Teaching is sorely undervalued in Australian universities. There is a cry from the higher education sector to reinstate a national body focused on advancing teaching and learning, as stressed by a recent article in The Conversation by Patfield et al. Similarly, Johnson et al. proposed the establishment of a National Centre for Student Success to enhance educational quality and practices. The Australian Universities Accord is a timely opportunity to seriously consider these proposals and prioritise teaching’s elevation in the tertiary sector.

Both models advocate for investment in teaching and learning research and innovation as a core function of universities. In addition, we strongly argue that the national recognition and reward of teaching excellence is integrated into these models. The Australian Awards for University Teaching (AAUT) is a great example of a successful national awards program that has run for over two decades. However, the government discontinued financial support for the awards in 2022 raising quality concerns.

Evidence shows that nationally recognising and rewarding teaching excellence can:

* validate and recognise teaching staff—who often receive less recognition and support compared to their research-focused colleagues;

* make innovation more visible by providing a platform for sharing best practices and ideas among teachers and disseminating these initiatives via the open access Learning & Teaching Repository by Universities Australia. This also raises the benchmark for teaching excellence, leading to better learning outcomes for all students;

* advance careers and provide opportunities for educational leadership by showcasing innovative teaching practices, attracting more funding and introducing new avenues for collaboration and research, especially through industry partnerships;

* promote diversity and inclusion in higher education – for example, recognising outstanding Indigenous educators and creating more inclusive learning experiences for all students; and

* elevate higher education teaching as a profession on the national stage, following similar practices established in New Zealand, Canada and the UK.

In this Universities Accord year, we urge the Federal Government to embed a four-pillar model to value teaching, which includes the recognition and reward of teaching excellence, alongside developing teaching capability and leadership, funding scholarship of teaching and learning innovations, and supporting student success. The model could be developed in consultation with the Higher Education Standards Panel (HESP), with governance and regulation provided by the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency (TEQSA). Investing in this model would enhance the quality, sustainability and long-term prosperity of teaching and learning in Australian universities.

Professor Angela Carbone, Associate Deputy Vice Chancellor Learning, Teaching and Quality, STEM College, RMIT University, Director Australian Awards University Teaching 2018-2022 a[email protected]

Miss Luana Spadafora,Manager, Australian Awards for University Teaching [email protected]


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