University colleges to live in Australia
The Australian government rejected a recommendation that it dropped “university colleges” from the lexicon of higher education providers, instead reserving the term for top independent colleges.
Education Minister Dan Tehan has accepted the 10 recommendations from the review of Australia’s standards for higher education provider categories, including the proposal to create a new category for high-performing non-university providers.
But Mr Tehan declined a suggestion from the review panel, led by former Queensland University of Technology vice-chancellor Peter Coaldrake, that the new category be called “national institutes of higher education”.
“In response to stakeholder feedback, the new category will be called ‘university colleges‘ to reflect international standards,” Tehan said.
“These changes will support the innovation, aspiration and quality the sector needs to continue producing high quality graduates and world-class research.”
Representative body Independent Higher Education Australia said it was “delighted” with the decision. “‘University college‘ is an internationally recognized term,” said chief executive Simon Finn.
“It offers differentiation between a higher education provider and an Australian university, but still retains significant status, requiring a commitment to quality assurance and review cycles. This is a very good result for the sector.
The decision continues the roller coaster that the university college title has been on in recent months. Many submissions to the review said the category was superfluous and should be removed.
Others insisted it was an important route to full university status and said university college enrollment requirements should instead be relaxed.
At a conference in Brisbane in August, Professor Coaldrake said he would recommend the category be abolished on the grounds that no provider had successfully achieved university college status since the category was created in 2011 .
On the same day, Australia’s higher education regulator approved church-owned Avondale College’s application to become the country’s first approved university college under the current regulatory regime.
Professor Coaldrake’s report recommended a streamlining of provider categories, with the current five types of universities reduced to two. He said the catch-all category for independent colleges, “higher education provider,” should be split in two to provide a separate classification recognizing superior performance.
The report also states that research must remain a defining characteristic of Australian universities. He said universities should be required to meet benchmarks of research quality and quantity, and that the quality benchmark should be “increased over time”.
It could force private institutions with a reputation for teaching, such as Bond University in Queensland and the multi-state University of Notre Dame in Australia, to expand their research efforts or risk losing the academic title.
Mr Tehan said he had asked the Higher Education Standards Expert Group “to provide guidance on the required changes to Provider Category standards to implement these recommendations, including new search criteria for universities”.
“We will continue to consult closely with industry and regulators to ensure a smooth transition to the new standards,” he said.