A structured, collaborative learning process for comparing practices, performance outcomes and processes. Benchmarking aims to develop improvements in the academic quality of courses, units and teaching by identifying comparative strengths and weaknesses. It is a quality process used to evaluate performance by comparing institutional practices to sector good practice (TEQSA, 2014). TEQSA provides a Guidance note about benchmarking within external referencing.

A benchmarking partnership can involve external educational providers or colleagues within an educational institution. The process is facilitated by providers working together to deliver evidence of quality, and the sharing of ideas through collegial and productive conversations.

The review focus could involve a comparison of:

  • course design
  • unit design
  • teaching delivery
  • any other aspect of academic practice.

The Higher Education Standards Framework

The revised Higher Education Standards Framework (HESF) (2015) became law on 1 January 2017. Four key standards in the HESF directly relate to peer review of assessment and external referencing. These four standards apply to undergraduate courses and postgraduate coursework programs. All higher education providers must meet these standards. Table 1 below highlights these standards with an explanation.

Table 1: Key standards in the HESF for peer review of assessment and external referencing

1.4.1Expected learning outcomes are informed by national and international comparators.Course teams are asked to consider national and international comparators within their discipline for benchmarking learning outcomes. Some disciplines will have to consider international comparators if they are not able to identify and search for external expertise and assessors in Australia.
5.3.1Accredited courses at least every 7 years are subject to comprehensive reviews including external referencing or other benchmarking activities.This standard has significant resource implications for accrediting professional courses and accrediting bodies. A structured, planned approach to accreditation is needed. This involves peer review of assessment, external referencing, or other benchmarking activities.
5.3.2A comprehensive review includes the design and content of each course of study, the expected learning outcomes, the methods for assessment of those outcomes, and the extent of students’ achievement of learning outcomes. It also takes account of emerging developments in the field of education, modes of delivery, the changing needs of students, and identified risks to the quality of the course of study.This standard points to comprehensive reviews of each course of study as part of assuring learning and teaching standards. Course teams should devise a schedule of peer reviews of assessment which are aligned to accreditation, annual course reporting, and course review timelines.
5.3.4Review and improvement activities includes regular external referencing (monitoring) against comparable courses of study (progression, attrition, completion) and assessment methods and grading of learning outcomes for selected units of study within courses.This standard relates directly to course reviews and the importance of including other forms of external referencing, including data on progression, attrition and completion rates. Note that peer review of assessment and grading is part of the overall process of assuring the quality of a course.

(Please note - it's better to refer to the Online version rather than export, as it's always up to date)