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Glossary of terms in Part A of the Higher Education Standards Framework 2015

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This list elaborates particular terms and concepts in Part A of the Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) 2015 (HES Framework), including those that have a specialised meaning in this particular context. For a more general overview of terms encountered when dealing with TEQSA, visit our Glossary of terms page.

Accreditation of a course of study

A formal process through which a course of study is authorised to be offered by a higher education provider. For providers that are authorised to self-accredit courses of study, the accreditation is granted through a formal internal governance process; otherwise the accreditation must be obtained from TEQSA. A course of study that is self-accredited or accredited by TEQSA may also be ‘accredited’ by a professional body for different and separate purposes.

Accreditation of a course of study by a professional body does not of itself entitle a provider to offer the course of study.

Approval of a course of study

A formal internal governance process that determines that a course of study is suitable to be offered by the higher education provider. Unless a provider has authority to self-accredit courses of study, course approval must be followed by accreditation by TEQSA.

Changes to a (the) Higher Education Provider’s Operations

Changes to a (the) higher education provider’s operations include changes to the delivery of a course of study that may affect the participation of students in their chosen course of study, such as:

  • significant changes to course content
  • deletion of opportunities for expected specialisations or majors
  • changes to the locations of delivery that have a significant impact on access
  • altered modes of participation or delivery
  • limitations or withdrawal of learning support
  • additional requirements for completion
  • unheralded increases in fees or associated costs (such as requirements for new technology).


An expression of grievance about a higher education provider or its operations. Lodging of complaints is expected to initiate a process, whether formal or informal, to address the grievance.

Course of study

A coherent sequence of units of study leading to an award of a qualification(s). The use of ‘course of study’ in the Standards includes both coursework and higher degree by research programs unless otherwise specified. Courses of study are sometimes known as 'programs'.

Credit for prior learning

Credit is interpreted broadly to include specified and unspecified credit, exemptions, advanced standing, credit transfers and other similar outcomes, in which exemptions are granted for components of a course on the basis of having achieved equivalent learning outcomes in a course previously.

Financial standing

See Guidance Note on Financial Standing.

Formal complaint

The term used to distinguish complaints that use a formal complaints-resolution process from complaints about matters that are resolved readily without entering into a formal process.


An issue or concern that is raised for resolution through a complaint. Grievance is used generically, whether the grievance is considered minor or more serious in nature.

Higher degree

Sometimes known as a ‘postgraduate degree/qualification’, higher degrees include:

  • Higher Doctoral Degree
  • Doctoral Degree
  • Master’s Degree
  • Graduate Diploma
  • Graduate Certificate.

NOTE: A Bachelor Honours Degree is not classified as a higher degree.

Higher degree by research

Sometimes known as a ‘research degree/qualification’ or a ‘postgraduate research degree/qualification’, higher degrees by research include:

  • Higher Doctoral Degree
  • Doctoral Degree
  • Masters Degree in which research constitutes at least two thirds of the course of study and the course of study leads to an original contribution to the field of research and/or practice.

NOTE: A Bachelor Honours Degree is not classified as a higher degree by research. A higher degree by research is.

Higher education provider

An entity registered under the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Act 2011 to provide higher education courses of study. Also known as a 'provider'.

Independent member

A person who is independent from management and does not have (or intend to have) any material or significant dealings with a provider (or an associated entity) that could interfere with the exercise of independent judgement as a director. TEQSA does not consider members of governing bodies being paid fees for undertaking their responsibilities to compromise their independence. However, payment for other roles (e.g. transactions with related parties) may compromise independence. 

A director may be considered independent if they:

  • have not had an employment relationship with the provider within the last three years
  • have not had a business relationship or other material contractual relationship with the provider within the last three years
  • do not have a direct or indirect material financial interest with the provider
  • are not involved in the day-to-day management functions of the provider and not allied with the interests of management
  • are sufficiently impartial and disconnected from the provider’s operations, such that they are in position to hold management to account and act in the organisation’s best interests
  • do not have a material personal interest (i.e. doesn’t stand to gain, benefit or suffer a loss) in the outcome of a Board meeting
  • are free of any interest, position, association or relationship that might influence, or reasonably be perceived to influence, their capacity to exercise independent judgement
  • have not been a director with the provider for such a period (e.g. ten years) that their independence may have been compromised.

Elected staff or executive directors can be members of governing boards, but would not be classed as independent members as they are employed by the provider. Students would not normally be considered independent either.

Institutional benchmarks

Can include minimum acceptable entry criteria, progression and completion rates, grade distributions, criteria for academic appointments and many others – several of which may be embedded in academic policy frameworks.

International student

A student studying in Australia, for an Australian higher education qualification at a registered provider, who is not an Australian citizen, Australian permanent resident or New Zealand citizen.

An international student will hold an Australian student visa and are sometimes known as an 'overseas student'.

Recording of research outputs

The ‘system for… recording of the research outputs of staff and research students’. The system may be maintained by the provider or elsewhere (e.g. through electronic links to a remote database) and may include references to locations of physical outputs (e.g. a work of art).


The creation of new knowledge and/or the use of existing knowledge in a new and creative way to generate new concepts, methodologies, inventions or understandings. This can include the combination and analysis of previous research to the extent that it is new and creative.

This definition of research is consistent with a broad notion of research and development ('R and D') as comprising ‘creative work undertaken on a systematic basis in order to increase the stock of knowledge, including knowledge of human-kind, culture and society, and the use of this stock of knowledge to devise new applications’.

Research-related study

Study about research, rather than the conduct of research itself, such as a study of analytical techniques or experimental methods.

Research training

Course(s) of study leading to a higher degree by research.

Safeguards to mitigate disadvantage to students

Financial and tuition safeguards including sufficiently resourced contingency plans for teaching out a course of study, or transitioning affected students to an equivalent course of study at the same or a different provider. Also included in this definition is the refunding of tuition fees and other charges paid in advance for services not delivered - whether directly by a provider or through a tuition protection scheme.


See Guidance Note on Scholarship.

Unit of study

The components of study that collectively make up a course of study. Units of study are sometimes known as 'subjects' or 'modules'. In some cases, units of study may be offered alone rather than as part of a course of study.