Setting standards on what makes a uni

The government’s legislation establishing new higher education provider category standards is in the Senate – where there are questions

The new standards are based on the Coaldrake review of provider categories, as extended by the government. Where Peter Coaldrake proposed a category called “national institutes,” Education Minister Dan Tehan decided private providers who meet standards could become university colleges, (CMM December 11 2019).

The bill was sent to a Senate committee a fortnight back (CMM October 12) and submissions are starting to arrive. But the Senate’s scrutiny of bills committee has questions of its own.

It wants to know why “significant matters” like the standards framework and assessment of providersquality of research are in the delegated rather than primary legislation. “The explanatory memorandum contains no justification regarding why it is necessary to allow such significant matters to be set out in delegated legislation,” the committee comments.

The committee asked for a response by Friday, which the government did not deliver.

Organisations in the HE community are using the inquiry to have another go at stopping bits in the bill they don’t like

Notably allowing private providers of sufficient standing to call themselves university colleges.

The Innovative Research Universities accepts the bill should pass but warns the text does not directly address Minister Tehan’s “unfortunate decision” to rename Coaldrake’s “national institute” category “university college.” “immediately recreating the potential for confusion between a university and other providers. “

And the National Tertiary Education Union warns that HE providers wanting to call themselves “university colleges” is the very reason they should not be allowed to.

“The term university should be used to denote that a higher education provider has met certain threshold standards, and not as a way of attracting potential students.”

The union suggests replacing “university college” with “higher education college” or “institute of higher education”.

Australian Catholic University proposes a simpler way of distinguishing between universities and not-quites. U-colleges, “may use the word ‘university’ in their institutional branding only when their full category name ‘university college’ is used … the words ‘university’ and ‘college’ be given equal prominence in such institutional branding.”