Authorities, including the SAPS and the Department of Higher Education, are repeatedly issuing warnings for prospective students to steer clear of bogus colleges and educational scams.  But while this is sound advice, it may not be enough to actually assist young people in identifying such outfits.

Additionally, the public may also become unnecessarily wary of all private higher education institutions, limiting their own access to quality education.

Dr Felicity Coughlan, Director of The Independent Institute of Education, says that because the private higher education sector is highly regulated in South Africa, with information readily available in prescribed formats, it is in fact easy to identify credible institutions and their campuses if you know what to look for.

“All the key information about the registration of an institution is available in the Register of Private Higher Education Institutions kept by the Department of Higher Education and Training, and the information is also readily available from reputable institutions,” she says.

“There are also a few key questions to ask to which there are some simple answers, and if an institution is able to respond appropriately, it is worth considering.”

Coughlan says prospective students can do the following checks:

  • All private higher education institutions need to be registered with the Department. Any credible campus must be able to show you a certificate to that effect, which details the campus, provider and qualifications.
  • All higher education qualifications need to be accredited by the Higher Education Quality Committee of the Council on Higher Education – if they are not accredited they will not appear on the certificate referred to above.
  • All qualifications must be registered on the NQF by SAQA and students should ask for the SAQA NQF identity numbers.

“Once you have established these three things you can be sure you are dealing with a legitimate institution, and from there you can safely turn your attention to the particular qualification, quality and campus environment issues that meet your aspirations and interests,” Coughlan says.