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TEQSA bill deferred

Universities Australia  |     7 March 2014

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The TEQSA reform bill has been referred to the Senate education committee.

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Speaking in favour of the referral, opposition higher education spokesman Kim Carr evoked a “back to the bad Regulatory jigsaw 2old days” scenario, although it is not at all evident that the pre-TEQSA era was characterised by systemic quality issues.

Excellence must not be sacrificed in the blind haste to cut red tape. We do not want to return to the days where fly-by-night operators exploit loopholes to create degree factories.

Carr said the bill to reform the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency, and spill its leadership, had been “hastily and secretly drawn up” by the government, and introduced to Parliament last week without consultation.

He also said Labor was troubled by the use of legislation to remove “properly appointed government officials”, and by proposed changes to delegation of decision-making at TEQSA and to the minister’s powers to give directions to the agency.

Education minister Christopher Pyne said the Opposition had executed “a spectacular backflip” because the Bill would put into effect recommendations of the TEQSA review ordered last year by then Labor government.

Universities Australia’s Chief Executive Belinda Robinson, while acknowledging the role of the Senate committee in scrutinising legislation, urged it to complete its work expeditiously.

The changes proposed by Education Minister Christopher Pyne to streamline TEQSA are consistent with the recommendations of an independent review into university regulation by Professors Kwong Lee Dow and Valerie Braithwaite, commissioned by the previous government.While there may be some technical aspect to be considered, the fact that all parts of the higher education sector have expressed broad support for the reforms should provide the Committee with a degree of reassurance on the merits of the amendments.

The committee is to report by 16 June 2014.

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