The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) was established in 2012 by the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Act 2011 (TEQSA Act). TEQSA’s purpose is to ‘protect student interests and the reputation of Australia’s higher education sector through a proportionate, risk-reflective approach to quality assurance that supports diversity, innovation and excellence’. TEQSA’s core regulatory functions include the registration of higher education providers and the accreditation (approval) of the courses offered by those providers. In 2019–20 TEQSA received $17.5 million of Australian Government funding.
The higher education sector receives over $15 billion of Australian Government funding a year, and the annual contribution of international students to the Australian economy is estimated to be around $35 billion. There has been significant public interest in the integrity of admissions standards, academic misconduct (including contract cheating) and the integration of international students into Australian campuses. These issues have a direct impact on the reputation of the higher education sector and the interests of students, the protection of which is TEQSA’s key regulatory purpose.
The objective of the audit was to assess the effectiveness of TEQSA’s regulation of higher education.
- The effectiveness of TEQSA’s regulation of higher education was mixed.
- TEQSA’s approvals processes were effective but not always timely. Key approvals were undertaken consistent with legislative requirements regarding relevant higher education standards. TEQSA met the statutory timeframes for initial registration and accreditation approvals in all but one instance. TEQSA did not meet its targets for re-registration and re-accreditation approvals for low-risk providers.
- TEQSA’s compliance and enforcement processes were partially effective. It has undertaken a small number of enforcement actions to address non-compliance with statutory requirements. While TEQSA has an appropriate suite of compliance activities, documentation of most of its recent compliance assessments was poor and it has yet to implement a compliance monitoring framework. TEQSA’s public reporting of enforcement actions was appropriate but it does not report on the number of compliance assessments undertaken or their outcomes.