House of Representatives

Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2011

Second Reading Speech

Senator Ludwig (Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Minister Assisting the Attorney-General on Queensland Floods Recovery)

I table the explanatory memorandums relating to these bills and move:

That these bills be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speeches read as follows-

Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2011

This Bill contains consequential amendments and transitional provisions which are required to give effect to the Government's intention to establish the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency, TEQSA.

The Bill contains a number of amendments to existing Acts that are required to ensure that the new regulatory framework interacts properly with other regulatory frameworks and funding programs.

Consequential amendments to the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 provide for TEQSA and its staff to undertake the functions relating to provider registration currently undertaken by the states and territories and for the delegation of functions currently undertaken by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.

This includes making TEQSA the designated authority under the Education Services for Overseas Students Act for providers registered to deliver higher education courses to overseas students.

Amendments to the Higher Education Support Act 2003 recognise that the TEQSA legislation, once enacted, will establish new registration requirements for higher education providers and that TEQSA will administer those requirements.

The Bill also provides for the Minister for Tertiary Education to make the first set of Threshold Standards which are part of the Higher Education Standards Framework.

These standards will be based on the existing National Protocols for Higher Education and the Australian Qualifications Framework. They are currently the subject of an extensive process of consultation with the higher education sector.

The Bill requires that the Higher Education Standards Panel must initiate a review of the first set of Threshold Standards within the first year of the Panel commencing operation.

These provisions balance the need to provide regulatory certainty for providers by establishing standards based on the current requirements shortly after the TEQSA legislation comes into force, while ensuring that there will be timely expert review of these important instruments.

The transitional provisions of this Bill ensure that where a provider was registered under state or territory law, it will be automatically registered under the TEQSA legislation including, where applicable, the authority to self-accredit courses.

Similarly, courses which are currently accredited by a Government Accreditation Authority will also be automatically accredited under TEQSA.

Where a provider's application for re-registration or course re-accreditation is pending, TEQSA will determine the outcome of their application.

Provisions have also been made to allow the sharing of information and transfer of copies of records from the states and territories to TEQSA.

This will ensure that regulatory activities are not interrupted during this transition period.

Amendments have also been made to ensure the continuity of quality assurance activities undertaken by the Australian Universities Quality Agency are transitioned to TEQSA.

In conjunction with the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Bill 2011, this Bill reflects the Government's continued commitment to improving the quality of our higher education system and to provide for greater national consistency of regulation.