The new Guidance note: wellbeing and safety, released by the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency, provides clearer guidance for institutions to understand their responsibilities to both international and domestic students.
“Student safety is of paramount importance to higher education, and this guidance material aims to help all providers ensure they have measures in place to safeguard and monitor this,” TEQSA CEO Anthony McClaran said.
The updated note comes in response to the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Change the Course report which found, on campus, 21% of university students experienced sexual harassment and 1.6% were sexually assaulted. International students experienced similar levels of harassment and assault, the report found.
Released at the same time as On Safe Ground: A Good Practice Guide for Australian Universities, which provided 18 recommendation to address the findings of the AHRC report, a TEQSA representative told The PIE News the draft guidance note received 13 responses from providers, from which, many of the changes to the note were derived.
“TEQSA will not seek to duplicate safety regulation that is carried out by other authorities, but will nonetheless wish to be assured that a provider is meeting its obligations to other authorities”
Among those changes, the note strengthens guidance for affiliated entities such as residential colleges and also further clarifies areas the regulator looks for when assessing compliance, including the need for the institution’s policy framework and complaints processes to be accessible to students.
“Providers should actively use their influence and governance links to support affiliated entities (such as residences and university colleges) to promote and foster a safe environment for students enrolled at the provider,” the note reads.
“There are particular risks posed by recurring sexual assault and sexual harassment at residences, and providers should use their best offices to encourage residences to implement counter-measures, such as evidence-based sexual violence prevention education programs, as well as programs to counter the harmful effects of alcohol and drug abuse.”
Change the Course found 21% of sexual assaults occurred during a social event on campus or within a residence, and 10% occurred at a university or college residence.
The updated note also clarifies that the regulator will remain vigilant to any lapses in student wellbeing requirements of other bodies.
“TEQSA will not seek to duplicate safety regulation that is carried out by other authorities, but will nonetheless wish to be assured that a provider is meeting its obligations to other authorities.”
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