Core Plus and Renewal of Provider Registration: Plan, Prepare, Succeed.

Posted: 23/11/2023
by: Nicola Best

In 2021, TEQSA adopted its Core Plus model. This new approach applies to Renewal of Provider Registration, as well as the Renewal of Course Accreditation, and New Course Accreditation – existing providers (Source: Policy on Core Plus model for regulatory assessments Approved 27.01.2021 ). More recently, TEQSA released its revised Application guide for renewal of registration for existing providers (V 3.0) (the Application guide).

The Core Plus approach involves TEQSA focusing its regulatory assessments on a set of core Higher Education Standards. For applications for a Renewal of Provider Registration, this means those Standards relating principally to Governance and Accountability (Domain 6) and some aspects of Institutional Quality Assurance (Domain 5, specifically Standards 5.1.2 and 5.3.7). This reflects TEQSA’s move to more of a ‘self-assurance’ model for providers.

However, the approach is a Core Plus model (emphasis added). A provider should not assume that they will only need to submit their application based on the Core evidence.

The reasons for an extended scope vary but may include findings from other compliance monitoring (including other government agencies or professional accreditation bodies), the provider’s regulatory history (including material risks identified by TEQSA), findings from TEQSA’s Annual Risk Assessment or other factors.

Importantly, the Core Plus model does not remove the need for providers to plan and prepare.

Six months before your submission is due, you will receive a “Confirmed Evidence Table” (or CET) from TEQSA. The CETs will be customised to the level of maturity (or risk) that TEQSA assesses is appropriate for different providers. It is only at that stage that you will know whether you need to respond to the ‘core’ or the ‘extension to core’.

Remember: not all CETs will be the same. The evidence for each provider may be different.

DVE’s experience shows that waiting until you get your CET to start planning your re-registration application is far too late: there can be the temptation to ‘re-create’ evidence or otherwise hurriedly fill in the gaps at the last moment. This is stressful for the provider, it can be costly, it can lead to problems during the assessment process and may lead to conditions being placed on the provider (or worse).

DVE strongly encourages providers to start planning and preparing for re-registration at least 12 – 18 months in advance.

In so doing, don’t overlook the importance of keeping your corporate governing body, your academic board and your senior leadership actively informed of, and engaged in, the process. All stakeholders need to be engaged to do it well and get it right.

It is obvious, but does need re-stating: all providers should embed quality assurance and improvement across its operations (from the corporate and academic bodies down) as a ‘business as usual’ practice.

A key change flowing from the Core Plus approach relates to HES Standards 6.1 – 6.3 and the requirement for providers to submit a 10 page self-assurance report “describing how the governing body assures itself of the quality of its higher education operations and that it is continuing to meet the Threshold Standards…”. TEQSA’s Application guide sets out further detail about the type of evidence that is needed and how it is to be provided.

DVE has been working with different public and private higher education providers on their re-registration applications under the Core Plus model. We understand that while the new approach offers opportunities for less cumbersome applications, it does mean that the quality of the application, and its supporting evidence, remains paramount to a smooth and successful re-registration.

It’s not enough to just say that quality is important and that you meet the Threshold Standards.

Your submission needs to clearly set out how, and how well, you demonstrate the quality and capacity of your self-assurance process.

You need to give effective assurances and evidence of these assertions. You need to set out how you know this is working across your teaching and research endeavours, and how well your academic assurance processes are working. You need to show how you monitor, identify and then respond to risks. You need to understand and articulate what impact your improvements have had, particularly on student learning and the student experience.

You need to show that you are rigorous, that you use your data and feedback to identify issues and that comprehensive review and interim monitoring is embedded across your practices. Where you have agreements with third parties, you need to ensure that effective practices are in place and that you can show how they are properly managed. You will need to ensure that your policies and procedures are up-to-date and effectively implemented.

To take governance reviews as one example, TEQSA requires all providers to undertake periodic independent governance reviews of both the governing body and academic governance processes. Are the independent experts you’ve appointed for your governance review (for example), suitably independent and with the relevant expertise needed to undertake the review? Have you got the right scope for the review? Have you given the independent expert sufficient time to undertake the review and prepare their report? Have you given yourselves time to consider and respond to the independent expert’s report, develop your action plan/s to demonstrate implementation from the review and – ideally – time to how you have monitored and shown progress of improvements against the action plan/s?

DVE is experienced in helping institutions through their re-registration journey. Our services include conducting expert governance reviews, creating comprehensive plans appropriate to your situation, undertaking “health checks” to see how you are tracking, reviewing and updating your policies and procedures, to undertaking a full mock assessment. DVE provides support that is accurate, comprehensive and effective for your needs and expectations.

If you would like to chat to our team about this or any aspect of the regulatory process (including initial registration, and course accreditations) please contact us and we will be happy to arrange an advisory session.