UA is the peak body representing Australia’s 39 comprehensive universities. Our member universities span the length and breadth of Australia. Together, they educate around one and a half million students each year, undertake significant research and development activities, and engage globally to grow Australia and the world’s knowledge base while supporting our nation’s economic and social well-being.
UA supports the abolishment of the 50 per cent pass rule and commends the policy objective of ensuring students are supported to successfully study in higher education. UA also acknowledges the need for oversight and accountability measures to ensure that student progress is appropriately monitored and supported where necessary.
However, UA would like to highlight several issues with what is proposed in the consultation paper. The consultation paper proposals are merely additional compliance measures or requirements in reporting that would duplicate existing regulatory measures under the Higher Education Standards Framework 2021 (Threshold Standards). This duplication in reporting and the necessity to rework existing student support policies to fit the suggested compliance measures of the guidelines will create undue administrative burden, rerouting university staff and resources away from the important work of supporting students.
Additionally, there is concern around lack of clarity and feasibility of some specific suggestions in the guidelines (i.e., clarity around ‘proactively’ identifying and responding to students at risk for disengagement or reporting on ‘identified’ students). UA suggests a detailed review of the language used and further clarification of key terms.
Moreover, UA is concerned that the evidence component outlined in the consultation paper will not achieve the policy intent of supporting students, and instead focuses on creating additional compliance and reporting measures. The guidelines focus exclusively on reporting policies and penalties for compliance rather than measures to strengthen and improve existing policy structures or services. UA questions the risk-proportionality of the proposed regulatory measures. There is concern that having increased regulations risks draining resources from student support services or risks discouraging students from engaging when they have additional support needs. We remain concerned that the measures are in conflict with the policy objective of improving or ensuring levels of support for students to complete their studies.
Our submission responds to the nine discussion questions from the consultation paper and provides a series of recommendations to government to ensure the proposed amendments meet their policy intent.
UA notes that the consultation paper seeks feedback particularly on other detail that should be included in the guidelines and practical issues with implementation. Given this, UA makes the following recommendations. The guidelines should:
- avoid redundancies and inefficiencies imposed by duplicate reporting to both TEQSA and the Department of Education by restricting reporting and regulatory monitoring to TEQSA.
- ensure greater integration and coordination between the legislation, associated guidelines, regulatory standards, and agency operations to improve existing policy settings.
- avoid burdensome reporting or compliance measures in favour of finding ways to work directly with institutions to improve existing structures.
- recognise that the student data being requested in the guidelines is of a sensitive nature and consider the implications of that.
- better reflect the student’s agency in their study and role in accessing supports that the provider makes available and accessible.
- align with any updates to the Threshold Standards coming from the current review and the 2022 Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) review where appropriate.
- have an appropriate timeline for full compliance that allows for a 12-month grace period for providers to adapt their existing policies for the new requirements before fines come into play.
- provide clear definitions for terminology to delineate between compliance and non- compliance.