Coaldrake review of category standards: core business continues

Both research and teaching remain the defining characteristics of a university in the Coaldrake Review of HE category standards but the title is not exclusive to existing institutions

Facing the future: Peter Coaldrake calls for a “simplification and rebalancing” of the existing provider categories, to prepare for future diversified delivery of HE. “While universities will continue to predominate higher education enrolments, much of the jobs and skills growth over the coming years will occur in areas spanning university, broader higher and professional education, and the vocational sector,” he writes.

Recommendations include:

* simplifying provider categories “The current five university categories should be reduced to two categories and the current single category for other education providers (that are not universities) should be increased to two categories. The proposed categories are, Institute of Higher Education, National Institute of Higher Education, Australian University, Overseas University in Australia

* allowing for National Institutes of Higher Education, “recognised for meeting additional criteria to those required of other higher education providers outside the universities and will have a significant measure of self-accrediting authority status.” “There is a strong case for the title ‘National Institute of Higher Education’ to be a legally protected term.”

* setting standards so providers can “grow course and research offerings” and “transition” to another category

* including, “a threshold benchmark of quality and quantity of research” in the HE Provider Category Standards. The benchmark for quality, “should be augmented over time”

*  introducing and/or bolstering industry and community engagement and civic leadership in the category standards for universities and the proposed National Institute of HE class

* changing legislation to permit “greenfield universities,” “to support innovation, population growth, and demand for higher education in the future”

* expanding research requirements for universities. In 2030, existing universities should undertake “world standard research” in at least 50 per cent of fields of education they teach (up from 30 per cent). Any new university should start at 30 per cent and scale up to 50 per cent.

What’s not on: The review rejects universities that either exclusively teach or research. “Almost all stakeholders are amenable to teaching-only providers existing in the higher education sector, as they currently do, but question such providers having access to the university title.”

As to research-only universities; “there is very limited support for this concept; most argue that research institutes that only offer doctoral degrees would not be able to provide a sufficiently supportive teaching environment that would extend outside of specific fields of research. Nor would this type of institute, that does not teach undergraduate students, satisfy community expectations of an Australian university.”

But what is: The review is amenable to institutions with ambitions.

“To prepare for the possibility of growth, support differentiation, innovation, and excellence, and to enable the higher education sector in Australia to maintain its strong reputation, TEQSA should develop a framework to guide providers who wish to change provider category. Such providers could include those seeking to enter the higher education sector, providers who wish to attain self-accrediting status and apply for registration in the proposed ‘National Institute of Higher Education’ category, or, indeed, for those providers seeking ‘Australian University’ status.”

Last month regulator TEQSA demonstrated how this could be done – announcing Avondale College could become a university in five years-time, having “realistic and achievable plans to meet all the criteria for an ‘Australian university’” (CMM September 2).

 Reaction: Universities Australia must have sped-read the review, responding within 15 minutes of yesterday’s release. “Universities Australia has welcomed recommendations to reaffirm research as a defining feature of universities,” CEO Catriona Jackson said. UA is also pleased, “to see such clear recognition of research as a key characteristic of universities.”

As to increasing research out-put, ““We will work with government on an implementation plan to ensure universities have time to meet any new requirements.”


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