Explanatory MemorandumCirculated By Authority of the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations
Schedule 3 - Other amendments
Schedule 3 of the Bill will require Table A and Table B higher education providers to enter into a mission based compact with the Commonwealth in relation to each year for which a grant is to be paid to the provider under HESA.
It will amend HESA to promote free intellectual inquiry. It will do this in two ways. The first is by amending the objects of HESA to make it clear that the objects include promoting and protecting free intellectual inquiry in higher education learning, teaching and research. The second is to insert a new condition of funding into HESA providing that Table A and Table B higher education providers must have a policy that upholds free intellectual inquiry in relation to learning, teaching and research.
It will also make a number of minor amendments of a technical nature.
In the 2009-10 Budget, the Australian Government announced a comprehensive reform package for the higher education sector. These reforms included the establishment of a new relationship between the Australian Government and Table A and Table B higher education providers through mission based compacts to provide a framework for jointly achieving reform objectives.
The mission based compacts provide a strategic framework for the relationship between the Commonwealth and relevant Table A or Table B providers and set out how their missions align with the Commonwealth's goals for higher education, research, research training and innovation.
Under HESA, Table A and Table B providers are eligible for certain Commonwealth grants. Section 41-25 of HESA provides that such grants are made on conditions, including that the body receiving the grant must meet the quality and accountability requirements which are set out in Division 19 of HESA.
Free intellectual inquiry is an important principle underpinning the provision of higher education in Australia and one that the Australian Government has committed to enshrining in HESA. The amendments to be made by Schedule 3 will give effect to that commitment.
Part 1- Amendments
Higher Education Support Act 2003
Item 1 - At the end of paragraph 2-1(a)
Item 1 amends the objects at paragraph 2-1(a) of HESA to add in an extra object as subparagraph 2-1(a)(iv). This new object of HESA is to promote and protect free intellectual inquiry in learning, teaching and research.
Item 2 - At the end of subsection 19-1(1)
Section 19-1 of HESA sets out the components of the quality and accountability requirements of HESA - which are comprised of the following:
- the financial viability requirements (Subdivision 19-B)
- the quality requirements (Subdivision 19-C)
- the fairness requirements (Subdivision 19-D)
- the compliance requirements (Subdivision 19-E)
- the contribution and fee requirements (Subdivision 19-F).
Item 2 adds in a further component of the quality and accountability requirements - the compact and academic freedom requirements ( which are at new Subdivision 19-G).
Item 3 - At the end of Division 19
Item 3 inserts a new Subdivision 19-G (The compact and academic freedom requirements) into HESA comprised of new sections 19-110 and 19-115.
New subsection 19-110(1) provides that all Table A and Table B higher education providers must, in relation to each year for which they receives grants from the Commonwealth under HESA, enter into a mission based compact with the Commonwealth for that year.
New subsection 19-110(2) provides that the Minister may enter into a mission based compact with a Table A or B provider on behalf of the Commonwealth.
New subsection 19-110(3) provides that mission based compacts must include statements of the provider's mission, its strategies for teaching and learning and its strategies for undertaking research, research training and innovation. A note makes it clear that mission based compacts may also include other matters - any such additional matters would depend upon the outcome of discussions between the Commonwealth and the provider concerned.
New subsection 19-110(4) provides that the Secretary must cause a copy of each compact entered into to be posted on the Department's website within 28 days of the making of the compact.
New subsection 19-115 provides that Table A and Table B higher education providers must have a policy that upholds free intellectual inquiry in relation to learning, teaching and research.
By being included as quality and accountability requirements, compliance with these requirements will be a condition of funding under Part 2-2 (see section 36-60); Part 2-3 (see subparagraph 41-25(b)(ii)); and Part 2-4 (see section 46-25).
Items 4 and 5 - Subsection 30-25(4) and after section 30-27
Subsection 30-25(4) of HESA requires the Minister to table funding agreements in both Houses of Parliament within 15 sitting days after the agreements have been entered into . Item 4 repeals subsection 30-25(4).
This is a consequential amendment to Item 5 which inserts a new section 30-28 into HESA that requires the Secretary to publish on the Department's website each funding agreement entered into within 15 days of the making of the agreement (this should make copies of the funding agreements accessible to the public in shorter timeframes).
Item 6 - Section 36-32
Section 36-32 of HESA provides that nothing in sections 36-25 or 36-30 requires a higher education provider to advise a person that he or she is a Commonwealth supported student with respect to a unit of study undertaken at a particular campus of the provider . Item 6 repeals section 36-32, which is no longer relevant in the environment of capped and uncapped places.
Item 7 - Subclause 1(1) of Schedule 1
Item 7 inserts a new definition of compact and academic freedom requirements into the dictionary at subclause 1(1) of Schedule 1 of HESA. It defines the term as the requirements set out in (new) Subdivision 19-G.
Part 2- Application, savings and transitional provisions
Item 8 - Definitions
Item 8 provides that in Part 2 of Schedule 3:
- commencement means the commencement of Schedule 3
- new Act means HESA as it will be in force on and after the commencement of Schedule 3.
Item 9 - Application of amendments - general
Item 9 is an application provision and provides that the amendments made by Schedule 3 apply to the year commencing on 1 January 2012 and to subsequent years.
Item 10 - Transitional - mission based compacts
Item 10 is a transitional provision.
Sub-item 10(1) provides that Item 10 applies if the Minister entered into a mission based compact with a Table A or Table B provider before commencement of Schedule 3, the compact satisfies the requirements of subsection 19-110(3) of the new Act and the compact is still in force immediately before the commencement of Schedule 3.
If the conditions in sub-item 10(1) applies, the compact is taken to have been entered into under section 19-110 of the new Act (sub-item 10(2)). The Secretary must cause a copy of the compact to be published on the Department's website within 28 days after commencement of Schedule 3, if the compact had not previously been published on the Department's website (sub-item 10(3)).