Australian Psychology Accreditation Council

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1. Why are the standards being changed?open/close

The overall goal of the standards review is to replace the current accreditation standards with new accreditation standards that:

  • meet the requirements for the development of accreditation standards as required by the National Law; and
  • take account of relevant regulatory changes in the education sector (e.g. Australian Qualifications Framework, the Higher Education Standards Framework (2015), other health professions’ accreditation standards, and the threshold learning and teaching academic standards for health, medicine and veterinary science).

The review addresses the objectives required by AHPRA that:

  • standards meet relevant Australian and international benchmarks
  • standards are based on the available research and evidence base
  • stakeholders are involved in the development and review of standards and there is wide-ranging consultation
  • in reviewing and developing standards, the accreditation authority takes account of AHPRA’s Procedures for development of accreditation standards and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation National Law 2009 as enacted in each state and territory of Australia (the National Law).

2. How were the proposed standards developed?open/close

After an extensive consultation process based on a revised version of the 2010 standards, proposed draft standards were released for consultation in May 2014. Following stakeholder feedback and consultation, it was decided to restructure the content of the standards to make a clear delineation between the standards themselves and the evidence required to assess them. In doing this, the focus of the standards was moved from an inputs- to an outcomes-based approach.

The following steering group was set up to undertake the work:

  • Professor Nancy Pachana (Convenor)
  • Professor Caroline Hunt
  • Associate Professor Lesley Bretherton
  • Ms Ann Doolette
  • Professor Lyn Littlefield

Professor Maree O’Keefe was engaged to help revise the standards; in addition, she and Ms Suzy McKenna undertook a review of relevant and recent literature on program accreditation standards and competence standards to identify suitable standards nationally and internationally for mapping and benchmarking. This work was then developed further and its content tested with a number of key internal and external stakeholders. This project stage lasted for approximately nine months. Stakeholder engagement and research found there was consistent support for an approach and format that has been adopted in the proposed Standards. The development of the accreditation standards was conducted in line with the goals of the project, and in particular referenced:


  • the objectives and principles of the National Law
  • the Procedures for the development of accreditation standards as established under the National Law
  • the Quality Framework for the Accreditation Function, the principal reference document for national boards to assess the work of accreditation authorities
  • The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Principles for Best Practice Regulation
  • Principles for the development of accreditation standards developed by the Health Professions Accreditation Councils’ Forum.

3. How do the proposed standards differ from the
    existing June 2010 standards?open/close

Since 2012, a number of other health and care sector accreditation standards have been approved, both in Australia and overseas, that have public safety at their core, and this aligns with the National Law’s objective of protecting the public. The first domain in our new standards relates to this objective. In addition, at the request of the Psychology Board of Australia, the new standards will for the first time cover Professional Competencies for Specialised Areas of Practice. In keeping with contemporary practice, our focus in assessing standards will move from an inputs based approach to an outcomes-based approach: we hope this change will allow for more flexibility in the ways providers may choose to structure programs, and allow for innovative approaches to learning and teaching.

The proposed Standards involve:

  • a single set of standards that are outcomes-focused and evidence-based
  • a reduction in the number of accreditation standards
  • a rationalisation of processes and evidence requirements to maximise benefit and reduce the reporting burden on education providers, including considering information from other review processes (such as those associated with TEQSA or ASQA provider registration) as providing evidence towards meeting the accreditation standards
  • benchmarking and robust peer review to support standards and quality improvement
  • standards that relate to ‘enabling’ aspects of programs being sufficiently flexible in their evidence requirements so as to take into account the differences between providers in their teaching and learning approaches and their clinical placement arrangements, and new and emerging educational trends
  • greater attention to curriculum, assessment and documentation of students’ achieving intended learning outcomes.

4. What are the standards comprised of?open/close

The proposed Accreditation Standards for Psychology Programs comprise:

  1. Accreditation Standards for Psychology Programs
  2. Accreditation Standards: Graduate Competencies
  3. Accreditation Standards: Glossary

Associated documentation:

  1. Evidence Guide (also published for public consultation)
  2. Accreditation Rules (to be developed after Standards are approved)

5. What is the process from here?open/close

The consultation period for the proposed Accreditation Standards for Psychology Programs will close on Friday, 15 July 2016. All submissions will be acknowledged and will be published on the APAC website, unless otherwise requested. APAC retains the right not to publish any particular submissions. After considering the submissions and revising the documents, a final version will be submitted to the Psychology Board of Australia for approval. It is hoped that the new standards will come into effect in 2017. Transition arrangements will apply until such time as all current accreditation cycles have been completed. Please refer to the transition guidelines document.

6. When will the standards come into effect?open/close

It is hoped that the new standards will come into effect in 2017. Transition arrangements will apply until such time as all current accreditation cycles have been completed. Higher Education Providers due for assessment in 2017 will be able to choose whether to be assessed under the old or new Standards and will be offered assistance in transitioning to the new Standards.

7. How can I find out more information?open/close

8. How do I submit feedback?open/close

Please consider the following questions:

  1. Is there anything that is missing from the components of the proposed Accreditation Standards for Psychology Programs?

  2. Is the introduction to the Accreditation Standards for Psychology Programs contained in the Preamble and Application of the Standards sufficient to guide the use of the standards?

  3. Should the Graduate Competencies specify that one level must be completed before the next can be undertaken, rather than allowing for concurrent achievement of different levels of competencies? For example, should Professional Competencies leading to General Registration be achieved before commencement of a program leading to Professional Competencies for Specialised Areas of Practice? Please consider pros and cons of such an arrangement, in terms of educational validity and resourcing.

    In addressing this question, you may care to assess the model proposed for stand-alone programs in an area of practice (see page 18 in the Consultation Paper), to enable registered psychologists to undertake a qualification leading to eligibility to apply for endorsement in a specialised area of practice.

  4. At present, APAC does not accredit internship years. Please give your views on the advisability of APAC developing standards for programs which include five years of academic work plus an intern year, leading to qualification for general registration.

  5. Are the Graduate Competencies listed under each level helpful and logical?

  6. Are the Graduate Competencies under each level grouped appropriately?

  7. Is the information in the Evidence Guide helpful and logical?

  8. Are there terms in the Accreditation Standards for Psychology Programs that have not been defined in the glossary and should be?

  9. Are there any issues that you wish to have considered in the finalisation of the Accreditation Standards for Psychology Programs?

Responses to the above questions should be addressed to the CEO, the Australian Psychology Accreditation Council, at

9. When do submissions close?open/close

The closing date for submissions is Friday, 15 July 2016. Submissions after the closing date cannot be accepted.

10. Will my submission be published?open/close

All submissions will be published on the APAC website, unless otherwise requested. APAC retains the right not to publish any particular submissions.