Pentecostal institution wins promotion to ‘university college’

This article was originally published in the Australian Financial Review

Julie Hare Education editor

Jan 31, 2022 – 1.41pm

A Pentecostal college that has seen student enrolments grow fivefold in the past decade has won an appeal to be included in an elite group of education institutions able to use the title university college.

Alphacrucis College, based in Sydney’s Parramatta, appealed after its bid to become come a university college was rejected by the higher education regulator, and challenged the decision in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

Alphacrucis has become Australia’s fourth university college. 

David Perry, vice-president academic, said the move was the next step in the college’s evolution. Alphacrucis started as a small Bible college in 1948 and in the past decade has grown from 800 students to more than 4000.

“Our vision as a global Christian university is transforming neighbourhoods and nations. That sounds very audacious, and it is,” Reverend Perry said. “We are not expecting that we’ll get there next year. But it just means we are one more step on that process.”

Alphacrusis had ambitions to become a full university, he said.

Peter Coaldrake, chief commissioner of the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency, said that in reviewing and reversing its decision the regulator had “noted a number of the college’s strengths including their demonstrated commitment to innovation in teaching and learning and strong engagement with industry and community”.

Liberal senator Eric Abetz raised the issue of unsuccessful applications for the university college category in Senate estimates last October.

“There were 10 applicants for the new university college category, three of which were successful. As I understand it, among the seven that were unsuccessful, five AAT appeals are under way,” Senator Abetz said. “That is, 50 per cent of applicants, or 70 per cent of the unsuccessful applicants, felt sufficiently aggrieved to take legal action.”

Dr Perry said Alphacrucis had been knocked back on a tiny detail around external input into course development. TEQSA was subsequently given additional evidence and was satisfied that the college met the benchmark to become a university college.

Alphacrucis offers a raft of courses in business, leadership, education and ministry, with a number specifically for Korean students. It offers courses from vocational through to PhDs.

The decision means that Australia now has four university colleges after three were promoted into the relatively obscure category in July. The National Institute of Dramatic Art, the Australian Film and Television School and Moore Theological College were all named university colleges at the time, while Avondale College, a 124-year-old Seventh Day Adventist institution near Newcastle, was named Australia’s newest university.

Dr Perry said the change in status would have no bearing on Alphacrucius’ day-to-day activities but the prestige that went with the change would be useful in attracting new partnerships.

Acting education minister Stuart Robert, who is a practising Pentecostal, said the decision gave students more choices about where to study.

“It’s always great to have more education institutions in Australia to give students choices to learn and grow,” Mr Robert said.

Under Australian higher education standards, the term university is tightly protected to ensure it is not used by businesses, companies or domain names that might appear to be a university but in fact are not.