Avondale University College in Cooranbong has become Australia’s newest university in seven years.
The decision was announced by the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) under new national standards introduced on 1 July.
On the same day, TEQSA also approved the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA), the Australian Film and Television School and Moore Theological College as “university colleges,” which have lower research requirements than universities.
Established in 1897, Avondale is affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church, which runs the world’s second largest Christian school system.
Although Avondale does not mandate religious belief for admissions, it requires students “to respect the faith, beliefs, mission and uphold the lifestyle expectations of the Church,” and considers among its key graduate attributes a “capacity to reflect deeply on Christian values.”
Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Kevin Petrie said that its new university status will provide “opportunity to bring further diversity to the sector, which will benefit students.”
“I’m determined to use our new position to transform more lives through Christ-centred higher education.”
The institution offers undergraduate and postgraduate degrees concentrating on education, nursing, the humanities, theology and business, and provides training for the ministry to prospective pastors within the Church.
It claims to have particular strengths in nursing due to its partnership with the Sydney Adventist Hospital (SAH), a private healthcare provider formerly co-affiliated with the University of Sydney.
Additionally, as a new private university, Avondale will be eligible for a FEE-HELP loan exemption. This means that compared to students at public universities, Avondale students will not have to pay a 25% loan fee on their FEE-HELP loan.
TEQSA’s accreditation of Avondale has drawn criticism from Labor Senator Kim Carr over the agency’s decision-making process.
“Avondale has not yet been through a round of assessment under Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA),” Carr said.
“Australia has not been overwhelmed with stories of Avondale’s cutting-edge contributions to new knowledge…. Frankly, I am sceptical.”
It is understood that the Higher Education Standards Panel, the statutory body advising TEQSA on accreditation, features members from religious institutions.
Professor Kerri-Lee Krause, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Avondale and Dr David Perry, Vice-President (Academic) at Pentecostal Alphacrucis College are amongst those represented.
Petrie said the new university will drop ‘College’ from its name in the near future to reflect its degree-conferring powers to become ‘Avondale University’.