A new private uni, established just in time

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.

  1. I think they’ll get swamped by red tape no matter what. How could they not? It’ll also be interesting to see how they go given that most people won’t have heard of them before (say, unlike CMU), and given the fees they want to charge.

  2. Certainly federal red tape will be unavoidable; though they have avoided TEQSA doing the initial accreditation, they won’t be so lucky with reaccreditation in future. But by then several other vulnerable unis will have been through the process, and we will see what stomach there is for enforcing the current rules.

    Their advantage will not so much be avoiding government red tape, but in the internal red tape unis inflict on themselves.

    I agree it is a risky proposition – with Adelaide far from the obvious choice as a location. But I welcome entrepreneurial activity.

  3. I am struck by the fact that Adelaide seems to be the city where a number of foreign universities operators are opening e.g. University College London, Carnegie Mellon and now Torrens. Why are they selecting Adelaide? Surely Melbourne or Sydney would be more attractive due to population? Brisbane or Perth, with their particular labour needs, would be more attractive than Adelaide. Is the SA government providing subsidies?

  4. UCL and Carnegie Mellon are getting state government subsidies, but the Torrens location decision is baffling.

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