IHEA Looks Forward to Release of Australian Universities Accord Interim Report

Independent Higher Education Australia (IHEA) looks forward to the release this Wednesday of the Australian Universities Accord Interim Report.

Late this afternoon, Professor Mary O’Kane AC, Chair of the Australian Universities Accord Panel, presented the Australian Universities Accord Interim Report to Hon Jason Clare MP, Minister for Education.

Minister Clare will address the National Press Club of Australia this Wednesday and release the Interim Report

The Australian Universities Accord higher education review is a collaboration between the Australian Government, peak bodies, education providers, experts, and other representatives to build a long-term plan for Australia’s higher education sector.

The Accord is the first broad review of the sector since the 2008 Review of Higher Education (the Bradley Review). The Accord Panel will make recommendations to both the Australian Government and the sector to improve the quality, accessibility, affordability, and sustainability of higher education to meet the current and future needs of the nation.

The Interim Report is anticipated to deliver priority actions to the Minister for Education, with a final report to be delivered by December 2023.

IHEA has been involved in the Accord process throughout, representing our members and the independent higher education sector. This followed our earlier recommendation in 2022 for such a review to develop a national strategy for higher education structural reform to drive efficiencies, address economic demands, and realise the enormous scientific, societal, and commercial potential of the sector.

IHEA CEO Dr Peter Hendy has been, and will continue to be, an active member of the Universities Accord Ministerial Reference Group – a sounding board and a source of advice to the team developing the Accord.

IHEA has also provided two submissions to the Accord process. Firstly, on consultation on the Accord terms of reference in which we outlined key priority areas. Secondly, in response to the Accord Panel Discussion Paper, where we outlined 22 recommendations.

“In the Accord review, IHEA seeks a combination of immediate and longer-term changes to higher education policy settings to address current needs and educate the workforce of the future,” said IHEA CEO, Dr Peter Hendy.

"There are several sensible and equitable reforms available which can have immediate benefit to the Australian community and economy, whilst also energise the sector to deliver for future generations.”

“Australia’s diverse independent higher education sector is central to the success of Australian tertiary education. Independent higher education institutions deliver quality education and a student experience that leads the nation in student quality rankings. Higher education reform should incorporate and harness the enormous capability of Australian independent higher education.”

IHEA Submission on Australian Universities Accord Panel Discussion Paper Consultation - April 2023

As noted above, in April this year IHEA provided a submission in response to the Australian Universities Accord Panel Discussion Paper to help inform the Panel’s report to the Minister for Education.

The Australian Universities Accord Panel Discussion Paper outlined the challenges and opportunities facing the Australian higher education sector, structured around a series of prompt questions intended to stimulate discussion about how Government, the sector and other relevant stakeholders can work together to deliver a higher education system that meets the current and future needs of the nation.

Summary of IHEA recommendations:

  1. IHEA recommends a National Tertiary Sector Reform Strategy, which results in a streamlined national
    tertiary system. While sector, industry, and community consultation will be essential to implementation,
    IHEA proposes that structural reform principles be agreed across jurisdictions and portfolios through
    National Cabinet and Ministerial Committees.
  2. Introduce a student centred funding model to heighten equity outcomes. Amend the Higher Education
    Support Act (HESA) and supporting legislation to extend CSPs eligibility to all registered HE providers
    delivering in all relevant courses in national priority fields.
  3. Stop FEE-HELP loan inequity and develop a universal, income contingent loan scheme with equitable
    settings for all tertiary students. Alternatively, abolish the FEE-HELP loan administration payment paid by
    independent sector students.
  4. Introduce Teaching Excellence Frameworks, with corresponding funding grants, for all registered HE
    providers that meet determined quality criteria.
  5. Extend National Priorities and Industry Linkage Fund (NPILF) to all registered providers delivering in
    national priority areas, starting with providers who were approved for Commonwealth Supported
    Places (CSPs) under the undergraduate course program. Alternatively, the Government could provide
    incentives for Work Integrated Learning (WIL) placement. For instance, an incremental payments
    system for Independent HE providers, relating to the proportion of students successfully completing a
    WIL placement.
  6. Encourage regulatory settings that appropriately support the many ways in which WIL is designed and
    integrated into HE courses across the HE sector guided by the development of a national WIL
  7. Encourage State and Federal governments to develop and maintain work programs that can support
    student skills enhancement within Industry contexts. JobConnect for international students in New
    South Wales is an example of such a successful program model.
  8. Introduce a new AQF level for secondary school (year 12 completion) to strengthen links between
    Secondary Education and the HE and broader tertiary sector - to be determined by the AQF authority.
  9. Make further clarifications to Australian Qualification Framework policies to ensure consistent application
    of advanced standing between VET and HE courses to ensure seamless student mobility and promote a
    dynamic Australian tertiary system.
  10. Extend, targeted research grants under the Australian Research Council (ARC) to all registered providers,
    with eligibility criteria for funding based on quality and capability rather than provider type.
  11. Extend HDR student stipends to the Independent HE sector so eligible students can gain Government
    funded support.
  12. Extend access to Government funding blocks under HESA, including equity funding to be extended to all
    registered providers and eligibility for funding based on quality and capability criteria.
  13. Increase the pool of research funding available for allocation to eligible institutions.
  14. Urgent review of TEQSA Cost Recovery model to develop a fairer model.
  15. Introduce a single tertiary system and regulator for the HE and VET sectors that aligns processes where
    possible and maintains TEQSA's case management approach.
  16. TEQSA and ASQA to develop Service Obligation Charters that set out service standards, including time
    commitments for each regulator’s responsiveness in relation to service to which cost recovery fees are
    monitored and that these be routinely reported to ensure appropriate accountability.
  17. Commonwealth Ombudsman to Consider Domestic Student Disputes.
  18. Reform Copyright Legislation to Reduce Levies on Education.
  19. Establish a National Ministerial Council for International Education comprising relevant Ministers across
    jurisdictions and portfolios to drive a cohesive and effective international education industry strategy.
  20. International agent registration.
  21. Abolition of fees for student visas.
  22. Greater pathways to permanent residency for graduates in priority disciplines.

IHEA's recommendations should be read in conjunction with key priorities as outlined in our additional submission on the Accord terms of reference.

IHEA Submission on Australian Universities Accord Terms of Reference - December 2022

In December last year, IHEA also provided a submission on the Australian Universities Accord terms of reference.

IHEA's submission covered three broad themes:

  1. Student equity and choice - Students should not be disadvantaged when choosing an independent
    provider as the highest quality provider appropriate to their educational needs.
  2. Competitive neutrality including equitable market access and competitive access to government funding
  3. Ensuring a cohesive and connected, quality and sustainable tertiary education system as a means of:
    • - Sustaining Australia's world-class reputation as a destination of choice for higher learning;
    • - Creating a pipeline of skilled workers to fill critical workplace shortages amongst present-day
      challenges affecting Australia's productivity performance; and
    • - Promoting economic activity.

The Accord process is a great opportunity to ensure higher education policy, delivery and funding settings are appropriate to support student access, choice, and outcomes. Our hope is that the Accord will deliver a more equitable higher education system that encourages diversity and innovation for the sake of Australian students.

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