About benchmarking

Benchmarking is a process of externally referencing practices through which we as a higher education provider can compare an aspect of our operations with an external comparator(s).


The purposes of external referencing are varied, but typically include:

  • providing evidence of the quality and standing of a provider’s operations
  • offering an external evidence base as context for the development of internal improvements, especially to student outcomes
  • establishing or fostering collaborative improvement efforts across providers.

While all higher education institutions are required under the Higher Education Standards Framework (2021) to undertake comprehensive reviews of all accredited courses of study, the ultimate purpose is to improve and enhance quality internally in our institution. These reviews, on all accredited courses of study, must be overseen by peak academic governance processes at least every seven years and include external referencing or other benchmarking activities.

So the main reason for external referencing is to gain feedback from other institutions and work to improve our quality.

Further information is available about Peer Review of Assessment through External Referencing.

An overview of the Higher Education Standards Framework can be found on the TEQSA website.

Initial reading

Benchmarking at Charles Sturt is incorporated into the Course and Subject Quality Assurance and Review Procedure. Before you start, please review the information needed for the external benchmarking of assessment.

Note the inclusion of de-identified student work samples is required for review by an external institution. The completed Peer Review Report feeds into subsequent course reviews and ensures that we have adequate reporting to satisfy TEQSA requirements. This process underscores the rationale for choosing subjects and/or courses that are about to undergo review as part of the regular Charles Sturt University review cycle.

Types of benchmarking

The TEQSA Guidance Note on Benchmarking outlines the characteristics of benchmarking in higher education. The broad types of benchmarking include:

  1. Organisational benchmarking: in which comparisons are made at the organisational level (institution, faculty/department, school, course and unit levels)
  2. Course benchmarking: of course design and student performance
  3. Process benchmarking: involving comparisons of particular processes and practices
  4. Outcomes benchmarking: the comparison of outcomes data, especially student outcomes
  5. Best practice benchmarking: in which the provider selects a comparator thought to be at the forefront in the area to be benchmarked.

TEQSA provides guidance notes on different parts of the HESF (2021). More than one type of benchmarking may be used at any one time but Provider Registration Standard 5.6 requires a provider to compare its performance on teaching, student learning outcomes, graduate outcomes (which includes both graduate employment and further study), and research (where applicable) with other higher education providers.


PCAS 5.5 specifically refers to course benchmarking, not only of intended academic achievement standards but also of student performance data relevant to outcomes (see below). So our main purpose is to see how our students are achieving their outcomes and whether we compare well with other institutions.

Course benchmarking is a systematic external comparison of course design features of a proposed course with comparable courses at other providers, including admission criteria, assessment tasks, student work samples and assessment criteria. Student performance data relating to outcomes would normally include: attrition/retention rates, student progress and completion rates.

CSU is required under legislation to complete benchmarking for selected units for all accredited courses over the next seven years to assist in assuring quality. Legislation about external benchmarking came into effect as of January 1, 2017.

Leaders in each Faculty have been appointed to liaise with faculties to ensure this happens. Please contact the lead in your faculty for more information.

  • Faculty of Arts and Education: Chris Orchard, Associate Dean (Academic)
  • Faculty of Business, Justice and Behavioural Sciences: Jenny Kent, Associate Dean (Academic)
  • Faculty of Science and Health: Rachel Whitsed, Associate Dean (Academic)


For Peer Review of Assessment, each project contains information about one subject with any number of assessments in each project. Each project is created separately and paid for separately. Currently the Division of Learning and Teaching pays for the project.

Peer review

In each project for peer review of assessment, information about the related course, subject information, assessment and marking information and student samples of work are uploaded for one subject.

See the peer review presentation

Program or course review

In a program or course review, information about the course is uploaded.

Benchmarking in the Higher Education sector

This includes:

  • peer review of assessment – assessing/calibrating learning outcomes through peer review
  • program review – assessing/calibrating program-level outcomes to support accreditation and curriculum review
  • benchmarking – assessing/calibration of data and process to assure and improve standards
  • professional body review – assessing/calibrating professional bodies to support professional accreditation.

All higher education institutions are required under the Higher Education Standards Framework (2021) to undertake comprehensive reviews of all accredited courses of study. These review must be overseen by peak academic governance processes at least every seven years. All accredited courses of study must be reviewed and must include external referencing or other benchmarking activities. Review and improvement activities include regular external referencing of the success of student cohorts against comparable courses of study, including:

a. analyses of progression rates, attrition rates, completion times and rates and, where applicable, comparing different locations of delivery, and
b. the assessment methods and grading of students’ achievement of learning outcomes for selected units of study within courses of study. (HESF, 2021, Section 5.3.1,4).

This Section requires a provider to conduct periodic comprehensive reviews of all courses (at least every seven years with evidence to be provided as part of the renewal of registration application to TEQSA), backed by more frequent monitoring of the day-to-day delivery of courses of study e.g. periodic reviews of units and annual review of student performance. TEQSA will expect to see that such reviews are conducted (or will be conducted in the case of a new provider or course of study) according to the requirements of the Standards as part of the provider’s normal operations, and that the findings of the reviews are evidently used to generate improvements.

In demonstrating that it meets this Standard, a provider will need to demonstrate in particular that reviews of courses of study involve considered oversight by the institutional academic governance processes, external referencing (which can include moderation of assessment against other programs, benchmarking of student success and course design against programs at other providers) and feedback from students.

CSU is undertaking external referencing of assessment in 2018 in order to improve its quality of achievement of outcomes by students although it also complies with TEQSA requirements.


Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) 2015, ยง Subsection 58(1) of the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Act 2011 (TEQSA Act 2011) (2015).

Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency. (2016). Guidance note: External referencing (including benchmarking).

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