ATEC the Enforcer

Australia’s universities will be regulated by a central authority, charged with, “meeting national objectives set by the government.” 

The plan for the Australian Tertiary Education Commission, released Friday, is based on core proposals of the Universities Accord inquiry and extends government control over enrolments, way beyond authority over international student numbers already announced. 

The domestic model, discussed in two new proposed policy papers, empowers government to set national numbers of Australian undergraduates. ATEC will set a hard cap, for each university and other HE providers, according to “a managed growth” target. The Commission will do the “managing” with no government funding, or student fees, funded by HECS-HELP, going to institutions enrolling students above an approved quotas. Public universities will be able to move funded places between courses, “to meet the demand from students and industry.”  However, changes would be monitored (presumably by ATEC) “to manage shifts that do not align with national priorities and university missions.” 

ATEC’s authority will also extend to,

  • targets for Indigenous and equity enrolments
  • advising government on “efficient prices” for courses
  • managing accountability for public funding
  • “foster” greater alignment between HE and VET 
  • “steward” HE “through disruptions or crises” 

The two papers on what ATEC will do are badged “implementation consultation proposals” but they read like settled policy. Anybody with ideas need to be quick, “feedback” is required by July 26.

A point picked up by Universities Australia chief Luke Sheehy. “Disappointingly, the Department has not established a formal consultation process for either piece of work beyond inviting stakeholder feedback,” he writes. 

“We will be seeking to remedy that, given the significance of these reforms to the future of our sector. I think it would be very useful for department officials to, at least, engage directly with us on the design of these initiatives and I will be advocating for as much.”

UA will need to be quick, July 26 is the deadline for “feedback.” 



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