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9 Mistakes to Avoid in Seeking Higher Education Registration

As a company working in private higher education for close to a decade, we have come across all sorts of people and organisations registered or applying for higher education registration. While the overwhelming majority of clients are good, hard-working people seeking to serve their students and help the community, we have come across a minority of exceptions.

In reflecting on the mistakes we have come across with clients pursuing higher education registration, we have discussed them and put them into 9 common mistakes.

1. Underinvest

If you are looking to pursue higher education registration, and want to make on the classic mistakes, then simply underinvest. It is not enough to simply feel that you have enough to seek registration, you need resources and cash to invest in higher education.

Underinvestment includes such things are: unwillingness to build a team, lack of existing internal capabilities or resources to support capacity and capability building, lack of contingency or support funding for higher education, unrealistic expenditure to maintain a solid, high quality application.

2. Not Work With Others

Higher education is a team sport. The governance structure of higher education can be threatening to many business owners and founders, as it places the governance board as the primary authority for higher education. One red flag client we knew had major problems with working with others, and it is understandable as to why she did not meet governance requirements. Despite helping her with creating a highly experienced and qualified board, she could not work with them or take their advice. This is a major mistake. We strongly recommend the founder/owner step back from the boards, and hire a trusted CEO to run the operations.

3. Dislike Academics

It would be a strange person who bought a medical clinic but had no interest in their patient’s welfare or their medical staff’s practices. That business would not endure. If trouble did not happen with a patient first, either the doctors would leave, or government regulations would become a problem.

The same goes for higher education. Why would you want to enter a business where you have little concern for students or academics? The business of higher education, funnily enough, is higher education. This does not mean you have to be an academic. However, you must be willing to engage with, work with, and support academics and their work.

Many prospective higher education provider have been explicit in their dislike and disregard for academics. This is a very strange perspective. If you don’t love education or the work that academics do (no matter how high maintenance or uncommercial they might be), then it would be a strange choice to pursue registration.

4. Adopt an Employee Mentality

Many prospective higher education providers may have run a government funded institution before, however, higher education is very different. While at some stage you may be eligible for FEE-Help funding (there are specific rules on this), you should not count on this or expect it to be a source of revenue.

Many prospective higher education providers want the registration process to be ‘safe’ and ‘100% guaranteed’. If this is your approach, you are thinking more like an employee than an entrepreneur or business owner. There is risk in all commercial pursuits, and to be wanting to ‘buy a license’ or have a safe passage to registration is simply not possible.

Before you pursue higher education, you really need to assess your own business skills and experience. Have you ever run a business before? Have you employed anyone before? Do you have the managerial experience to complete the mission? Do you have the team to support you in your pursuits?

You really need to take a sober and honest look at your capacity to handle the stresses and challenges of registration.

5. Want to be ‘Rescued’

If they were giving away registration for free, it would be hardly worth the effort to be registered. While many higher education providers pursuing higher education are reeling from the de-funding of the VET sector, you need to have a financial ability to sustain an application and registration application over several years. Where there is a will, there is a way.

A bigger problem is when you want to gain registration on the cheap or pursue higher education to be ‘rescued’ from a business problem.

A large part of our service is to try to save you wasting money on processes and approaches that do not work, as well as save time in meeting the registration requirements. What is a problem, however, is when a prospective applicant does not want to spend anything on higher education or wants us to ‘save’ a business. This is not our role.

Even with the help of consultants and advisors, you need to be able to invest in a range of resources, staff and governance board members. Not having the capacity to pay, however, not having the willingness to pay is an entirely different kettle of fish.

If you want to seek registration, you need to remember it is an investment.

6. Don’t Listen to Advice or Guidance

A mistake many prospective higher education applicants take is that they are super stubborn. They take the hard route and are determined to go it alone. Maybe that have been spooked by the regulator or worried about not getting help. There is nowhere in the TEQSA Act or the TEQSA Threshold Standards that states you cannot seek help or obtain guidance on higher education registration.

The precaution taken by the government is that they want bona fide higher education providers, which can demonstrate compliance with the higher education standards. If you do not have sufficient education or knowledge of higher education to begin with (or how the higher education standards work), there is little point in pursuing higher education. It is okay to seek help, there are limits to how far this can take you.

7. Take No Responsibility or Ownership for Their Application

A key requirement for higher education providers is that they have the internal capabilities and capacity to run a higher education institution. Think about this for a second. This means you need to demonstrate governance, operations, teaching and learning, student support and administration, and a host of other skills and knowledge. While consultants like Darlo Higher Education can help you tremendously in understanding higher education requirements, weaving through registration and regulatory requirements, and where and how to provide evidence of compliance with specific standards, you need to remember that it is your organisation that will be delivering at the end of the day.

In other words, the application process is a reflection of your strategic and operational knowledge, skill and experience of higher education.