TEQSA Glossary of Terms

This glossary explains some of the terms providers may encounter when dealing with TEQSA, presented in alphabetical order. If you cannot find the term you need explained on this list, please contact your Case Manager.

Academic governance - a subset of the overall governance of an education organisation, and deals with the framework that regulates academic decisions and academic quality assurance within the organisation. Academic governance includes the policies, processes, definitions of roles, relationships, systems, strategies and resources that ensure academic standards and continuous improvement in academic activities, and is concerned with the integrity and quality of the core higher education activities of teaching, research and scholarship.

Academic standards - an agreed specification (such as a defined benchmark or indicator) that is used as a definition of a level of performance or achievement, rule, or guideline. Standards may apply to academic outcomes, such as student or graduate achievement of core discipline knowledge and core discipline skills (known as learning outcomes), or to academic processes such as student selection, teaching, research supervision, and assessment.

Academic staff – a member of staff of a higher education provider who is appointed wholly or principally to undertake a teaching and/or research function. For definition of ‘member of staff’ refer to the Department of Education's (DoE) HEIMS-HELP glossary at http://heimshelp.education.gov.au/sites/heimshelp/Resources/Glossary.

Articulation arrangements – create a defined pathway that enables a student to progress from a completed course of study to another course of study with admission and/or credit. 

Assessment – a process to determine a student’s achievement of identified learning outcomes and may include a range of written and oral methods and practice or demonstration.

Attritionis the proportion of students commencing a course of study in a given year who neither complete nor return in the following year. It does not identify those students who defer their study or transfer to another institution (refer also to ‘student attrition rates’ below).

Australian Higher Education Graduation Statement – is a supplementary statement to a testamur and record of results that provides additional information to enhance understanding of the qualification by students, employers, industry, professional associations and internationally.

Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA)ASQA is the national regulator for Australia’s vocational education and training sector. ASQA regulates courses and training providers to ensure nationally approved quality standards are met.

Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) - The Australian Qualifications Framework is Australia‘s national policy for regulated qualifications. The AQF encompasses higher education, vocational education and training and school education. It provides for national recognition and a consistent understanding of what defines each qualification type.

The Qualification Standards enshrined in the TEQSA Act strongly reflect the AQF which requires awards issued to be quality assured, protected against fraudulent use and to serve as pathways for further learning. The Qualification Standards incorporate by reference the following AQF policy documents: AQF Levels Criteria and AQF Qualification Type Descriptors; AQF Qualifications issuance Policy; AQF Qualifications Pathways Policy; AQF Qualifications Register Policy; and AQF Qualification Type Addition and Removal Policy. Answers to frequently asked questions about TEQSA and the AQF are available on TEQSA's 'provider resources' page.

Australian Universities Quality Agency (AUQA)Prior to the establishment of TEQSA, the Australian Universities Quality Agency (AUQA) was the principal national quality assurance agency in higher education with the responsibility of providing public assurance of the quality of Australia’s universities and other institutions of higher education, and assisting in enhancing the academic quality of these institutions.

Benchmarking – benchmarking is recognised as a means by which an entity can: demonstrate accountability to stakeholders; improve networking and collaborative relationships; generate management information; develop an increased understanding of practice, process or performance; and garner insights into how improvements might be made. For example, in the context of course accreditation, benchmarking involves comparing performance outcomes and/or processes of similar courses of study delivered by other providers. ‘Internal benchmarking’ against other relevant courses offered by the provider may also be undertaken.

Campus – the physical location from where a course of study is being delivered. This location may or may not be owned by the higher education provider which enrols the student. For e-learning (online) or other distance education courses this would be the location at where the electronic course material is maintained.

Casual staff – staff who are engaged and paid on an hourly or sessional basis, and who have no entitlement to paid annual leave, paid sick leave or paid long service leave.

Commencing student – has the meaning given by DoE's HEIMSHELP at http://heimshelp.education.gov.au/sites/heimshelp/Resources/Glossary.

Course completion – the successful completion of all the academic requirements of a course of study which includes any required attendance, assignments, examinations, assessments, dissertations, practical experience and work experience in industry. Where a combined course automatically leads to two separate awards, a course completion only occurs when the requirements of both awards have been satisfied.

Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS)CRICOS is the official Australian Government website that lists all Australian education providers offering courses to people studying in Australia on student visas and the courses offered. CRICOS is a searchable database managed by the Department of Education (DoE) under the Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) legislative framework. It provides details of those Australian education institutions approved to recruit, enrol and deliver education and training services to overseas students and details of the courses that they deliver.

TEQSA is responsible for assessing applications for inclusion on the CRICOS and for approving the registration of a provider on CRICOS. The database can be searched by course or provider name/number.

Course with a major research component – means a course of study that involves conduct of research leading to a thesis/dissertation which is a major component of the overall course requirements (that is comprising two-thirds or more of the student load). Examples include Bachelor Honours Degree; Masters Degree (Research); Masters Degree (Extended); and Doctoral Degree.

Credit arrangements – are formal negotiated agreements within and between issuing organisations or accrediting authorities and are about student entitlement to credit. They may also be formal arrangements made between issuing organisations and students. Credit can be given in the form of block, specified or unspecified credit (as provided by Qualification Standard 3.3).

Credit transfer– is a process that provides students with agreed and consistent credit outcomes for completed components of a course of study based on identified equivalence in content and learning outcomes between matched courses of study. 

Department of EducationThe Department of Education is the Australian Government department with responsibility for administering funding under the Higher Education Support Act 2003 and for developing and administering higher education policy and programs.

Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS)The Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) Act 2000 (the ESOS Act) and the associated legislation form the legal framework governing delivery of education to overseas students studying in Australia on a student visa. The framework sets out clear roles and responsibilities for providers of education and training to international students and complements Australia’s student visa laws.

elearning – involves electronically designed use of any digital technology or resources to deliver and support specific teaching and learning aims and outcomes. Also referred to as ‘online learning’. An information sheet about TEQSA’s approach to regulation of providers engaged in online learning is at:  http://www.teqsa.gov.au/sites/default/files/TEQSAeLearningInformationSheet.pdf

English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS)ELICOS are courses offered to students studying in Australia on student visas. ‘Intensive’ denotes full-time study comprising a minimum of 20 scheduled course contact hours per week of face-to-face classes of English language instruction. An information sheet about TEQSA’s regulation of ELICOS is available at  http://www.teqsa.gov.au/sites/default/files/FAQs_TEQSAandTheRegulationOf...

English language proficiency – is the ability of students to use the English language to make and communicate meaning in spoken and written contexts while completing their course of study.

EFTSL – one Equivalent Full-Time Student Load is a measure of the study load, for a year, of a student undertaking a course of study on a full time basis.

Field of Education – as defined by the Australian Standard Classification of Education (ASCED), which is a classification of courses, specialisations and units of study, with the same or similar vocational emphasis or principal subject matter in the course of study. ASCED is available at: http://www.ausstats.abs.gov.au/ausstats/free.nsf/0/2D08D604CC032093CA256AAF0080766F/$File/12720_2001.pdf.  The ‘Detailed Field of Education’ refers to the ASCED six digit code. The ‘Broad Field of Education’ refers to the ASCED two digit code.

Field of study – see ‘Field of Education’.

Financial viability – where there are financial resources and financial management capacity to sustain higher education provision consistent with the requirements of the Provider Registration Standards.

FTE – full-time equivalence, as defined by the Department of Education’s HEIMS-HELP glossary at http://heimshelp.education.gov.au/sites/heimshelp/Resources/Glossary.

Governing body – the body with ultimate decision making authority over the higher education provider and its higher education operations.

Grade distributions – are set by each higher education provider and involve analysing the aggregation of final grades using data by subject, course of study, student cohort or other grouping. Grade distributions may be determined using norm-referencing methods, criterion-referencing methods, or a combination of both. Criterion-referencing requires a focus on identified learning outcomes and provides transparency for students.

Graduate attributes – generic learning outcomes that refer to transferable, non-discipline specific skills that a graduate may achieve through learning that have application in study, work and life contexts.

Higher education award – means:

(a)   A diploma, advanced diploma, associate degree, bachelor degree, graduate certificate, graduate diploma, masters degree or doctoral degree, or
(b)    qualification covered by level 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 or 10 of the Australian Qualifications Framework, or
(c)   an award of a similar kind, or represented as being of a similar kind, to any of the above awards, 

other than an award offered or conferred for the completion of a vocational education and training course.

Higher education provider (Provider) also (HEP)Higher education provider is defined in the TEQSA Act and means:

(a) a constitutional corporation that offers or confers a regulated higher education award, or

(b) a corporation that:

(i) offers or confers a regulated higher education award; and

(ii) is established by or under a law of the Commonwealth or a Territory; or

(c) a person who offers or confers a regulated higher education award for the completion of a course of study provided wholly or partly in a Territory.

Higher education services – includes functions such as:  delivery of teaching and learning services (including student assessment); student learning support (such as access to library materials, academic learning support, and English language support); personal student support services (such as career services, advocacy, counselling, accommodation services, health and welfare services); marketing, advertising and promotion of course(s) of study; student recruitment; maintenance of and/or access to electronic resources and/or websites to support higher education operations; maintaining student records and data; student admission services; provision of teaching and learning or research facilities; student complaint management; and research supervision.

Higher Education Standards PanelThe Higher Education Standards Panel is responsible for developing and monitoring the Higher Education Standards Framework. Panel members are appointed by the Minister for Tertiary Education, in consultation with the Commonwealth Minister for Research.

Higher Education Support Act 2003 (HESA)The Higher Education Support Act 2003 (HESA) provides for the Commonwealth to give financial support for higher education and certain vocational education and training through:

(a) grants and other payments made largely to higher education providers; and

(b) financial assistance to students (usually in the form of loans).

Government Accreditation Authority (GAA)Government Accreditation Authorities (GAAs) referred to state and territory government accrediting authorities for higher education responsible for accrediting AQF qualifications and authorising non-self-accrediting higher education institutions to issue them. Their functions are now conducted by TEQSA.

Key personnel – includes senior executive officers such as: the Principal/Chief Executive Officer, Academic Director (or other senior executive officer with primary responsibility for academic operations), and others who will:

  • make decisions about the governance, management or direction of the academic and corporate operations of a higher education provider, or
  • exercise a notable degree of control or influence over the decision making about the governance, management or direction of the academic and corporate operations of a higher education provider.

Learning outcomes – learning outcomes are the expression of the set of knowledge, skills and the application of the knowledge and skills a person has acquired and is able to demonstrate as a result of learning.

Material ChangeUnder section 29(1) of the TEQSA Act, a registered higher education provider is required to notify TEQSA if any of the following events occur or are likely to occur:

  • an event that will significantly affect the provider’s ability to meet the Threshold Standards; or b) an event that will require the National Register to be updated in respect to the provider.
  • Material changes to an accredited course of study or to the operations of a higher education provider may lead TEQSA to take regulatory action. Any action by TEQSA will be mindful of not discouraging change, innovation and continuous improvement.

Moderation of assessment –quality assurance, control processes and activities such as peer review that aim to assure:  consistency or comparability, appropriateness, and fairness of assessment judgments; and the validity and reliability of assessment tasks, criteria and standards. Moderation of assessment processes establish comparability of standards of student performance across, for example, different markers, locations, subjects, providers and/or courses of study.

Mode of delivery – see ‘Mode of study’

Mode of study – cover the range of options for study that are available to students. Examples include:  attendance face-to-face in a classroom; supervised study on a higher education provider’s campus; e-learning (online learning); distance or independent learning; work-integrated learning; fast track; intensive delivery; block release; and mixed (or blended) delivery.

National CodeThe National Code of Practice for Registration Authorities and Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students (National Code) provides nationally consistent standards for the conduct of registered providers and the registration of their courses. These standards set out specifications and procedures to ensure that registered providers of education and training courses can clearly understand and comply with their obligations under the National Code.

National Protocols for Higher Education Approval ProcessesNational Protocols for Higher Education Approval Processes (National Protocols), developed in 2000 and revised in 2007, were a key element of the national quality assurance framework for Australian higher education. The National Protocols were drafted as guidelines rather than standards and did not contain measures of performance. Aspects of the National Protocols were incorporated into the Threshold Standards.

Nested courses – course of study leading to higher education awards that include articulation arrangements from a lower level higher education award into a higher level higher education award to enable multiple entry and exit points.

Non-AQF Award – means a course leading to a qualification or an award not covered by the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF).  Registered higher education providers can apply to TEQSA for accreditation of a non-AQF course where the award or qualification is similar to a qualification covered by level 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 or 10 of the AQF; other than an award offered or conferred for the completion of a vocational education and training course.  In line with this, non-award short courses, for example, do not fall within TEQSA’s regulatory functions under the TEQSA Act as they would not be regarded as similar.  Non-AQF qualifications or awards must not use AQF nomenclature.

Pathway – pathways allow students to move through AQF qualification levels with full or partial recognition for the completed course of study and/or learning outcomes they already have.

Provider Case ManagerCase Managers are managers employed in the provider assessment and evaluation area of TEQSA who manage activities relating to a higher education provider.

Provider CategoryProvider category relates to a category of provider, as listed in the Provider Category Standards.

National RegisterRefers to the National Register of Higher Education Providers. The Register was established and is maintained under section 198 of the TEQSA Act.

Recognition of prior learning – an assessment process that involves assessment of an individual’s relevant prior learning (including formal, informal and non-formal learning) to determine the credit outcomes of an individual’s application for credit. 

Record of results – a record of all learning leading to an AQF qualification or an accredited unit in which a student is enrolled. This may be called a ‘transcript of results’, ‘academic transcript’, ‘record of achievement’, or ‘statement of results’.

Registered higher education providerThis term refers to a higher education provider registered under Part 3 of the TEQSA Act and listed on the Register under paragraph 198(1)(a) of the Act.

Registered Training Organisation – means a training organisation that is listed as a Registered Training Organisation on the National Register referred to in section 216 of the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Act 2011.

Regulatory riskIn the context of TEQSA’s regulatory operations, regulatory risk refers to actual or potential risk events (regarding a provider’s operations and performance) which indicate that the provider may not meet the Threshold Standards (either currently or in the future).

Risk Assessment FrameworkThe Risk Assessment Framework (previously ‘Regulatory Risk Framework’) describes TEQSA’s regulatory risk management policy and processes. It enables TEQSA to give effect to the principle of reflecting risk in its regulatory activities, as required under the TEQSA Act.

Reviewable decision – means a decision covered by section 183 of the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Act 2011.

Risk assessmentThe term ‘risk assessment’ captures the overall process of risk identification, risk analysis and risk evaluation.

Statement of Attainment – recognises that one or more accredited subjects has been achieved.

Student cohort – a student cohort refers to all students commencing in a course of study in a particular year with a higher education provider. Student cohorts may be classified by entry pathway, mode of study, place of study or other groupings.

Student contact hours – time spent by students in timetabled teaching and learning activities, such as:  face-to-face lectures; tutorials; supervised study; field trips; work-integrated learning activities; clinical and other placements.

Student progress rates – provide a measure of educational achievement and the effectiveness of educational delivery. The student progress rate measures successful student subject load. A key reference explaining measures such as progress rates is TEQSA’s Risk Assessment Framework. Appendices 1 and 2 of the RAF provide detailed descriptions of key measures, elements used and their calculations. It is important to note that there are sometimes variations in approaches for measurement depending on what is most relevant to the circumstances of the provider and the intentions for measurement.  While TEQSA’s risk measures are generally calculated at the institutional level, it would be expected that a provider would track and analyse different cohorts of students, including for different courses and different student population groups, in monitoring student outcomes to compare performance and inform continuous improvement.

Student Attrition Rates - show the ‘drop out’ rate from institutions and represent one dimension of the effectiveness of the delivery of educational services. They are expressed as a percentage of the total number of students who have enrolled and commenced in the course of study between 1 January and 31 December but do not return to study in the course of study in the following year, less those students that completed the course of study. A key reference explaining measures such as attrition rates is TEQSA’s Risk Assessment Framework. Appendices 1 and 2 of the RAF provide detailed descriptions of key measures, elements used and their calculations. It is important to note that there are sometimes variations in approaches for measurement depending on what is most relevant to the circumstances of the provider and the intentions for measurement.  While TEQSA’s risk measures are generally calculated at the institutional level, it would be expected that a provider would track and analyse different cohorts of students, including for different courses and different student population groups, in monitoring student outcomes to compare performance and inform continuous improvement.

Student Completion Rates – measure the rate of completion for a cohort of students completing in minimum time. TEQSA’s Risk Assessment Framework (RAF) does not currently measure completion rates due to limitations in trend data across the sector. A guide for completion rates is provided below. Some approaches to completion rates allow for a longer period for completion beyond the minimum timeframe, for example taking into account no more than one consecutive year of deferment.

Completion rates are defined as the number of completions of students in a course as a proportion of the total number of students who commenced in a course in a given year. The rate may be defined as completing in minimum time or minimum time plus one year.  For a three year bachelor degree for students undertaking the course full-time the calculation would be:

  • Number of completing students in year N+3 (2010)/Base students in Year N (2008)
  • Where based students are the number of students commencing a course in 2008

Student completion rates equation




Subject – a subject is a discrete unit of study and a combination of subjects make up a course of study.

Support staff – a member of staff of a higher education provider without an academic staff classification and who provide support functions for teaching and/ or research activities. Examples of ‘support functions’ include: management; academic learning support; English language support; student counselling; librarian; IT support; laboratory assistance; technical assistance; general administrative functions; and student administration functions such as provision of student advice, student admissions, student enrolments and student graduations.

Testamur – a testamur is an official certification document that confirms that a qualification has been awarded to an individual. In Australia this may be called an ‘award’, ‘parchment’, ‘laureate’ or ‘certificate’.

Third party, agent or partner arrangements – means where a higher education provider has, or intends to have, any aspect of its higher education services in relation to its course(s) of study carried out on its behalf through a partner, agent or third party arrangement. A third party, agent or partner arrangement may include, for example: partnerships with other institutions, higher education providers, or entities; the formation of joint ventures or special purpose companies; sub-contracting of services; or franchising arrangements. An information sheet on TEQSA’s regulation of third party arrangements is at:  http://www.teqsa.gov.au/sites/default/files/InfosheetTPA.pdf

Threshold StandardsThreshold Standards are defined as:

(a) the Provider Standards, which are:

(i) the Provider Registration Standards; and

(ii) the Provider Category Standards; and

(iii) the Provider Course Accreditation Standards;


(b) the Qualification Standards.

Further information on the Threshold Standards can be found at the Higher Education Standards Panel website.

Unit - see ‘Subject’.

Work integrated learning – where structured and purposefully designed learning and assessment activities integrate theory with the practice of work. Work-integrated learning includes service learning, and activities normally involve students interacting with industry and community within a work context or similar situation (that may be simulated) to allow them to learn, apply and demonstrate skills and knowledge applicable to the course of study being undertaken. (Adapted from ALTC, The WIL (Work Integrated Learning) Report, Patrick, et al, 2009).