With South Africa’s Matric pass rate at an historical high, many thousands of learners are in the unexpectedly happy position of having received a Bachelor’s pass, and therefore qualifying for further study. Those who didn’t make provision for this eventuality, may now find themselves in a situation where they no longer need to settle for their Plan B, but can in fact go for Plan A – realising their dreams of pursuing a degree – but with no place at university yet.
An education expert has warned however that these Matriculants need to take extra special care to ensure that they are signing up for the right qualification, for the right reason, at the right institution, and not fall prey to unscrupulous providers just because they feel pressured to sign up for anything because of time constraints.
“Higher education Minister Blade Nzimande has warned prospective students not to fall for bogus colleges, which can cost precious time and money with no return at the end, but to ensure that they sign up at a registered and accredited institution,” says Peter Kriel, General Manager at The Independent Institute of Education, SA’s largest and most accredited private higher education institution.
He says ensuring that an institution and qualification is above board, by doing the relevant checks (*see details below), is indeed a crucial step before one even considers enrolling.
But more than that, prospective students have to ensure that their qualification will, after three or four years of study, in fact still be relevant and likely to provide a foot in the door and the ability to hit the ground running once that door has opened into the world of work.
“Unfortunately, many qualifications – even from respected universities – are not going to adequately prepare you for the world of work, and work of the future. Keep in mind that technology is constantly advancing, with new approaches, best practices, tools and so forth being incorporated into workplaces all the time, all over the world.
“So your institution and qualification must be cognisant of this, and importantly, have a close connection to industry, to ensure that your education isn’t obsolete by the time you attend your graduation ceremony,” he says.
Kriel says prospective students must first speak to career advisors at public universities and private institutions, interrogating both their insight into the current challenges in today’s world of work, as well as their approach and insight into the likely challenges of the future.
“Ask them how they expect your field to evolve in future, and how their curriculum takes this into account. In addition, how agile their response is likely to be to new technological and other advances, and their incorporation into the curriculum.
“Many institutions will claim they go beyond academics and theory, but can they give you insight into their commitment to lifelong learning and the development of vital soft skills so highly valued by employers?”
Kriel says while the clock is indeed ticking now for those who still need to apply to a higher education institution, due diligence must under no circumstances be discarded.
“A hasty and ill-informed decision in coming weeks can have major repercussions into the future. So make sure you check all the boxes before you embark on this new and exciting chapter in your life: find the right qualification for you, ensure that it is registered and accredited, and ensure that your institution is future-focused and committed to the holistic development of students and providing assistance – before enrolment, during studies, and after graduation.”
* VERIFYING A QUALIFICATION
South Africa has a register of all qualifications which is managed by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), and this register is referred to as the NQF.
Something can only be called a qualification if:
1) It has a credit value of 120 as a minimum, and
2) is registered on the NQF with an NQF ID (sometimes called a SAQA ID) number.
The shortest possible qualification is therefore normally one year as it takes about a year of study to do 120 credits. A degree is normally at least 360 credits and so on. Without these two being in place, what you are studying is considered a short course and not a qualification, so it cannot be called a diploma or degree. So, if a South African institution is offering you a diploma for three weeks of study, it is not legitimate and warning lights should start flashing about that institution.
Before enrolling, prospective students must look up their desired qualification and check its level and credit value, as well as information about what it covers, at http://regqs.saqa.org.za/ .
* VERIFYING AN INSTITUTION
Prospective students can find a complete list of all registered private colleges and higher education institutions at: www.dhet.gov.za/SitePages/DocRegisters.aspx .