The Australian Institute of Building (AIB) have advised the Chair of the Australian Government’s review into higher education that universities focussing on full-fee paying students are working against the interest of local professions.

Many Australian professional institutes accredit undergraduate programmes as a means of verifying the relevancy of the course's content, the quality of instruction, and that the graduates possess the knowledge and attributes expected by the professions.

However, some universities are considering dropping accreditation undertaken by Australian professional institutes and replacing it with accreditation provided by an overseas organisation.

“In seeking to accredit Australian university courses, overseas professional institutes are less interested in the quality of these courses, seeking to use the accreditation as a platform to recruit members in Australia,” said Troy Williams, AIB Chief Executive.

According to AIB, it is the commercialisation of the tertiary sector that drives Australian universities to seek overseas accreditation.

The increasing financial reliance upon full fee paying international students is creating a set of circumstances in which universities are looking to market their product overseas, thus seeking endorsement by overseas organisations.

“Such moves will severely weaken Australian professional institutes, and as a result the professions these organisations support. It’s short-sighted demonstrates the poor link that some academics have with industry,” Troy Williams said.

“In ditching the link with local professionals and working with overseas professional institutes, universities are reducing the influence of Australian professionals on course content and quality.”

“In the future such advice will be tendered not via an Australian professional institute, but that of an overseas body that may be unfamiliar with the local commercial, technical and regulatory environment,” Troy Williams continued.

AIB believe that this is a sleeping issue and the full ramifications may only be realised when it’s too late to undo the damage.

Last week AIB asked that the Australian Government’s review into higher education look at the involvement of overseas professional institutes in the accreditation process; the extent to which this works against the interests of Australian professions; and the extent to which this works against the interests of Australian professional institutes.