24 April 2017


Universities Australia (UA) welcomes the opportunity to make submission to the Independent Review of Accreditation Systems within the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme (NRAS) for Health Professionals (“the Review”). UA understands that the Review and its associated discussion paper focuses on three main areas: improving efficiency; relevance and responsiveness and; future health workforce development. UA has responded to the discussion questions posed under each of these areas where applicable to universities and also provided further information where relevant.  


UA is the peak body representing Australia’s 39 comprehensive universities. Our primary activity is public and political advocacy on behalf of our members. Where appropriate, we also work with members to coordinate a whole-of-sector approach to key issues. Health professional course accreditation is one such area. All universities conduct at least one health professional course regulated under NRAS/the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and a number conduct multiple such courses . Universities therefore play a key role in the entry level education and training of most NRAS health professionals and also many outside of NRAS. Reflective of this role, UA facilitates two health advisory groups: the discipline specific Health Professions Education Standing Group (HPESG) and the jurisdictionally based Health Education Workforce Group (HEWG) both of which have provided input into this submission.   


UA supports accreditation and has itself worked with Professions Australia (PA) to develop joint Principles for Professional Accreditation to streamline and improve consistency in the professional accreditation of university courses , . UA believes that, at its best, accreditation provides a valuable mechanism for protecting the interests of the general public (the primary focus of NRAS), students, education providers and employers by ensuring that educational programs are delivered at a level that meets or exceeds standards developed by experts within the professions . It enables continuous quality improvement, brings professional knowledge to university teaching practices, assists in the consistent delivery of competent and appropriately skilled health professionals and provides a pathway for developing the future health workforce in line with emerging trends. Accrediting authorities under NRAS also require monitoring of graduate outcomes and benchmarking which is useful and can otherwise be difficult to achieve in a competitive environment. NRAS’s connection between accreditation and national registration through AHPRA also assists in gathering health professional data to support a range of activities including workforce analysis/planning and best practice course delivery.

At its worst, however, experiences of health professional course accreditation can be overly bureaucratic. It can duplicate assessments better or already conducted by other regulatory authorities, focus unnecessarily on process and input rather than output and outcome measures and constrain innovation regarding future workforce development. While this is not the case all the time or across all health courses, UA considers that there are still some areas for improvement. These are addressed below under the three main discussion paper headings. Of note, while UA understands that the review is focused on the current fourteen NRAS professions, reference is also made within the submission to the self-regulating professions. 

Find the full submission here (PDF 380.7KB)