Quality auditors commend Southern Cross University

Published 5 November 2003

An independent audit of Southern Cross University has commended its “impressive success” in collaborative research, its commitment to quality in academic standards and courses, its student-friendly culture, its flexible learning programs, and its strong commitment to the North Coast region.

A detailed report on the audit, conducted by the independent Australian Universities Quality Agency (AUQA), was released today (5 November). AUQA is funded by the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments to monitor the performance of universities nationally.

A high-level audit panel chaired by Professor Elizabeth Harman, Vice-Chancellor of Victoria University of Technology and including leading university executives from Australia and New Zealand, spoke to more than 260 academics, general staff, students and external stakeholders during visits to Lismore and Tweed Gold Coast in June.

The audit panel commended SCU for:
­ effective organisational structure;
­ standards of accountability and responsibility;
­ the University Council’s commitment to proper governance;
­ authentic self review processes;
­ comprehensive course reviews;
­ academic quality assurance;
­ quality of courseware, student support and training of academic staff;
­ on-line support for flexible learning;
­ success in research activities;
­ engagement with the North Coast region;
­ commitment to Indigenous education;
­ the positive educational and student-friendly environment;
­ the University’s success in internationalisation and bringing international students to the region; and
­ ensuring consistency in the quality of SCU programs within Australia and abroad.

Vice-Chancellor of Southern Cross University, Professor John Rickard, said today that the audit report’s praise was a tribute to the high quality and professionalism of SCU staff in Lismore, Coffs Harbour, Tweed Gold Coast and the Hotel School in Sydney.

“We are delighted that the audit panel recognised our considerable achievements in less than 10 years, particularly in academic standards, research, and flexible learning programs,” Professor Rickard said.

“The distinguished and independent auditors described our success in co-operative research centres as an ‘impressive achievement’ for a university our size,” he said.

“We are also pleased that the audit team acknowledged the challenging role we play as the principal regional provider of higher education. Trying to cater to such diverse regional community needs and supporting a number of campuses with high quality programs means that our resources are often stretched,” the Vice-Chancellor said.

The auditors also made a number of recommendations to assist the University towards achieving its goals, including:
­ further development of the management information system;
­ implementation of planned risk management strategies;
­ implementation of proposed changes to academic planning processes;
­ implementation of planned reviews of small units and courses;
­ implementation of consistent procedures to guard against cheating and plagiarism;
­ improvements to student evaluations;
­ a strategic review of the Coffs Harbour campus arrangements;
­ further development of the university’s regional mission;
­ ensuring levels of English proficiency for the entry of students from a Non-English Speaking Background (NESB);
­ standardisation of offshore agreements;
­ improved communication with students;
­ improved access to learning resources;
­ monitoring the revised performance management system; and
­ ensuring sufficient attention is given to human resource planning.

Professor Rickard said the University welcomed the audit panel’s suggestions for further improvement and accepted all recommendations.

“In fact, our own self-review process had already identified similar steps were needed,” the Vice-Chancellor said.

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