Tertiary institutions across Australia feel increasingly pressured in how they go about their learning and teaching business by an enthusiastic overlay of structures, legislation and policies, variously policed by regulatory, compliance and accreditation agencies.

The penalties for not adhering to expectations and accountabilities are fairly serious, which has created a vicious cycle of busy work over the past five to ten years, understandably so given our institutions’ very livelihoods may be called into question.

We should embrace good governance. As publicly funded institutions we should be accountable for our promise to provide high quality and diverse pathways to outstanding tertiary education.

However, organisationally many of our institutions have lost their way and focus on actualising or aspiring to what an ‘outstanding education’ is and how that differs from reporting compliance with the lower hanging fruit of threshold standards. Put another way, the discourses of the modern university now reflect our justification for being, more through our appetite for compliance than for our capability and capacity for intellectual endeavour, creativity, innovation, discovery and inspiring the minds and hearts of future generations.

Between the compliance rock and quality hard place sit many teaching and support staff, who are enthusiastic about sharing and creating knowledge, skills and experiences with students, communities and industry partners. They are frequently squeezed between the crevices of clunky systems, multiple requests for the same information from different bodies and increased levels of bureaucracy that distract them from their core purpose while their organisations continually morph into whatever it is that everyone expects them to be.

It is time for our institutions to get back to basics and stop trying be all things to all people and all agencies.


Associate Professor Debra Bateman

Learning and Teaching Advocate

RMIT University

[email protected]


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