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Review of universitiesí reporting requirements recommends move to national information repository

4 April 2013

A review into the reporting requirements of universities has found potential opportunities for streamlining and the removal of duplications and overlaps.

The Review, which was commissioned by the LH Martin Institute and conducted by PhillipsKPA in August 2012, focused on universities’ reporting requirements to the Department of Industry, Innovation, Research, Science and Tertiary Education (DIISRTE), which currently conducts around 46 data collections from universities.

PhillipsKPA analysed the time spent and recurring costs involved in 18 of those data collections and found that, on average, Australian universities spent over 2000 working days and between $800,000 to $900,000 to gather the required information for these data sets. The costs range from a high of $30 for every $1,000 in funding to a minimum of around $0.2 for every $1000 in funding.

In addition to reports to DIISRTE Australian universities are also expected to provide information to the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA), the Australian Skills Quality Authority, state governments, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and the Australian Research Council (ARC).

Despite their reporting burden, university representatives understand and accept the principles of accountability for public funding and recognise the legitimate interest of governments, the public and students in their activities. In addition, many university officials acknowledge the good practice implemented as a result of their various reporting requirements.

However, university representatives were unanimous that certain issues required reform.
Such as lack of coordination, tendency for reporting requirements to accumulate over time, problems of definition and documentation, frequent changes in the requirements and inadequate planning for these changes, and lack of access to useful and timely information.

David Phillips, Director of PhillipsKPA, believes that a more sophisticated model for governance and management of information is needed while acknowledging last year’s formation of the National Advisory Group on Data and Information to address these issues.

“The model should be centred around the development of a national higher education data collection and a national higher education information repository which would consolidate relevant data collecting activities and minimise the need for further collection outside of that model.

“The effort involved in one report is already very high. Multiply that by the number of different authorities which require submissions, then add more reports for grant applications and so on, you will start to see that there is a need to rationalise these data collections. But this will not happen without policy change.”

The Review also identified instances where DIISRTE could reduce reporting requirements. For instance, it found substantial opportunities to streamline Compacts and Institutional Performance Portfolios (IPPs), especially in relation to equity reporting.

A copy of the full report can be downloaded here [pdf].

More information:

Contact David Phillips (0412 080 614)

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