Be aware of, and take responsibility for, your educational rights
Your education is an incredibly important investment of time and money. The importance of registration, accreditation and licensing of institutions, qualifications and conferring bodies cannot be over-emphasised. However, these things can be fairly confusing – a fact that some institutions will regrettably trade on with misleading communication and even illegal presentation of credentials. In addition to the many highly recognised and accredited higher education institutions in South Africa, there are also unscrupulous providers and poor quality programmes.
Armed with the right information and a few key questions you will be well positioned to get all the facts you need to be certain you are making wise decisions.
Firstly, it is important to understand the difference between Higher Education (HE) and Further Education and Training (FET)
Higher Education and Further Education and Training are managed by the same government department – the Department of Higher Education and Training. Providers of both register with the Department but details are kept on two registers. Higher Education qualifications are accredited by the HEQC and are all post-school level and are on levels 5 to 10 of the Higher Education Qualifications Framework (which is the top part of the National Qualifications Framework). Only qualifications accredited by the HEQC can be called Higher Education qualifications. Further Education and Training Qualifications are “non-school” qualifications at NQF level 1 to 4 and they are accredited and quality assured by Umalusi or a SETA.
Questions to ask:
- Is the institution registered by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET)?
All providers of higher education have to be registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training – remember that College Campus is a brand of The Independent Institute of Education (Pty) Ltd so you will find our registration details in the Register of Private Providers of Higher Education which can be found on the SAQA (SA Qualifications Authority) www.saqa.org.za
Further Education and Training providers also need to be registered and can be found on the Further Education Register.
- If the institution is registered, great, but is the qualification I am studying or want to study registered? And at what level is it registered?
(Please see definitions of the difference between the conferring body or institution, and the institution providing tuition (tuition centre) and a brand of an institution further down in this document.)
A higher education qualification is one that has been accredited by the Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC). Once it is accredited it can be registered by SAQA on the NQF (National Qualifications Framework). Only registered and accredited qualifications can be offered as higher education qualifications.
You can find a list of current registered qualifications on the SAQA website.
How do I do this?
Visit www.saqa.org.za, click on ‘Qualifications and Part-Qualifications and unit standards’ on the right hand side. Search for the qualification and the conferring body, for example The Independent Institute of Education, UNISA. (Please note though that the process of registering a qualification by SAQA can take up to a year after accreditation so the fact that a qualification is not yet on the website does not mean it is not accredited or in fact registered) If you cannot find the registration details on the website ask the institution for proof of accreditation. This should not be difficult to provide.
Remember that if you are registered with two institutions (one which is the conferrer of your qualification and one which is your tuition centre) such as UNISA and The Independent Institute of Education’s College Campus, the SAQA registration will be through the name of the institution for which you write exams and who will provide you with your qualification (i.e the conferrer).
- Some courses are advertised as programmes and others as qualifications. What is the difference? What is the difference between a qualification and a short learning programme?
This is important as some institutions use this language to mislead. A qualification is only a qualification if it is registered on the NQF, accredited by the HEQC (if it is higher education) and registered for that institution by the DOE. It can only be those things if it meets the requirements of all three – that means it is at least a full year of study (120 credits) and is in the format that is required. Sometimes qualifications are called programmes or have programmes in them (an academic year could be called a programme). They key thing to keep in mind is that a short learning programme or short course is not a qualification.
If what you need is a particular skill for a particular reason (like promotion or upgrade of legal knowledge) a short learning programme or short course may be the right course of study for you – it is just important to know that it is NOT a qualification and cannot usually be used to gain access to further study at a higher level.
A National qualification or South African qualification then has to be registered and accredited here – by the Higher Education Quality Committee and it needs to be on the NQF.
- What is the Council for Higher Education (CHE)? / Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC)?
In order to ensure that all South African qualifications – offered by private and public institutions – are of the same standard the Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC) is the body established by law to accredit (quality assure and approve) all Higher Education qualifications. The SETAS and Umalusi do the same for Further education and Training. The HEQC is a subcommittee of the Council for Higher Education which is a body established by the government to oversee Higher Education – particularly its quality.
- How do I check the legitimacy of a foreign qualification?
You need to check the registration of the qualification and the institution in its country of origin. If tuition is being provided in SA for that qualification the tuition centre should be able to give you the information.
You can also approach SAQA to ask them if a particular qualification would be recognised for further study in South Africa and if so at which level – they may need you to get quite a bit of detail from the other institution to do this. They will not be able to do this for you if the other qualification or institution is not registered or accredited by a recognised body in its country of origin.
- What is the difference between the conferring body or institution, and the institution providing tuition (tuition centre) and a brand of an institution?
The conferring body or institution is the organisation that confers or awards the final qualification, should all the exams and standards have been passed. This is the institution that is registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training.
If an institution has a qualification registered as a distance qualification this means that you may not get your teaching (tuition) from the conferring body but you may register for lectures and student support with a tuition centre.
Some registered institutions (such as The Independent Institute of Education) work through groups of campuses organised under brand names – for instance College Campus, Rosebank College, Varsity College, Vega and DSSA campuses are campuses registered under The Independent Institute of Education. (Be sure to check the register for the institution name and not the brand name – and if you are not sure and cannot find your brand on the register check that you are searching for the right thing! You will not find the brand name on the registers – you will only find the name of The Independent Institute of Education – the largest, most accredited private provider.
Please note: Not only do registration and accreditation meet legal requirements but they also provide you as the student access to redress mechanisms – including the CHE and the HEQC and the DHET and SAQA – should concerns arise.
- What is the difference between a public and a private higher education provider/ institution?
Public higher education providers are institutions that have been established and funded by the state. Public providers can be referred to as universities, universities of technology and comprehensive universities. There are 23 in South Africa.
Private higher education providers, on the other hand, are owned by private organisations or individuals. Although many of them offer the same qualifications as public providers, private provider institutions are mostly privately funded (through student fees) and are not subsidised by the state.
The qualifications of both public and private higher education institutions must be accredited by the HEQC and registered on the NQF.
Other methods of checking quality:
- Quality of lecturers
To teach on an accredited Higher Education qualification one is required to hold a qualification a level higher than the one on which you teach in a similar, relevant area. It is worth checking if this standard is adhered to. It is also worth checking whether lecturers have any experience in the industry that they are lecturing about?
- What are the campus facilities like?
Please ensure you visit the campus that you intend to study at before registering. The physical evidence of the campus in terms of buildings, geography, security, staff, classrooms, libraries and facilities is also evidence of quality. It will also give you an opportunity to observe the overall environment.