The Federal Government has signalled it is getting serious with the implementation of its new national regulatory and quality agency for higher education, the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA), with the release of a request for tender (RFT) for part of their ICT capabilities.
The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) issued a RFT on 14 January 2011 for the development, hosting and support of a Higher Education Decision Support System (HEDSS) for TEQSA, which was announced by then-Education Minister Julia Gillard in March 2009.
According to TEQSA’s Strategic Plan, the agency will be established as an independent body under the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 with powers to register universities and non-university higher-education providers, monitor quality and ensure standards.
As part of the New Quality and Regulatory Arrangements for Australian Higher Education, TEQSA will establish a National Register for all higher education providers operating in Australia, consolidating existing state and territory information into one publicly accessible source.
The Agency will also implement a ‘My University’ website in the style of the ‘My School’ website launched in January 2010. The My University portal will be operational by January 2012 and include information assisting prospective students in their choice of higher education providers.
A strong theme within TEQSA’s RFT is the ability of the systems provided by vendors to be responsive and scalable to change and expansion, suggesting that the Agency may require other ICT capabilities in the future. The tender documents do indicate, however, that the agency is likely to remain a small organisation with minimal ICT support.
Intermedium’s Managing Director Judy Hurditch said that the establishment of TEQSA could create additional procurement opportunities in the future as the Agency looks to acquire their base-level, ‘business as usual’ ICT requirements, such as software and hardware. However, it was more likely they would continue to look to DEEWR to provide their ICT requirements, as this would be in line with the efficiencies being sought across Federal Government in the post-Gershon environment.
‘DEEWR already provide IT services to the Australian Public Service Commission under a shared services arrangement, and given TEQSA is in the Education portfolio, it makes even more sense for it to provide such services to TEQSA’, she stated.
‘Either way, experience suggests that TEQSA will require IT components intrinsic to the day-to-day running of the Agency, in addition to the National Register. Irrespective of how independent TEQSA is of DEEWR, its ICT needs will surface in procurements’, Ms. Hurditch added.
According to the TEQSA fact sheet, the Agency was to be established in 2010 and expand to cover the entire tertiary sector by 2013. However, the project has thus far been delayed, with the legislation underpinning the Agency yet to be tabled in parliament. As reported by The Australian, Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans had originally planned to introduce the legislation in the Spring parliamentary session in 2010, but deferred it until Autumn 2011.
The current RFT seeks a supplier to primarily progress the National Register component of TEQSA through the development of a HEDSS.
According to RFT documents, DEEWR seeks the creation of a secure National Register for TEQSA which is:
- Universally accessible via any modern browser or operating system and consistently available;
- Able to be constantly monitored and maintained;
- Able to manage large amounts of data and documents and minimise agency costs and support;
- Capable of automated and semi-automated communications; and
- Scalable to a very large system in the future and responsive to change.
The project will have three main components:
- Formulation of a detailed strategic architecture document, which will set out the tenderer’s approach to the design, development and resourcing for the design and build of the system;
- Development of the system tools and environment, which must be accessible via a web browser using a secure sign-on system; and
- The design and build of a register driven decision support system.
These are to be deliverable between 1 April 2011 and 28 February 2012.
A fourth requirement – hosting, maintenance and upgrades – will be ongoing.
DEEWR’s RFT closes 15 February 2011.