He took over when times were tough – he leaves the agency in way better shape to face big challenges
Where it was: Mr McClaran tells CMM TEQSA’s transformation was a team-effort.
But change certainly started when he took charge of the agency, which was then regarded poorly by the institutions it regulated and largely unknown by the students it exists to protect.
This was a big issue, not just for Australian higher education but for regulators of similar systems around the world which were watching and wondering what would happen.
“TEQSA was the first agency to embed a risk-based approach to regulation.
“Self-evidently the agency had ground to make up and faced a significant task to rebuild confidence in it,” he says.
And while the elegantly understated McClaran would never say it, the task was made much tougher than it needed to be by the government reducing its resources, following the agency’s early over-reach.
At one stage TEQSA was done to 48 staff, barely half of what it has rebuilt to – Mr McClaran thanks former education minister Simon Birmingham for recognising it needed more resources.
Where it is: This helped the agency speed-up provider assessment, also made easier by reducing the indicators the agency assesses, originally 46 – now 11.
“TEQSA is now much strongly engaged with providers and students,” McClaran says, pointing to the success of its conference in November, attended by 1000 HE people, and its student advisory group, with delegates from nine peak bodies.
What’s next: Which sets up the agency for new challenges.
The government’s adoption of Peter Coaldrake’s new provider categories, the Noonan review of the Australian Qualification Framework and the introduction of performance based federal funding all mean “big structural developments,” for HE providers. “In principle” McClaran says he favours more self-accreditation of course.
And he reiterates the three major regulatory challenges that engage the agency, academic integrity, international admissions and sexual assault.
Mr McClaran repeats his assurance that while TEQSA is in the business of preparing cases for prosecution, it is the contract cheating providers, not parents it will pursue. The agency will also provide intelligence to HE institutions and work with agencies in other countries.
The agency will also continue to assess providers on protecting students against sexual assault on campus. “Our role relates to standards regarding student wellbeing,” he says.
And while he sees no crisis in English-language standards of international students, TEQSA will look at institutions making exemptions and accepting applicants’ previous qualifications.
Any advice?: With recruitment underway Mr McClaran, has three suggestions for his successor.
* “keep close to students”
* partner with providers without being captured
* work with TEQSA staff to improve processes