Dean Forbes


Professor Dean Forbes

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (International) and Vice-President

Flinders University

Association of International Education Administrators Annual Conference

Washington DC, 14-17 February 2010

Powerpoint Notes

AUQA, the Australian Universities Quality Agency, is a company established in 2000.  It is owned by the national, state and territory ministers responsible for higher education. The first institutional audits conducted by AUQA commenced in 2002

AUQA audits focus on fitness for purpose, with universities assessed against their own objectives. 

Audits occur in five year cycles, with each university being audited once in each cycle:

•    Cycle I (2002-2007) focused on each university as a whole

•    Cycle II audits (2008- ) are focusing on two themes, one of which is internationalisation

The findings in the Cycle I audit reports (Stella and Liston 2008) included:

•    ‘Internationalisation is becoming a strategic priority for Australian universities’ (p 16)

•    Many reports had commendations for services to international students

•    Areas needing improvement frequently included the management of off-campus programs (TNE)

It has been argued that AUQA is not a de jure regulatory authority, but it is a de facto regulatory authority (Blackmur 2007).  This is a contested interpretation, I might add.

•    It can recommend sanctions to government; and/or

•    It can exert significant public pressure on universities

The impact on universities of Cycle I audits was consistent with the second point above.  It was mostly positive.  Universities generally prepared for audits by putting considerable effort into QA arrangements and addressing deficiencies revealed in trial audits.

Criticisms of Cycle I audits included:

•    Concerns about the fitness for purpose model

•    The use of a peer review process

•    The absence of independent standards by which to judge university performance

Following the Bradley Review of Australian Higher Education, which reported in December 2008, Australia’s QA framework is in the process of being revamped.

TEQSA, the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Authority, will be established in the second half of 2010, and will takeover from AUQA and be operational in 2011.

The QA model to be used by TEQSA has not been finalized, but it is likely it:

•    Will start with universities and regulate vocational education institutions from 2013

•    Will build upon processes of self regulation

•    Will be proportionate and risk-based

•    Will have oversight of academic standards, and

•    Will have responsibility for accreditation

There is much discussion about the key issues associated with the emerging QA framework. Two states (Victoria and Western Australia) have rejected the model of regulation for vocational education. Private higher education providers are concerned that TEQSA will be tougher on them than public universities. Eg with regard to closing down an institution

Watch this space...