Australia anoints latest university college

In a busy decade following two decades of inaction, the ranks of institutions bearing the ‘university’ title has expanded at almost one a year

July 10, 2023
Christ pantoctator lifting his hand with a copper bracelet, in a blessing gesture, Övraby, Sweden, November 6, 2009
Source: iStock

Australia’s higher education regulator has anointed the country’s sixth university-in-waiting, in the latest demonstration of the pulling power of small religiously based colleges.

The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (Teqsa) has registered the 40-year-old Sydney College of Divinity as a “university college”, distinguishing it from most of the country’s 160-odd independent higher education providers and offering it a stepping stone to full university status.

It is the sixth institution to secure the university college title since a 2021 reorganisation of provider categories, which followed a review by former Queensland University of Technology vice-chancellor Peter Coaldrake.

Teqsa said it had revisited its 2021 decision to reject the college’s application for university college status after receiving new evidence. “The university college category supports more opportunities for providers to develop course offerings that better meet the future needs of students, employers, industry and communities,” said Professor Coaldrake, who is now Teqsa chief commissioner.

Three of the other university colleges are also religious institutions based in Sydney. Moore Theological College was among the first tranche of university colleges named two years ago, with Alphacrucis College and the Australian College of Theology following suit in 2022.

Another church-owned institution – Avondale College, on the New South Wales central coast – was elevated to the then largely defunct university college classification in 2019, before the changes to the provider categories. It has since earned full university status.

The additions represent rapid change in Australia’s normally static higher education landscape. Nine institutions have secured variations on the “university” title in a little over a decade, following almost two decades when no new universities were created.

Representative group Independent Higher Education Australia said the elevations were a “testament” to the quality of education on offer outside the large public universities.

Chief executive Peter Hendy said the latest Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching survey results, released in late June, had highlighted the calibre of learner engagement, skill development, industry connections and graduate employability at independent providers.

Avondale, Alphacrucis, Moore, the Australian College of Theology and Sydney College of Divinity all featured among the three private universities and 23 non-university colleges rated more highly than all 36 public universities in the 2022 Student Experience Survey, which is based on input from almost 234,000 higher education students.

“For years now, our member institutions have consistently outperformed many larger, publicly funded universities across key criterion,” Dr Hendy said.

Register to continue

Why register?

  • Registration is free and only takes a moment
  • Once registered, you can read 3 articles a month
  • Sign up for our newsletter
Please Login or Register to read this article.

Related articles