The American for-profit university conglomerate Laureate International Universities is to open a campus in Adelaide, to be known as Torrens University Australia. (An earlier, detailed description of the proposal is here (big pdf).
Universities Australia, the lobby group for current universities, said that it would be pleased to consider an application from Torrens. But it added:
“However, Universities Australia is surprised that the South Australian Government has made this decision prior to the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency beginning its regulatory functions in January 2012.”
Actually, it is not very surprising at all. The proposed rules for admitting new universities under the TEQSA regime make it extremely difficult to become a university. At best, it would be a slow, evolutionary process for another kind of higher education provider to become a university. The biggest obstacle is that to be approved as a full university, research activity is required in three broad fields of study. Not many institutions can sustain loss-making activities across such a range.
The current protocols for approving new universities are also quite protectionist. But there
is a provision in the protocols on ‘greenfield’ universities that have a ‘high probability’ of meeting the general criteria for being an Australian university. That’s what Torrens and the SA government are using, before this option is closed off by TEQSA rules.
I fear TEQSA is going to bury higher education in red tape, so I am pleased that this new competitor was allowed in before they get the chance to stop it.