Higher education and tertiary policy

The Department engages with the higher education sector on policy, programs, and strategy on behalf of NSW Government, and administers legislation for the NSW public universities.

The higher education sector in NSW

New South Wales has 10 public universities with campuses in over 25 locations and 58 private and not-for-profit providers. The department plays a critical role in administering the legislative responsibilities of the state's public universities as well as ensuring ongoing engagement with the NSW Vice Chancellor's Committee, other states, territories and the Commonwealth on policy and implementation issues.

Our role

The Department of Education:

  • develops policy related to higher education in NSW
  • manages stakeholder relations with universities, including strategic engagement with the NSW Vice Chancellors’ Committee and its subcommittees, on behalf of NSW Government
  • supports legislative responsibilities relating to higher education, including the university governing bodies appointment process
  • represent the interests of NSW universities and higher education providers in national forums.

We regularly engage with other government agencies, states and territories, and the Commonwealth on policy and implementation issues.

University governance

The 10 NSW public universities and their governing bodies are formed under acts of parliament. These acts cover the objects and functions of the universities and their responsibilities to the public.

The Minister for Skills and Training is accountable to the NSW Parliament for the use of ministerial powers relating to university governing bodies, and the department plays a critical role in administering the legislative responsibilities of the state's public universities.

These university acts can be accessed via the following links:

Universities are largely funded by the Commonwealth Department of Education, Skills and Employment.

Universities are governed by Commonwealth legislation under the Higher Education Support Act, and higher education providers are accredited and regulated by the Commonwealth government through the Tertiary Education Standards Authority.

Strategic engagement

The Department is responsible for the NSW Government’s whole-of-sector, whole-of-government, overarching Higher Education Strategy 2021-25. The NSW Higher Education Strategy will guide NSW Government engagement with the higher education sector.

Vision: the NSW Government is partnering with universities and other higher education providers in bold and innovative ways to address economic and environmental challenges, both locally and globally.

The Strategy will drive outcomes across five key priority areas. These are:

  • Developing and broadening post school options to foster lifelong learning
  • Ensuring wider participation in higher education
  • Driving job growth, skills and innovation
  • Strengthening collaborations to bolster research outcomes
  • Reinvigorating and diversifying international education and engagement

Read the NSW Higher Education Strategy 2021-25 at a glance.

For each year of the Strategy, an annual reporting and planning cycle is undertaken to measure progress on actions and outcomes, and to identify new in-scope projects and programs that deliver on the vision of the Strategy. View the 2021-22 Action Plan.

The Strategy’s education outcomes are supported by the Department’s annual Collaboration and Innovation Fund, which provides competitive seed funding to high impact, innovative projects led by universities in NSW.

Learn more about the Collaboration and Innovation Fund.

The Department engages with the higher education sector in a variety of other ways, too. Learn more about our strategic projects and initiatives in higher education.


  • School operations

Business Unit:

  • Secretary
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