Academic calibration and topic quality assurance: more than just a tick-box exercise

Become an Academic Calibration reviewer!


Institutions such as Flinders are answerable to many masters: Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency, Higher Education Standards (HES) Framework (Threshold Standards) 2015, Australian Qualifications Framework, Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000, student and industry surveys, external accrediting agencies, plus our own internal policies and procedures. We have explicit standards, legislative and accreditation requirements that must be met. The danger is in viewing these as merely ‘tick box’ exercises. We have an obligation to ensure that our students have the best learning experience we can offer, and to this end, we must adopt an approach of ongoing quality improvement, rather than simply meeting minimum regulatory and legislative objectives.

The IRU Academic Calibration Process (ACP) was established ostensibly to meet the institutional quality assurance requirements set out in the HES Framework, specifically that universities employ quality assurance activities that comprise ‘regular external referencing of the success of student cohorts against comparable courses of study’ including ‘the assessment methods and grading of students’ achievement of learning outcomes for selected units of study within courses of study.’

Involving the seven institutions* that comprise the Innovative Research Universities (IRU), ACP is a collegial and constructive inter-institutional quality process that sees selected topic design, assessment and grading methods reviewed and compared by a discipline-based external reviewer. Whilst meeting the requirements outlined in the HES Framework, ACP achieves much more. Reports received from reviewers provide an opportunity for topic coordinators to reflect on their topic and assessment, feel validated in their approach, and explore opportunities for improvement. Reports also feed into institutional processes such as course reviews and professional accreditation of courses.


Nominating as a reviewer also has benefits. Calibrating serves as professional development, and gives you the opportunity to experience and evaluate a topic from your discipline from another institution. Calibrators have mentioned the cross-pollination of ideas, and how their experience in evaluating other topics contributes to improvements in their own topics. As further incentive, you also receive a $600 honorarium which is paid into your consulting fund.

In an era of regulatory necessity, risk aversion and compliance, ACP stands out as an activity which offers multifaceted advantages for participants at minimal cost.


ACP at Flinders is coordinated by Anna Smith in the Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching. If you are a Topic Coordinator and would like your topic reviewed as part of the ACP, or you would like to be included on the IRU Calibration Register as a potential reviewer, contact Anna:


* The IRU is a network of seven comprehensive universities committed to inclusive excellence in teaching and research in Australia: Western Sydney University, Charles Darwin University, James Cook University, Griffith University, La Trobe University, Flinders University and Murdoch University.

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