Australian Catholic University vice-chancellor Professor Greg Craven has told a conference that the anxiety in the sector over the new sector regulatory body is understandable, but somewhat exaggerated. An example, said Craven, were the concerned whispers he had heard about several universities receiving letters from TEQSA. “Let me break the awful news to you: you are all going to sooner or later receive a letter from TEQSA, and we will probably get to the point where every single one of us has at least one missive from TEQSA on one subject at any given point in time,” he said.
It really depends on what the letters are about. Stephen Matchett recently blogged Sic semper tyrannis TEQSA:
The announcement that the agency will keep an eye on the hon docs universities award is not a good start for an organisation suspected of ambitions to less regulate than rule higher education.
He’s got a point. Honorary conferrals aren’t actually qualifications – they’re honorary titles – so what is TEQSA’s role in regulating them? Zip, we would have thought. While Curtin University’s decision to award Rosmah Mansor, the Malaysian prime minister’s wife an hon doctorate has proved a wildly unpopular decision with many of the university’s students, isn’t it really for the university community to sort it out?
TEQSA also took it upon itself to write to the University of Queensland about the “enrolment irregularity” that cost the then vice-chancellor and his deputy their jobs. While this has a little more relevance, being related to governance issues, it was arguably gratuitous to the extent that not only had the university investigated and acted on the matter (the apparently attempted hush up was unfortunate), the matter has been referred to the Queensland Crime and Misconduct Commission.
Until 2009, university governance was subject to mandated national protocols, the prescriptive nature of which was resented by universities. There is now a Voluntary Code of Best Practice for the Governance of Australian Universities, developed by the universities themselves and endorsed by the Ministerial Council for Tertiary Education and Employment in July 2011.
In a speech last year, ANU Chancellor Gareth Evans observed that getting to the nub of good governance isn’t necessarily a complicated matter:
The bottom line in all of this seems to me that in governance/management relations nothing is more important than the exercise of plain common sense on both sides.
Governance, leadership and management in universities
Keynote address by Professor the Hon Gareth Evans AO QC, Chancellor, The Australian National University, to 6th Annual University Governance and Regulations Forum, Melbourne, 10 August 2011
It was said of Professor Evans that when he departed The University of Melbourne Law School to take up his Senate seat, his students presented him with a farewell gift of two suitcases – one for his clothes and one for his ego. Might be apochryphal.