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Reach ‘world standard’ or lose university status, institutions told


Updated guidance says well-established Australian universities must prove quality of at least half their research

Australian universities have been given a set of research goals to meet if they wish to retain their university status.

The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency released the updated rules in a “guidance note” published on 25 January.

Institutions that have been established for more than 10 years will have a higher hurdle to jump, with a requirement of “world standard” research, or “national standing” level in the case of Australia-specific research, in at least half of their fields of education, the Teqsa guidance says.

Universities under 10 years old will only need to meet the standards in 30 per cent of fields, until they reach a decade of operation.

Specialist universities, meanwhile, must meet the standard in all their specialist fields.

Some research infrastructure issues are also covered by the rules, including appropriately qualified academic staff, a university research policy framework and attention to integrity issues.

The note warns that universities must devote sufficient resources to their research work and not engage in padding practices such as “casual employment of high-profile researchers for part of a year to augment the provider’s research profile and output”.

Research regime changes

Consultation in September 2022 helped to inform the guidance note and led the agency to say that it would consider evidence other than Australian Research Council judgments when assessing research. The Excellence in Research for Australia benchmarking process, which is now on hold, remains in the new rules, but provisions have been made to include any replacement system.

The consultation revealed concerns among some universities about how the standards would be defined, especially while Era is in doubt and the ARC’s constitution is under review.

Teqsa said it would review the new rules after the completion of the current review of the ARC. The agency’s processes “will adapt to any research regime changes implemented by the Australian government”, the guidance note says.

Following the consultation, it also reminded universities that while a small number of key staff or projects were often relied on to provide quality in some fields, “providers need to plan for what they will do to manage these potential risks” of overreliance.