Senate and House of Representatives Pass TEQSA Legislation
Following the introduction of the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Bill 2011 (Bill) and the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2011 (Transitional Bill) into the Commonwealth Parliament (as reported in our news alert of 23 March 2011), the Senate referred the Bill and the Transitional Bill to the Senate Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Legislation Committee (Committee).
The Committee's report was tabled in Parliament on 10 May 2011. In its report, the Committee recommended that the Senate pass the Bill subject to the following recommendations:
- the Bill be amended to explicitly provide that universities have the authority to self-accredit courses of study, except where the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) limits or removes that authority consistent with the basic principles of regulation stated in Part 2 of the Bill (Recommendation 1);
- the intergovernmental agreement to be negotiated between the federal, state and territory governments include protocols for communication between TEQSA, state and territory governments to ensure that the process of registering new universities by TEQSA proceeds in parallel with the process of establishing universities through state and territory legislation (Recommendation 2);
- the higher education sector be consulted on the development of the Standards Framework prior to the setting of the Standards by the Minister (Recommendation 3);
- the definition of 'Threshold Standards' in section 5 be amended so that it does not include subclause (c) (which refers to any other standards made under paragraph 58(1)(e), being 'other standards against which higher education providers can be assessed';) (Recommendation 4);
- clause 167(2)(b) of the Bill (which sets out matters which the Minister must have regard to when appointing Higher Education Standards Panel members) be amended to include reference to the interests of staff working in the higher education sector (Recommendation 5);
- the Bill be amended to provide for a nine month maximum period for TEQSA to accredit a course under sub-clause 49(2) and a further nine months under sub-clause 49(3) (Recommendation 6); and
- the National VET Regulator work closely with TEQSA, once established, to harmonise and streamline the regulatory approach for multi-sector providers in advance of any future decision to combine TEQSA and the National VET Regulator in a single regulatory agency (Recommendation 7).
On 16 June 2011, the Senate passed the Bill and the Transitional Bill with amendments which give effect to Recommendation 1, Recommendation 4, Recommendation 5 and Recommendation 6. On 22 June 2011, the House of Representatives passed each of the Transitional Bill and the Bill. The bills now await assent.