31 May 2013
With international higher education expert Ellen Hazelkorn having placed the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency at the heavy-handed end of the regulatory spectrum, the government has announced a “red tape review” to reduce the burden of compliance on universities.
Tertiary education minister Craig Emerson and higher education and skills minister Sharon Bird said the review is directed at ensuring more of the government’s funding is directed at student tuition rather than administration.
It is estimated that university regulatory compliance costs are of the order of $280 million a year.
A PhillipsKPA report commissioned by the LH Martin Institute last year noted that:
The dead weight of unnecessary, redundant and duplicative regulation and reporting not only leads to waste in the allocation of university and government resources, it also diverts substantial funds away from the core business of universities – teaching, scholarship and research.
The review will be undertaken by Professor Kwong Lee Dow AO, former Vice Chancellor of the University of Melbourne and Professor Valerie Braithwaite of the Regulatory Institutions Network at the ANU.
The review will also evaluate whether a model of ‘earned autonomy’ is warranted, in which experienced, compliant, high performing universities can earn the right to a minimal level of regulation. For example, such a university might not have to respond in the re-registration process to questions on standing, financial viability and corporate governance; and it might have reduced reporting requirements in respect of the course accreditation standards.
Emerson has also directed the Innovation Department to take immediate action to examine and simplify its own data collection and administrative requirements.
Universities Australia has welcomed the review, with CEO Belinda Robinson saying:
We cannot afford to have the sector bound up in heavy handed, costly and unnecessary red tape where the purpose is unclear, and where it is not immediately apparent that the regulatory principles of risk, proportionality and necessity have been appropriately applied.
Opposition spokesperson Brett Mason described the review as a “cheap stunt” leading up to the election.