It Is a Matter of Standards
The refreshed (2021) Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) provide a valuable guide to ensuring the operations and processes at a higher education provider are both appropriate and in sync with the Sector. My own institution conducts three audits each year against these standards to ensure compliance. The process is detailed and vital.
The Threshold Standards are divided into 7 domains
Domain #1 – Student participation and attainment;
Domain #2 – Learning environment;
Domain #3 – Teaching;
Domain #4 – Research and research training;
Domain #5 – Institutional quality assurance;
Domain #6 – Governance and accountability;
Domain #7 – Representation, information and information management.
Student Participation and Attainment
The domain (Sections 1.1-1.5) focuses on the admission of students into a course of study understanding that it is a contractual agreement; Credit and Recognition of Prior Learning is clear and does not compromise the integrity of a course; suitable orientation processes are in place that ensure progress; success is enabled; learning outcomes are clear, evident and appropriate; and certification is legitimate.
This domain (Sections 2.1-2.4) interrogates the nature, access to and fitness of purpose of the learning environment and how student grievance is managed. The emphasis is on ensuring that the key issues are in fact, publicly available.
The domain (Sections 3.1-3.3) is concerned with course design and requirements for engagement with advanced knowledge and enquiry, current knowledge, theoretical frameworks and concepts, related scholarship and emerging ideas; achievement of learning outcomes and professional accreditation of courses of study; staffing, capability of teaching staff, and student access to staff; and the nature, appropriateness and quality of the learning resources specific to a given course.
Research and Research Training
My own institution is a teaching and learning focus institute without research course offerings and does not conduct research therefore the domain is not a current focus.
Institutional Quality Assurance
This domain (Sections 5.1-5.4) places the spotlight on credible and effective processes for internal approval of courses that are consistent and competent; the policy framework in place that maintains academic integrity; the mechanisms used to provide regular review of quality and how these reviews are used for continuous improvement; and how arrangements with other parties are quality assured.
Governance and Accountability
The domain (Sections 6.1-6.3) zeroes in on accountable governance; corporate accountabilities; and academic governance oversight.
Representation, Information and Information Management
This domain (Sections 7.1-7.3) is concerned with representations and the accurate, ethical and not misleading information provided; the public availability of information to assist students in making choices; accessible public description of the provider and its operations; and the management of information with regard to content, security and integrity.
As observed and evident, these are indeed a comprehensive set of standards that need to be examined and adhered to, not to mention regularly reviewed and audited. My own institution is well-placed across all the domains.
The most recent audit (September 2023) against the Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) 2021 is available at - https://www.ubss.edu.au/media/4944/threshold-standards-audit-september-2023.pdf
Emeritus Professor Greg Whateley is the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (UBSS) and the Chief Executive Officer (GCA).