversial and it has still to secure strong support from the wellestablished group of older research universities. Panels are made up of academics from New Zealand and overseas universities and members of the business community. and in research. the stated goals of the Agency appear to be somewhat unrealistic and to date many of the Agency’s proposals 64 . Under the new arrangements.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education approach is that since the early 1990s the university sector has had its own Academic Audit Unit and this system appears to be working well.38 The new United Kingdom model based on the Quality Assurance Agency which was established in 1997 is still developing its procedures. learning and assessment. however. monitoring and evaluation of courses in teaching. 4. and • to identify and commend to universities good practice with regard to maintenance of academic standards at national level (Woodhouse 1997. p 72). in relation to the appointment and performance of academic staff. In fulfilling these terms of reference. Further. The Unit is instructed to take account with respect to academic matters of the views of students. The Unit is funded jointly by the universities but is independent otherwise of the universities individually and the Vice-Chancellors’ Committee.

Observers question the extent to which the Agency appears likely to intrude substantially into the work of universities and the extent of funding that a fully operational Agency will need.40 65 . to inform funding and to reward excellence’ (Williams 1997). The purpose of these assessments was to ‘ensure that quality was satisfactory or better. subject providers were awarded a satisfactory grade. First. to encourage improvement.39 It is important to recognise. 4. support and guidance provided. student progress and achievement. in the early 1990s. and this resulted in the award of the grades of excellent. learning and assessment. A report in 1996 at the end of the second round of audits noted that quality assurance procedures had become the norm in the higher education sector. however. the methodology developed by the Higher Education Funding Council of England (HEFCE) involved selective visits to subject providers on the basis of self assessments submitted.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education have raised considerable controversy. Criticisms of this methodology forced the HEFCE to revise its approach to one based around a graded profile of subject areas constructed against six aspects of provision (curriculum. one of which is on-going. pp110–111). Initially. The aim was to ensure public accountability for the maintenance and improvement of academic quality by finding out how institutions discharge their obligations to provide high quality education and satisfy themselves about the academic standards they seek to uphold (Williams 1997. a visit to the department by external assessors (mainly academics from other institutions trained by the funding council). satisfactory or unsatisfactory. and judgements made on the quality of education through observation of teaching and learning. and quality assurance arrangements). teaching. the Committee of ViceChancellors and Principals established the Academic Audit Unit. the higher education funding councils established a system of quality assurance for teaching based on the assessment of disciplines. Second. 4. This development was based on the idea of institutional audits of quality assurance processes in the context of an institution’s stated aims and objectives. which in turn became the Higher Education Quality Council following abolition of the binary system. Where no visits took place. that in the past decade there have been three other important British experiments in quality assurance. Student learning experiences and achievements were assessed against the provider’s aims and objectives. The process involved a selfassessment by the department. scrutiny of students’ work and discussions with staff and students.

which followed earlier exercises in 1986. 1989 and 1992. RAE ratings are awarded by subject panels (60 panels in 1996 for 69 assessment areas) of about 10 members each. appointed after consultation with interested bodies such as learned societies and professional associations (Research Assessment Exercise: Criteria for Assessment 1995). while high performing universities generally presented all departments and practically all academic staff. Assessments are based entirely upon the written materials submitted. was conducted jointly by HEFCE. the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council. • other information about research activity and the units of assessment (eg numbers of research students.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education 4. 4. facilities and research plans) and other key information.43 66 . and research grant and contract income from various sources). Universities were able to decide which departments to put forward for assessment and which staff in each department. The last 1996 in RAE. the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales. and • information about the institution’s support for research in each subject area (departmental structure. made up of distinguished researchers in the particular subject. A standard electronic template is used across all institutions and subjects. Each of these bodies distributes funds selectively to institutions on the basis of the quality judgements made by expert RAE panels and funds are intended to sustain a strong research infrastructure and a range of curiosity-driven basic and strategic research activities (Harman 1999).42 4. and this includes: • details of those staff whose work is offered for assessment in each subject area and selected recent research outputs for each of them (up to four per staff member). The purpose is to provide quality rankings for research carried out in each of the major subject areas in all government-funded higher education institutions. since 1986 the higher education funding councils have conducted periodical assessments of research known as the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). Some universities presented only a small number of their total departments and staff for assessment.41 Third. and the Department of Education for Northern Ireland. Higher education institutions in 1996 could submit for assessment any research carried out within the previous four years by those of their current staff they wished to present from the nominated subject areas.

of the sub-areas of the activity) to 5* (research quality that equates to attainable levels of international excellence in a majority of sub-areas of activity and attainable levels of national excellence in all others) (Research Assessment Exercise: Guidance for Submissions 1995. In making its assessment. or virtually none. each panel takes into account only the work of those staff listed as being ‘research active’. while in a number of ex-polytechnic universities the total research component amounted to less than half a million pounds and far less than 1 per cent of their total grant. The sum of 804 million pounds sterling allocated to all English higher education institutions by the HEFCE in the funding year 1998–1999 amounted to 20. both in terms of administrative costs centrally (2. The total funds were allocated between 69 subject areas or ‘Units of Assessment’. the University of Cambridge. the cost weight of the subject area. The largest total research allocations went in order to the University of Oxford. In each case. Annex B). ranging from 1 (research quality that equates to attainable levels of national excellence in none. The RAE is a peer review exercise with ‘assessments being made by the panels in the light of their collective knowledge and experience of their field of academic research’ (Research Assessment Exercise: Criteria for Assessment 1995. and Imperial College. p 1). panels are concerned with making judgements about quality based primarily on selective reading of listed works and other evidence of reputation and standing as set out in supplementary documentation. Each of the funding bodies uses RAE results in somewhat different ways for allocating block grant funding to universities. Many of the strongest research intensive universities received 50 per cent or more of their total HEFCE allocation on the basis for research. the HEFCE in 1998–1999 allocated 804 million pounds sterling on the basis of 1996 rankings.45 4. University College London. Allocations to each department were based on the ranking given in the RAE. The RAE is a costly and labour-intensive form of assessment. and the number of research active academic staff.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education 4.25 million pounds in 1996) and in the time demands it makes on academics and academic and administrative departments. Academic departments play a major role 67 4.46 4.7 per cent of total funds allocated for teaching and research.44 In 1996 panels awarded a rating for each individual subject submission on a seven point standard scale.47 4. Only departments that are awarded a 3b or better receive funding.48 . For example.

but generally these efforts have attracted little additional funding and within such universities there is often considerable illfeeling about the fairness of the RAE and about the indirect adverse effects it has on teaching. such as generating suspicion about the integrity of data submitted by other universities. In the past only private providers had to be registered but now all trainers need to be registered. which give effect to the National Principles. It is based on the Australian Recognition Framework (ARF) which is a quality assured approach to the registration of training organisations seeking to deliver training. The VET model has separate but related national mechanisms of accreditation and quality assurance. helping to break down traditions of collegiality. the RAE has had various unintended consequences. assess competency outcomes. The current VET model of accreditation and quality assurance is now well accepted in the VET sector and widely supported by industry. National standards for registration comprise four sets of Standards and Evidence Requirements. some who have suggested that it provides a suitable model for a strengthened quality assurance and accreditation mechanism for higher education. The registration cycle comprises four elements: 4. Others have criticised the lack of a clearly articulated philosophy for the RAE.50 4. possible defects in a peer review approach and the fact that while RAE funding is on such a basis it is very difficult for less strong institutions to attract additional funding in to order to build on their strengths. Accreditation of training providers certifies that the training meets industry needs and this is the responsibility of the States and Territories. Some newer universities have put considerable effort into building up research capacity of particular departments.51 68 . A particularly heavy burden is borne by the assessment panels. 4. The end result in each university is what one senior academic described as ‘a mountain of documentation’. encouraging academics to put additional efforts into seeking external research funding and adopting strategies to maximise the number of publications (such as dividing papers into two or more shorter papers and publishing books as journal articles prior to publication of the full work).CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education in planning strategies and in collecting data but university central administrations also play key roles in collecting data and providing overall coordination. which in 1996 considered the work of some 3 000 departments and 56 000 academics in 192 participating higher education institutions. and issue qualifications. It zalso has won admiration from various senior government officials.49 According to various reports.

Approval of Training Packages is the responsibility of the National Training Framework Committee. community providers. assessment and qualifications. 4. integrated products that provide national benchmarks and resources for the delivery. RTOs may include TAFE colleges and institutes. Training Packages their main emphasis on outcomes and are meant to provide a more flexible approach than accredited courses. compliance audit. government agencies or ANTA. schools. or (b) the provision of skill recognition services and issuing of nationally recognised qualifications and statements of attainment. On the other hand. assessment and issuing nationally recognised qualifications and statements of attainment. and which will operate in conjunction with the quality assurance systems of each State and Territory (Australian National Training Authority 1998 and 1999). higher education institutions. assessment guidelines and qualifications. assess qualifications and issue certificates and qualifications. Training organisations can by registered either for (a) the provisions of training delivery.52 One of the main VET sector mechanisms of quality assurance is the national approval of Training Packages that define competencies for particular areas and the qualifications to be issued. In our discussions. most respondents. and separate standards for Quality Endorsement which provide for organisations to self-accredit courses and/or self manage the scope of their registration. self assessment and evaluation. industry bodies and any organisation that meets the requirements for registration. These Packages are comprehensive. The Standards and Evidence Requirements contain a core which all organisations seeking registration must meet. whether in universities. Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) may be delegated power to self manage the scope of their registration and/or self manage accreditation functions. and re-registration. product/service standards for organisations seeking to provide skill recognition only and to issue certificates and qualifications. combined with non-endorsed components which may include learning strategies. product/service standards for organisations seeking to deliver training.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education initial registration. assessment resources and professional development materials. To date 35 Packages have been approved. private commercial providers. stressed the major differences between the VET and higher education sectors. Rather. enterprises and firms. it must be admitted that there are some parallels between VET and higher 69 4. They comprise endorsed components of national competency standards. we were surprised to find little support for the idea of integration of VET and higher education quality assurance systems. which reports to the ANTA Board.53 .

The Dutch model would seem to be the more useful to consider carefully. plus private universities and other providers.54 Other important models not canvassed in the DETYA documentation are the Dutch and French models of quality assurance. especially as irs system of disciplinary assessments is well developed with extensive documentation being available in English. it was agreed that responsibility would lie with the Association of Cooperating Universities of the Netherlands (VSNU) for the universities. In return for achieving increased financial and managerial autonomy. higher education institutions agreed to establish of an assessment mechanism that might demonstrate to society the delivery of quality education. Higher Education: Autonomy and Quality. Originally the Government intended that the assessment function would be carried out by the Inspectorate for Higher Education but. Following publication in 1985 of the policy paper. On the other hand. after negotiations. Under this system. The Dutch scheme of reviews does not have any link to government funding of higher education institutions.55 70 . and the Council for nonuniversity institutions for the HBOs. it seems unlikely that any modification of Australian quality assurance mechanisms would be able to introduce both disciplinary assessments and institutional audits and. while the French program is the responsibility of a special government quality assurance agency. The Dutch program is operated by the VSNU. while the French model uses both disciplinary reviews and institutional audits. while in France the results of both disciplinary reviews and institutional audits are used in developing funding allocations. The current Dutch system of reviews of disciplines for both research and teaching had its origins in restructured relationships between higher education and the Ministry of Education and Science which were achieved in the 1980s. the association representing the heads of Dutch Universities. each participating study programme prepares 4. The University assessment began with a pilot program in 1988 and commenced on a more formal basis the following year. it is not clear how easily a Dutch style model designed for about 15 universities could be adapted to fit the needs of a public university system of 37 universities. discussions were held between the higher education sector and the Ministry. In preparation for the visiting committees. visiting committees review study programmes in all universities on a six year cycle.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education education institutional accreditation for private providers performed by the States and Territories. although the precise links are not made clear. The Dutch model is based on a well-organised program of disciplinary reviews. 4. as will emerge in the following discussion.

and collection of information that can be relevant to third parties (NSNU 1999. No reports are yet available for reviews conducted under the new protocol. all of whom with the exception of the chair (who held the position of Professor of Astronomy at Utrecht University) were foreign experts from Australia. relevance and viability but the emphasis on context-specific aspects requires application of the criteria in the light of the faculty or institute’s mission. it was agreed to have a further round under a slightly modified protocol which was agreed to in 1998. Under this new Protocol (VSNU 1998). the VSNU and the Royal Netherlands Academy for Arts and Science shared responsibility for the assessment. In 1997. accountability. In addition. outlining its methodology. The review of earth sciences considered the work of five faculties and their 25 research programmes. During visits committees hold discussions with Deans. faculties and research institutes). senior management. as ‘in the first round. 4. Following the assessment. some outside the university sector.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education a self-evaluation.56 The reviews of research have been particularly successful and the detailed methodology used continues to attract considerable interest in other countries. as a result. academic staff and students (van Vught 1994a). the VSNU Committee on the Future of Quality Assurance evaluated the reviews of research and. but the 1996 review of earth sciences illustrates well the approach used in the 1993–1997 round. Belgium. In the case of medical research. the key 71 4. the United Kingdom and the United States. 28 disciplines or academic areas were reviewed. p ii).57 . at the request of the Board of the Leiden Institute of Chemistry. The Protocol states that. The assessment of earth sciences was conducted by a review committee of seven members. and the review committees will be explicitly asked to answer questions relating to the missions and the state of the art in the academic area. the review committee produced a detailed report of just under 100 pages. The evaluation criteria continue to compromise the elements of academic quality. the Committee also assessed Geo-biochemistry in that Institute although it was originally assigned to the Chemistry Review Committee. Visiting committees consist of about seven members and are appointed following consultations with the faculties to be reviewed. following a protocol that was agreed to in 1994. A number of smaller institutes. Over the period 1993–1997. were also assessed by special request. France. productivity. the most important functions will be quality assurance (improvement of university research quality as a result of self-regulation within universities. there will be a much greater emphasis on the context specific aspects of research programs and faculties.

and the desirability of increased international mobility amongst students and postdoctoral fellows. satisfactory. particularly issues about lack of critical mass in some institutions. 72 . good. scientific and societal relevance. review reports provide an overall detailed assessment of the various academic disciplines and the work in each of these in the various university faculties. Each research programme was given a descriptive grade under the four criteria (VSNU 1996). it identified a number of issues of concern.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education characteristics of the faculties and research programmes being reviewed. scientific productivity. workloads of senior staff. They are also forward-looking reports that can be used to guide both universities and government agencies in their forward planning. and viability on a five-point scale of excellent. One of the strengths of the program of research assessments is that apart from constituting an important quality assurance and accountability device. unsatisfactory and poor. While overall it reported favourably on the state of earth sciences. The committee assessed scientific quality. and providing detailed comment on the state of earth sciences and on the work of each faculty and research programme.

which enables a higher education course or institution to be recognised or certified as meeting appropriate standards. As already noted. there is little problem with respect to institutions that currently have powers of self-accreditation. it should cover private as well as public universities. as will be argued in a later chapter. whatever national quality assurance mechanism is developed. this process currently is carried out by the States and Territories.1 This chapter considers the mechanisms for the accreditation of courses and institutions in a Modern Australian Model of quality assurance and accreditation. 5. the model is less well developed but it is suggested that the main elements could be as follows: • Rigorous scrutiny of provider capacity before course accreditation. except that in highly unusual circumstances it is possible that a State or Territory Minister could institute an inquiry into a self-accrediting institution. For the first. or even dismiss the governing body. it is highly desirable that.3 73 . and • Review of provider performance and accredited courses every five years. Further. carried out by a government agency and with legislative backing. 5. It will be recalled that the Model provides for different arrangements for institutions that have the power to accredit their own courses and for non self-accrediting institutions. and self-accrediting as well as non selfaccrediting institutions. the main mechanism would be rigorous scrutiny of financial and quality aspects before founding legislation is passed or other authorisation is given.2 The term accreditation with respect to this chapter is used to refer to a process of assessment and review.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education 5 Accreditation of courses and institutions 5. For non self-accrediting institutions. It is also a process leading to approval for higher education institutions to operate within a State or Territory or for particular courses leading to specified awards to be offered. With respect to the different categories of higher education institutions outlined in chapter 3.

we found strong support for the proposition that accreditation in the way defined in this chapter is clearly a matter for government and not the higher education sector. to use the name university.5 There are also some related issues about whether there should be any restrictions on Australian universities operating in other states than the one in which they were established. Further. This will be taken up in later discussion. Many respondents considered it important that accreditation should have a legal basis. about their ability to develop relationships with private providers in other states and to develop special courses or campuses for international students in other states. • Approval and accreditation of courses of study leading to degrees and other awards by other higher education providers. the various States and Territories have done a worthwhile job at a highly professional level. and about whether higher education providers who offer courses leading to particular awards of universities should be covered by accreditation. despite a number of weaknesses in criteria and processes. This means that States and Territories would continue to approve the establishment and operation of new and overseas universities and the approval of courses in non-self accrediting institutions. 5.7 In our various discussions.4 Acceptance of the points made in the previous paragraph means the main concern of any accreditation process would need to be with: • Approval for new universities to operate. 5. and to offer degrees and other awards.6 Responsibility for accreditation 5. Still another topic that needs consideration is what links there should be between accreditation and quality assurance in the proposed model. and that the States and the Territories should continue to exercise their responsibilities in this area. They point to existing legislation in place and emphasise the constitutional responsibilities of the States and Territories for particular aspects of education. State and Territory accrediting agencies clearly see accreditation as a function for their level of government and consider that. a number of those interviewed made the point that in recent years the 74 .CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education 5. and • Re-accreditation of institutions and awards. over the past decade. especially as in the future it is possible that there will be more challenges considering who should be able to offer courses leading to degrees and other higher education awards and what institutions should be able to use the titles of university and degree.

CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education role of the States and Territories has been enhanced as the Commonwealth has moved from funding to subsidising universities. it we see the need for each State and Territory to report annually to MCEETYA on any changes in accreditation legislation. Another possibility would be for a new national agency for quality assurance to take over the current work of the States and Territories in course and institutional accreditation. being operated by State and Territories working in close cooperation with one another.11 . It would raise difficult constitutional and intergovernmental issues and the accreditation functions could overburden any new agency charged with the difficult task of developing a new national quality assurance agency. other options than may have to be considered. Further.9 5. and provide details on those institutions and courses which have received accreditation over the past 12 months. through continuation and extension of the present work being undertaken by the MCEETYA Multilateral Joint Planning Committee we consider that it should be possible to develop a professional national approach to accreditation.8 We support the above arguments and note that a number of the States have well developed offices which have had considerable experience in accreditation. Appropriate linkages also will need to be developed between accreditation and any system of national institutional quality assurance audits. On the other hand. At the same time. if the current work of the Multilateral Joint Planning Committee is unsuccessful. in a number of cases the expertise in accreditation is of a high order and some of the documentation that has been developed is particularly impressive. Professional bodies show no interest in the area and it should be noted that a large number of disciplinary and professional areas are not covered by the accreditation functions performed by bodies such as the Institution of Engineers. We recommend adoption of such a policy. 75 5. in some cases going back to the period of advanced education. In these circumstances we consider that accreditation in terms of the approval for the operation of new or overseas universities and the approval of higher education courses offered by non self-accrediting institutions should remain.10 5. 5. We found no support for this plan and we advise against it. Further. guidelines and procedures. at least for the present. a State and Territory responsibility. We found no support at all for any other agency or body to perform the accreditation role. The AVCC considers that accreditation is a proper role for government rather than the sector and is concerned that accreditation should have a proper legislative basis.

criteria and processes 5. if any. 76 5.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education Greater uniformity of legislation. and in criteria and processes employed in accreditation. with respect to: • overseas universities that teach individual Australian distance education students in Australia. However quite rightly. although these may have no presence in Australia.12 State and Territory accrediting bodies readily admit that there are problems in the current arrangements with respect to uniformity in legislation and other regulatory requirements.14 . and in achieving reciprocal agreements that mean an institution operating nationally or in more than one State/Territory need only apply once for accreditation. They also point to recent progress made by the MCEETYA Multilateral Joint Planning Committee. particularly in strengthening legislation. and • local institutions seeking to use the title and operate as a university in a State or Territory. The MCEETYA meeting of 22–23 April 1999 dealt with a number of items related to the recognition of universities. That meeting agreed to refer the issue of a common approach to criteria and procedures employed in the accreditation of higher education institutions to the Multilateral Joint Planning Committee. they point to the substantial progress made in the past five years. The former Higher Education Task Force had commissioned a project in 1998 to be undertaken in Queensland to explore options to develop common principles and a cooperative approach to quality assurance of accreditation processes among relevant State and Territory jurisdictions with respect to the following areas: (i) accreditation of higher education courses offered by private (nonuniversity) providers. It asked the Committee to report on the current criteria and procedures for the accreditation of higher education institutions in each State and Territory and make recommendations on the most appropriate instrument for a common approach. including arrangements. and (ii) accreditation recognition of overseas and/or private universities.13 5. either through an agent or Australian branch office. and registration of providers to offer courses. in sharing documentation and information between offices. • overseas universities that seek to operate in a State or Territory through an agent of by establishing a branch office or campus.

15 A draft report on arrangements and procedures for the establishment and recognition of universities throughout Australia has been prepared under the Taskforce Consultancy.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education 5.17 5. internal quality assurance and accountability. To date the Multilateral Committee has put most of its efforts into developing a common protocol for the accreditation of universities. buildings and facilities. and in maintaining the status and international credibility of current universities. The 10th meeting of MCEETYA on 22–23 1999 April also formally endorsed the operational guidelines for use by State and Territory accreditation officers for concurrent accreditation and authorisation of private higher education providers to offer higher education courses in two or more States or Territories of Australia. and library holdings and specialised laboratories. especially as this is an important element of regulatory controls over new providers and overseas institutions. it will be unfortunate if the Multilateral Committee is drawn into lengthy and time-consuming debates about the characteristics of modern Australian universities. There seems a high degree of agreement that criteria should include topics such as financial viability. Also it is planned to identify the gaps in legislative protection afforded to the Australian university system against domestic and overseas institutions operating in Australia without approval of the relevant State or Territory authority. there are some differences of opinion. With regard to controls over use of the titles of ‘university’ and ‘degree’.16 5. This is part of a larger report on accreditation of higher education institutions. Perhaps more important is the need to develop uniform protocols for the recognition of new and overseas universities and agreement on the criteria to be applied. On the other hand. State and Territory officials see value in maintaining and strengthening controls over these titles. From a pragmatic point of view. some key figures within public universities consider that Australia appears to be moving to an American type higher education system where the title of university carries less weight and where some prestigious institutions use the title institute or college and relatively low level institutions call themselves universities.18 5. But there appears to be less agreement about whether the criteria should include quantitative indicators with regard to staff.19 77 . and the processes of governance. Other issues are whether all 5. In turn this is raising the issue of what are the distinguishing characteristics of a university in Australia at close to the turn of the millennium and that criteria should be used in accrediting new and overseas universities. the legal basis of the institution.

• whether or not legislation in all States and Territories should provide for both the accreditation of institutions and courses. Many of these issues are quite complex and raise difficult political issues. 5.20 Other issues that need attention include: • protocols and procedures for the accreditation of institutions other than universities.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education universities should have an active involvement in research and research training and what might be minimum commitment to these activities for both new institutions and established overseas institutions. • the linkages between accreditation of institutions and courses. • detailed protocols. criteria and procedures for the approval and accreditation of courses in institutions which do not have self-accrediting powers. or whether some accredited universities might be treated in a similar fashion to the Melbourne Private University whose courses must be certified by the University of Melbourne and the accreditation limited to a period of five years. • whether the recognition of new and overseas universities should automatically carry with it the rights of self-accrediting powers. already there is available extensive documentation in the offices of accrediting agencies. • requirements with regard to ‘out-state’ Australian institutions operating in other States and Territories. • whether or not universities and other self accrediting institutions need special approval to enter into franchise arrangements to offer higher education courses with non accredited institutions such as VET providers. • whether or not all accredited institutions need special approval to offer courses to international students at special international student campuses. 78 . • whether or not all institutions need some form of accreditation before their courses can be accredited. especially when all teaching and assessment is carried out by the staff of the franchisee. On the other hand.

While this solution would be a marked improvement over the current situation and would be costeffective. Some accrediting agencies have information and consolidated listings of accredited institutions and courses readily available but in other cases this is not so. Each is 79 . guidelines and procedures and what institutions and courses have been accredited over the past twelve months. whereby all universities are reminded annually of their various accountability and reporting responsibilities. this system would depend on the efficiency of each accrediting agency in keeping its listing up to date. Some suggested a small office attached to MCEETYA or to the AQF Board Secretariat or that the developing and maintaining a listing might be the responsibility of a new national quality assurance agency. At a minimum. the main limitation would be that there would be no single national listing of all accredited institutions and courses. Further this information should be available in both print and on-line forms. employers and higher education providers and potential providers about accreditation processes and which institutions and courses have been accredited and over what periods. Further. However. providers.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education Reporting on accreditation of institutions and courses 5. 5. this information should be widely available nationally and information should provide legal clarity to students. employers and professional associations.21 One current weakness is a lack of national information available to members of the public. In addition the proposed national quality assurance might do the same. It will be noted that we have already recommended that each State and Territory should report annually to MCEETYA on any changes in accreditation legislation.23 An important quality assurance function performed by State and Territory accrediting agencies is monitoring that all higher education institutions in their jurisdiction fulfil all statutory obligations with regard to accountability and providing annual reports to government agencies. We had discussions with various bodies about how a national listing might be achieved. the AQF Board Secretariat suggested that possibly the most cost-efficient means might be for each accrediting agency to have available both print and on-line listings and for the AQF Web page to refer enquiries to the various State and Territory Web pages. The Victorian Office of Higher Education has a particularly well developed system.22 Other compliance functions for accrediting agencies 5.

it will be important that each State and Territory Government resource their higher education offices at an appropriate level. If State and Territory accrediting agencies are to have an enhanced role.24 While we recommend that accreditation should remain a State and Territory function. Links between accreditation and quality assurance 5.25 An important part of the current accreditation process is the reaccreditation of institutions at regular intervals. currently the size and expertise of these offices vary to a considerable extent and in many cases administrative weaknesses are a direct result of lack of staffing and other resources. 80 . In particular. Generally the period of acccreditation is five years. Staffing and resourcing of State and Territory accreditation agencies 5. Clearly with any accreditation system it is necessary to review and re-accredit institutions and courses on a regular basis. it will be necessary to have clear policies about the relation between reaccreditation and quality assurance reviews. with a new national accreditation agency.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education provided with a listing of all responsibilities and is required to sign off on each item as it has been met. However. This system could well provide a model for those agencies that do not have such a formal system. there should be a clear understanding that adequate resources will be provided. will a non self-accrediting institution that subjects itself to quality assurance reviews be subjected to the same re-accreditation requirements as one that does not? One solution could be that institutions which have had a quality assurance review within the past three years may be able to achieve re-accreditation via a less demanding process. As already noted.

With data available from the CEQ and GDS. Good management practice requires that all institutions should have in place appropriate quality assurance and improvement plans and submission of these to some outside body provides useful discipline for institutions to keep such plans up to date. especially in relation to trends over time and make comparisons with appropriate benchmark data.3 Continuation and strengthening of the current requirements of the Commonwealth with regard to institutional quality assurance and improvement plans appears to be a well-conceived and sensible strategy. The plans would also provide an analysis of the institution’s performance. strategies for achieving those goals and the indicators used to monitor progress in achieving the goals. It also comments on whether or not the proposal for quality assurance and improvement plans might cover other than selfaccrediting institutions.2 Comments on suggested model 6. The suggested requirement that institutional quality plans should cover all major aspects of operations 81 .CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education 6 Quality assurance and improvement plans 6. As already noted the Modern Australian Model proposes putting considerable weight on the development and annual publication of Quality Assurance and Improvement Plans for the forthcoming triennium. It also discusses who should require institutions to submit the plans and who should publish these and the need for some integration with the proposed quality assurance audits. 6. commenting on such data as the outcomes of the graduate satisfaction survey (CEQ) and graduate employment outcomes (the GDS) over time and compared with appropriate benchmarks. and Commonwealth funded institutions as well as those institutions not funded by the Commonwealth. These plans would outline the institution’s goals. This chapter comments on this proposal. it appears sensible that institutions should provide comments on these data for their own institutions.1 This chapter considers the proposed strengthening possible under the Modern Australian Model of internal quality assurance mechanisms for self-accrediting institutions. The plans would also need to clearly outline the processes in place to assure quality of provision within its total ‘catchment area’.

our impression is that this development has not been uniform across the sector and that it may be helpful to provide additional assistance. especially across the countries of the Asia and Pacific region. Since the first publication of plans has not yet occurred it is difficult to know how publication will actually work in practice and what its 6. ‘catchment area’ may not be the best term to use with regard to this matter as it already carries with it specific meanings with regard to the home address of students and those areas from which institutions generally draw their students. Such assistance could take the form of special projects funded by the Commonwealth that would lead to experience and good practice being shared.4 While some universities have made major advances in benchmarking. would constitute an important addition to current guidelines. In addition there are various technical issues about aspects of benchmarking that require additional consideration. 6. twinning or franchising arrangements. ‘off-shore’ international education poses particularly difficult problems of management and monitoring. Such developments are highly desirable and it would be useful for the Commonwealth to fund a project which might address some of the special problems in quality assurance for ‘off-shore’ operations and help to circulate ideas of good practice. In an early chapter it was noted that in 1998 almost 23 000 students were enrolled under ‘off-shore’ arrangements and that this form of enrolment seems highly likely to increase substantially. It also provides a useful mechanism for dissemination of good practice and innovation. particularly in relation to other members of established networks or individual institutions with similar characteristics. it is particularly important that institutions should document in some detail their monitoring and quality assurance procedures. With regard to ‘off-shore’ international education.7 82 .5 6.6 6. However. whether it is in the form of separate campuses established by an Australian university. Further. A number of major Australian international education providers already have in place special review and external monitoring arrangements for ‘off-shore’ arrangements. or offering distance education internationally.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education including ‘off-shore’ and distance education internationally. Publication of Quality Assurance and Improvement Plans provides incentive for institutions to take the development of plans and monitoring of performance seriously. while unfortunate incidents related to such operations could have a particularly serious impact on Australia’s international education effort.

This raises difficult issues about constitutional and legal responsibilities. Second. this could work to reduce some of the value of institutions having detailed and comprehensive plans. it is widely acknowledged that such plans help promote good practice. Further.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education effects will be. There are however two fairly minor problems with this arrangement that deserve some consideration. it should be noted that publication of institutional reports from the second and third rounds of the 1993–1995 quality assurance program was found to be useful in many institutions. Further. but possibly the States and Territories might consider placing some requirements about annual quality assurance plans on other than Commonwealth funded institutions. While publication of plans may mean imposition of a tight word limit. Who should require and publish plans and links with institutional audits? 6. or at least not in conflict with. there is the question of whether it would be desirable for some requirement of this kind to be placed on non-DETYA funded institutions.9 6. Ideally what DETYA requires of institutions in terms of plans should be identical. or the new quality assurance agency could require all 83 6. One important consideration will be the length and format of plans.8 Currently DETYA requires institutions that it funds to prepare quality assurance and improvement plans as part of the annual profile exercise. Senior officials at State and Territory level and senior managers in the higher education sector expressed no problem with this arrangement. The first is that with the establishment of a new national quality assurance agency it would be desirable for there to be on-going discussions between DETYA and the quality assurance agency about what DETYA requires of the institutions it funds and what the quality assurance agency will require in terms of documentation and self-studies prior to the visit of a review or audit committee or team. required documentation for quality audits. including the two private universities. pointing out that any government agency that provides funding has every right to impose conditions on funding. However. particularly ones related to accountability. since the requirements concerning preparation and submissions of plans applies only to those institutions funded by DETYA. if the review of quality assurance and improvement plans was built into a new audit process this could well lessen the need for annual publication of plans. other selfaccrediting institutions and private providers.10 .

While it may be difficult to achieve a fully integrated approach. at least it would be helpful if the key parties were able to exchange documentation on an on-going basis. 6.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education institutions to submit plans as part of the documentation submitted as the first stage of institutional audits.11 Associated with the need for on-going discussions between DETYA and the new quality assurance agency. it would also be desirable to have on-going discussions by DETYA and the new quality assurance agency concerning what requirements concerning the submissions of quality assurance and improvement plans and other documentation that professional associations put on institutions and faculties as part of accreditation and re-accreditation visits. 84 .

3 85 . consider how to achieve rigour and independence for the process while retaining the cooperation and confidence of universities. • How well the model could build on the key features of the Australian higher education system. • Ability to provide legal clarity for students and providers. The task for our project was to: develop the Modern Australian Model as an alternative to the other four models. comment on the desirability of focussing more than in the past on outcomes and standards as well as processes. More specifically. For self-accrediting institutions. where universities are established under State/Territory/Commonwealth legislation 7. and advise on the role of professional associations within the model and the nature of the audit of the courses of non self-accrediting providers. advise under whose authority it should be run. there will be a quality audit every five years and the actual audit will be proceeded by a self-study. However. • Ability to promote and enhance improvement and good practice. • Effectiveness (ability to address learning outcome standards as well as quality assurance processes). advise whether the framework would need a legislative base. non self-accrediting providers will not be subject to such audits but will be subject to reviews of performance every five years as part of a re-accreditation process.2 7. elaborate the possible nature of the five yearly self-assessments for self-accrediting institutions.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education 7 Quality audits and a new quality agency 7.1 The final chapter considers the proposal for a new national system of quality audits and the establishment of a new agency of some kind to take responsibility of these audits. It will be recalled the proposal for the Modern Australian Model is to have separate arrangements for self-accrediting and non self-accrediting institutions. and the marketability of the arrangements). assess whether it would be sensible and appropriate to make use of the AQF. we were asked to make a comprehensive assessment of the Modern Australian Model against the following criteria: • Credibility (how well the model would be credible with international and domestic interest groups and potential customers.

• Any audit mechanism should have rigour. • There needs to be some external review or audit of the claims made by institutions about quality and standards. This should be combined with an institutional self-study which would take place prior to the visit of a review panel. we support these principles. • The mechanism should be credible with international and domestic interest groups. • Minimum prescription and bureaucracy. • How well the model could exploit the role of professional associations in accrediting courses.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education as autonomous institutions with the power to accredit their own courses. not unnecessarily intrusive and be able to retain the cooperation of the public universities. An alternative would be to opt for the Dutch model of disciplinary reviews. The institutional audit is likely to be cheaper and more cost efficient. and should and be able to protect the international reputation of Australian awards.4 DETYA documentation specifies the following criteria for a new national quality assurance mechanism for self-accrediting institutions: • The mechanism should not be solely at the discretion of the institutions themselves. and • The mechanism should provide legal clarity for students and providers and able to promote good practice and facilitate improvement. we consider that to ensure success and acceptance the mechanism should be regarded as a cooperative enterprise between government and the higher education sector.5 As already indicated. At the same time. 7. but for a number of reasons the institutional audit would appear to be more suitable. It is more 86 . and where higher education courses developed and delivered by other providers are accredited by State/Territory bodies. Characteristics of and criteria for the new mechanism 7. • The mechanism should help satisfy Australian taxpayers of value for money. We strongly support the idea of an external audit whose function will be to test the claims made by institutions about quality and standards. but at the same time be cost effective. To have both domestic and international credibility. and • Cost. the mechanism should not be under the direct control of higher education institutions.

rather than a Commonwealth initiative.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education commonly used internationally than the disciplinary review mechanism and it is better able to cater for a diverse sector with self accrediting and non-self accrediting institutions and both public and private providers.6 Further still. officials in State and Territory accrediting agencies spoke strongly that the new mechanism should not be simply a Commonwealth creation. while our interview schedule was limited because of time constraints. These include the following: 7. arguing on the basis of the 87 . with appropriate structures and resources. and with the support of both government (including the States and Territories) and the sector. Not surprisingly. An audit mechanism should help to provide legal clarity for students and providers. and should be able to protect the international reputation of Australian awards. In both Britain and New Zealand universities have been supportive of the mechanism. we formed the view that a non-intrusive and sensibly conceived quality assurance mechanism which involved both the higher education sector and the State and Territories would be likely to attract considerable support. Since the idea of institutional quality assurance audits or reviews is well understood both in Australia and internationally. Certainly both with the sector and with State and Territory accrediting agencies there is wide appreciation of some of the strong influences that require establishment of a new national mechanism. an audit mechanism should soon gain strong credibility with international and domestic interest groups.7 Cooperative Commonwealth/State/Territory and higher education effort 7. we consider that. Further. although as we comment elsewhere we see important legal clarity and protection coming from the new accreditation arrangements.8 We consider it important that the proposed new quality assurance arrangements should be a cooperative Commonwealth/State/Territory and higher education sector effort. Apart from the criteria mentioned above. 7. The mechanism should also help satisfy Australian taxpayers of value for money. the Dutch model is particularly effective if the main focus is on research and the state of the disciplines and their future directions. Generally institutional audit mechanisms prove to be cost effective and not necessarily intrusive and have been able to retain the cooperation of universities. we suggest that other broad principles should guide the establishment and operation of a new quality assurance mechanism.

We recognise that there is wide community and international interest in the issue of academic standards generally and particularly in standard between degrees offered by different Australian universities. We found no support for the idea that a new agency should be part of or have some link with the AQF. Many universities will be far less comfortable with an emphasis on outputs and standards and will recall the controversy that attracted the ranking or ‘banding’ of institutions with the 1993–1995 quality assurance program. that overall accountability lay with the States and Territories.10 One of the most difficult questions facing the establishment of a new quality assurance mechanism is whether the main focus should be on processes rather than on outputs and standards. Commonwealth officials did not understand fully many of the key issues and that any new arrangements should accommodate the current legal and legislative responsibilities of State and Territory agencies. There is also considerable interest in how Australian degrees compare with those offered by universities in other industrialised countries. particularly those that compete with Australian providers in international education. to put an emphasis on standards is fraught with danger and difficulty.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education constitutional responsibilities of the States in education. On the other hand. it should be independent of DETYA. State and Territory Accrediting Agencies.9 We found strong support for the idea that. For somewhat different reasons. and it should have a minimum of bureaucracy. we feel confident that the idea of a cooperative effort would attract much greater support from the AVCC as opposed to the idea of the initiative led and controlled by the Commonwealth. Focus on processes rather than outputs 7. it should be relatively small and cost efficient. with minimum bureaucracy 7. Many newer and smaller universities consider that the rankings and performance funding seriously damaged their reputations and are likely to be cynical about any audit program which would most likely give the oldest and research intensive 88 . The size and activities of a new agency should resemble that of the New Zealand Academic Audit Unit of the former British Academic Audit Unit and Higher Education Quality Council. There are also domestic accountability pressures working to direct more attention to standards and outputs. should a new national quality assurance agency be established. Small and cost efficient agency.

Any serious attempt at focussing on outputs and academic standards is likely to raise difficult methodological issues and be controversial. Second. most enquirers wish to know whether or not there is a national agency for quality assurance and what programs of reviews it has undertaken Third. The recent experiences of the British Quality Assurance Agency point to how proposals to assess standards are likely to be highly controversial and to be regarded especially by major universities as being highly intrusive. we suspect that assessments of outputs and standards are unnecessary in terms of credibility. 7. the issue of outputs and standards is probably best addressed in the context of reviewing institutional quality assurance and improvement plans in the light of institutional missions. desirable graduate attributes and assessment methods for particular disciplines. We assume also that special technical staff would be required or the proposed agency would need to make use of the services of consultants with special expertise in educational measurement and judging the equivalence of academic standards. issues about outputs and standards can be addressed in simpler and more cost-effective ways. One possibility would for a new agency to have a small budget for investigations and evaluations and to commission studies that could address particular issues about standards. 7. Possibly one or more of the professional associations involved in course accreditation might be interested in comparative studies of course requirements.13 89 . management and monitoring processes within institutions. Further.11 Three further arguments need to be mentioned against an emphasis on outputs and standards. First.12 7. and what evidence they have to substantiate the judgements they make. by placing the primary focus of audits on planning. Hence the focus is not on making judgements about institutional performance but how effectively and professionally institutions monitor their own performance and use the information gained for institutional planning and improvement. it is still possible for panels to collect considerable information on outputs and standards. Quite simply.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education universities the strongest rankings. how institutions monitor and make judgements about their performance. both in Australia and overseas.

We favour an arrangement whereby all higher education institutions would be eligible for membership and with all members paying an annual subscription fee that could be based on student load. We favour use of the words ‘quality assurance’ in the title. all universities participated in each of the three rounds. publish reports. Ideally the title of the organisation should be.14 We favour the principle of voluntary participation in any new quality assurance program. and sponsor conferences and seminars.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education Voluntary participation by higher education providers 7. one cost efficient means would be the use of limited funds to commission studies.15 The actual name of the new agency could be important in gaining support from the higher education sector and credibility both in Australia and internationally. as short as possible. but their use could lead to confusion with the British and New Zealand bodies. 90 . Mechanisms to commission studies about standards and good practice 7. since this term has become well understood and has been used recently in both the United Kingdom and New Zealand. As already mentioned. For this reason the words council or board might be more appropriate. Such an approach is likely to be much more acceptable to the sector and likely to achieve a much higher degree of support. despite some threats of withdrawal. It will be recalled that participation in the 1993–1995 quality assurance program was voluntary yet. Name for new agency likely to attract support and credibility 7. this should be made clear in the brief and there should be some understanding at the outset about the means by which such aims could be achieved. At the same time. review procedures would need to be sufficiently flexible to cater for institutions of differing size. but to assist with international education it could be thought useful to include the word ‘Australian’.16 If an new agency is to play an important role in dissemination of good practice and addressing questions about standards. The words ‘authority’ or ‘agency’ seem suitable for a relatively small agency.

while at the national level a relatively small body would set basic principles and oversee the process.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education Legal basis and structure of new agency 7. • Agency set up as a company. • Statutory body established by Commonwealth legislation. Perhaps more important than the legal basis is the system of governance and accountability. the governance structures employed and accountability arrangements. by having an appropriate legal basis.18 Officers in one of the State accrediting agencies suggested a two level structure whereby most of the work in quality assurance would be done by the States and Territories. We are not in a position to advise on the desirability of the proposed agency having a legislative base. The company model has many attractions. while having many attractions. We favour the new agency being managed by a board or council made up a Commonwealth. we favour a single national agency and consider that it is of utmost importance that the Commonwealth should be intimately involved. In our discussions a number of different models were suggested and these can be summarised as follows: • Ministerial Committee set up by the Commonwealth Minister. • Statutory body established by joint Commonwealth and State legislation. 7. On the other hand.19 7.17 One important issue to address that will affect the success of any new quality assurance mechanism is the legal basis of the responsible agency.20 91 . complementary Commonwealth and State/Territory legislation could take time to achieve. State/Territory. In order to establish close links with the accrediting activities of professional associations. Each of these models has some attractions. Possibly a company could be established with similar arrangements and links to MCEETYA as those for the Curriculum Development Centre. A similar problem would be associated with Commonwealth legislation. but certainly one issue that needs consideration is whether. While this model would be likely to facilitate integration of accreditation and quality assurance functions. it could be useful to include a board or council 7. A Commonwealth ministerial committee is relative simple to establish and was used for the 1993–1995 quality assurance. the agency would be more likely to be protected in the case of litigation. and higher education representation and having an independent Chair. but it could carry the impression that it is a DETYA controlled agency.

together with documentation on institutional mission and objectives. We suggest that the new mechanism should be called the Higher Education Quality Assurance Council. and promoting good practice in quality assurance.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education member drawn from one of the major professional associations or from the Australian Council of the Professions. two members representing the States and Territories. Preferred model 7. It will be governed by a board consisting of an independent Chair. In addition. the governing body should have the power to add one or two additional members with special expertise in the areas of academic audits and assessment. at ‘arms length’ from both government (Commonwealth and State) and from the higher education sector. quality assurance and improvement plans. and higher education initiative with the aim of strengthening public accountability. The Executive Director will be an exofficio member and the board will have the power to coopt up to two additional members with special expertise in academic audits and assessment. two representatives of the higher education sector and one representative drawn from those professional associations involved in accreditation within the higher education sector. which will include reviews of the processes of managing quality including monitoring performance and benchmarking. Institutions will provide review teams with a report of their self-assessments. • The central function of the Council will be conduct of program of institutional reviews or audits. protecting academic standards and the reputation of Australian higher education providers and awards. following completion of self-assessments carried out by institutions. details on methods used to monitor and benchmark achievements and the results of monitoring and benchmarking. Participating institutions will be reviewed every five years. State/Territory. • The Council will be established an independent agency.21 Our preferred model for the new quality assurance mechanism and agency is as follows: • A new quality assurance mechanism should be established as a joint Commonwealth. Commonwealth representatives will be appointed 92 . Such representation should be of a person with special expertise and major involvement in accreditation. two Commonwealth nominees. Review teams will carry out site visits.

Members will serve four year terms. monitoring performance and academic standards. while the two State and Territory representatives will be appointed by MCEETYA. – to report publicly from time to time on the effectiveness of quality assurance procedures in participating institutions. both nationally and internationally. the extent to which procedures ensure academic standards and reflect good practice in maintaining and improving quality. and other relevant matters. Training and Youth Affairs. and – success in communicating the results of the monitoring outcomes and academic standards to stakeholders. – effectiveness in monitoring outcomes and in benchmarking. • In carrying out reviews. and monitor performance against institutional plans.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education by the Minister for Education. and enhancing quality. • The terms of reference of the Council will be as follows: – to review within participating higher education institutions the mechanisms for quality assurance. review teams appointed by the Council will focus particularly on: – appropriateness of quality assurance and improvement plans in relation to institutional contexts and missions. 93 . and annual membership fees paid by individual higher education institutions who wish to participate in the program of reviews. – to publish the reports of reviews. – rigour of the mechanisms employed to review courses and academic organisational units. – to undertake and sponsor studies related to effective quality assurance management practices and academic standards in higher education. – to identify and disseminate good practice in quality assurance in higher education. • Funding for the work of the Council will come from annual grants from the Commonwealth and from the States and Territories.

generally of no more than five members. One possible action would be to remove the name of the institution from the AQF list of accredited institutions until such time that as minimum standards are achieved. Institutions offering courses ‘off-shore’ for international students should document in detail the procedures followed for safeguarding and monitoring quality. the draft report will be forwarded to the institution for comment. the higher education sector should be consulted about the proposed terms of reference for the Council. Review panels will normally visit institutions for two consecutive days after the institution has completed a self-assessment and supplied other documentation as required.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education Review teams will report to the Council. will be appointed by the Council. the institution concerned will be given up to 12 months to correct weaknesses prior to a supplementary review. the composition of the Council’s board and the method of conducting reviews. and relevant professional associations. • Following the visit of the review team. • Review panels. • Should a review reveal serious weaknesses. • Each year the Council will draw up a program of reviews for the following year. • Every effort should be made to encourage private universities and non self-accrediting institutions to participate in the review program. Failure to rectify weaknesses would be a matter for DETYA to address (in the case of Commonwealth funded institutions) or for the relevant State or Territory accrediting agency. 94 . Copies will be provided free to DETYA. For each review. the Commonwealth and the States. and the results of any assessments. Members may also be drawn from the professions and professional associations. Members of review teams will be drawn from the higher education sector. after consultation with institutions likely to be reviewed. and from business and industry. a single report will be prepared and published. Once the report is completed it will be considered by the Council and then published. • Prior to arrangements for the Council being finalised. all participating higher education institutions. State and Territory accrediting agencies.

if an institution operates offshore.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education Appendix A Project brief A Modern Australian Model This model. including a consideration of the outcomes of graduate satisfaction surveys (the CEQ) and graduate employment outcomes (the GDS) over time (say. It would have two distinct branches: (a) For institutions which are given power to accredit their own courses The main requirements for these institutions would be: – Rigorous scrutiny of financial and quality aspects before founding legislation is passed or other authorisation is given. the previous five years) and compared with appropriate benchmarks. such as the Council of the Learned Academies. it would need to outline what mechanisms it has in place to assure quality in relation to that provision. The plans would need to outline very clearly the processes in place to assure quality of provision within its ‘catchment area’ —thus. Failure to rectify serious deficiencies would result in the Government removal of the institution from the AQF list of accredited institutions. which builds on the current or recent practice. to be conducted every five years. – The annual publication of Quality Assurance and Improvement Plans for the forthcoming triennium. Should the audit reveal serious areas of weakness. whether physically or virtually. The audit team could be made up of Government officials and/or members of independent bodies. strategies for achieving those goals and the indicators used to monitor progress in achieving those goals. 95 . would form an integral part of these plans. These plans would outline the institution’s goals. the institution would be given 12 months to address such matters. This assessment would be audited on a whole-of-institution basis. An analysis of performance.accreditation and quality assurance. would embrace two related functions . which would include benchmarking of standards. – A detailed self-assessment.

Training and Youth Affairs. • The nature of the five-yearly self-assessment for self-accrediting institutions. 96 . • The desirability of focussing (more than in the past) on outcomes and standards as well as processes. in the environment described in the Background of this brief. • The role of professional associations within the model.the Commonwealth alone or the Ministerial Committee for Education. (b) For non self-accrediting providers Work is currently underway to develop a common approach to regulating the entry of private providers of higher education courses.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education – Compliance with any additional measures which may be necessary to ensure the maintenance of acceptable high standards of degrees. There are two obvious options . The case for the Commonwealth alone assuring itself of provider quality rests on the availability of Commonwealth-funded subsidies. on the other. there may be resistance to building on something which has had a major vocational education and training focus. • Whether it is sensible and appropriate to make use of the AQF. and implications of accreditation by them. The main features of such an approach might be: – Rigorous scrutiny of provider capability before course accreditation. • How to achieve rigour and independence for the process while retaining the cooperation and confidence of the universities. • Whether the framework would need a legislative base or whether it could be set up as an instrument of government policy (as is the case with the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF)). it has high public visibility. On the one hand. Employment. Issues Numerous issues need to be addressed in a consideration of a possible model for Australia. It may be prudent to use the AQF simply as a vehicle for listing accredited higher education institutions—giving such institutions an official imprimatur. These include: • Under whose authority the quality assurance and accreditation system would be run. and – Review of provider performance and accredited courses every five years.

the AVCC. State accrediting bodies. • effectiveness. The role and status of the audit teams need to be addressed. The Task The task is to develop Model 5 as an alternative to models 1–4. • ability to promote and enhance improvement and good practice. • minimum prescription and bureaucracy. • how well the model could exploit the role of professional associations in accrediting courses. professional associations) should be undertaken as appropriate. This involves assessing how well the model would be credible with international and domestic interest groups and potential customers. where universities are established under State/Territory/Commonwealth legislation as autonomous institutions with the power to accredit their own courses. Consultations Consultation with key stakeholders (e. and make a comprehensive assessment of this model against the following criteria: • credibility. • ability to provide legal clarity for students and providers. mindful of the issues listed above. and the ‘marketability’ of the arrangements.g.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education • The nature of the audit of the courses of non self-accrediting providers. 97 . ability to address learning outcome standards as well as quality assurance processes. NOOSR. and where higher education courses developed and delivered by other providers are accredited by State/Territory bodies. and • cost. • how well the model could build on the key features of the Australian higher education system. The extent to which audits would focus on courses rather than providers.

Training and Youth Affairs Mr Tom Calma Counsellor (Education & Training) Australian Education International Australian Embassy Hanoi. Vietnam Mr Giancarlo Savaris Assistant Secretary. NOOSR Department of Education.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education Appendix B List of interviews Canberra Mr Michael Gallagher First Assistant Secretary. Training and Youth Affairs Mr Stuart Hamilton Executive Director Australian Vice-Chancellors’ Committee Mr P Rodley Administrative Officer Australian Vice-Chancellors’ Committee 99 . Higher Education Division Department of Education. Training and Youth Affairs Dr Tom Karmel Assistant Secretary. Higher Education Operations Branch Department of Education. Training and Youth Affairs Ms Rebecca Cross Chief Executive Officer. Australian Education International Department of Education. Training and Youth Affairs Ms Margaret Bell NOOSR Department of Education.

Education and Membership The Institution of Engineers. Higher Education Office of Higher Education NSW Department of Education and Training Mr John Williams Office of Higher Education NSW Department of Education and Training Melbourne Dr Ian Allen Deputy Secretary Victorian Department of Education Mr Tim Smith Assistant Secretary Higher Education Branch Victorian Department of Education Ms Wendy Katz Manager. Australia Ms Minou Lamb Office of Training and Adult Education ACT Department of Education and Training Sydney Ms Lyndsay Connors Director. National Recognition Policy Australian National Training Authority 100 . Australia Professor Peter Parr Consultant The Institution of Engineers. Higher Education Office NSW Department of Education and Training Mr Graham Wood Principal Policy Officer.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education Ms Ann Ryle Associate Director.

Higher Education Office Queensland Department of Education Ms Sian Lew Senior Policy Officer.CONTENTS Repositioning Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Australian Higher Education Dr Judy Forsyth Executive Officer Australian Qualifications Framework Advisory Board Secretariat Dr Grant McBurnie Director. Transnational Quality Assurance Programs Monash University Mr John McPartland Assistant General Manager Monash International Professor Allan Lindsay Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic Monash University Ms Noreen Cruse Acting Director. Industry and Training Framework Team Australian National Training Authority Armidale Professor Brian Stoddart Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and External) University of New England 101 . Higher Education Queensland Department of Education Mr Steve McDonald Director. Quality Assurance Planning and Quality Unit RMIT Associate Professor Craig McInnis Director Centre of the Study of Higher Education University of Melbourne Brisbane Ms Leigh Tabrett Director.

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