Pledge to exempt Oz elite from new standards body

June 17, 2010

The Australian opposition is proposing to exempt the country's elite Group of Eight (Go8) universities from the country's new quality and standards agency for the higher education sector.

The Coalition, which aims to topple the ruling Labor Party in this year's federal elections, is concerned that the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) will mean more red tape.

Christopher Pyne, the Coalition's education spokesman, said it was an "unnecessary imposition" on institutions already ranked among the top 100 in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.

The Go8 members are the only Australian universities currently represented in the global top 100.

Mr Pyne told The Australian newspaper: "There are 38 universities in Australia and some are better than others. But if you are in the top 100 in the world, to be expected to be subject to faceless Canberra bureaucrats for your standards and qualifications is, quite frankly, offensive."

The Coalition, a group of centre-right parties including the Liberal Party and the National Party, would also delay the introduction of TEQSA by a year until after 2012.

"It is the only way we can be confident that it is not producing just another layer of red tape," Mr Pyne said.

The Labor government, led by Kevin Rudd, announced last year that it would invest A$57 million (£32.5 million) over four years to establish a new national quality and standards agency for the academy. The plan followed the findings of the Bradley Review of Australian higher education, which proposed the development of such a framework.

The government said at the time that TEQSA would "balance the move towards a more demand-driven funding model and expansion of higher education".

It would provide "rigorous audits" of universities, the government said, meaning that "both domestic and international students will benefit from improved information about the performance of higher education providers to help them make informed decisions about what and where they will study".

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