As the class of 2013, thousands of them newly armed with Bachelor’s passes, scramble to secure space at universities and colleges, an education expert has warned prospective students to ensure they carefully scrutinise institutions before signing up.
The Director of the Independent Institute of Education (IIE Dr Felicity Coughlan says thousands of newly matriculated young people are being turned away at universities due to space constraints.
“It is encouraging to see so many prospective students include private higher and further education institutions as they consider alternatives. It is most regrettable that there are still some unscrupulous people exploiting students’ difficult situation, for fraudulent and selfish financial gain,” she says.
The IIE is SA’s largest and most accredited private higher education institution, and Dr Coughlan notes that private institutions are required to adhere to the same rigorous quality assurance processes as state universities - meaning that if you register at the right private institution you are able to gain a qualification of equal standing and quality.
Most private institutions operating throughout the country are registered and genuinely accredited and almost all offer a viable alternative for students seeking a post-school study opportunity, but it is a travesty that the actions of some taint the whole sector, Coughlan says. “Students unfortunately do not seem to realise how easy it is to check the credentials of private institutions, and thus deny themselves the protection of being sure about the status of the institution – and therefore the qualification they are choosing,” she says.
She adds that 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. Additionally, there are ways students can - and should – interrogate institutions before parting with any money.
“There are few key questions to ask to which there are some simple answers, and if an institution responds appropriately, it is worth considering,” she says.
Before signing up ask the institution the following:
• To show you their certificate of registration with the Department of Higher Education. It should detail the campus, provider and the qualifications offered. No certificate - no go.
• 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. There is no other document detailing the accreditation, which is why checking if the qualification is on the certificate is essential.
• All qualifications must be registered on the NQF by SAQA and students should ask for the SAQA NQF identity numbers.
“Students eager to sign up in the current climate where spaces at tertiary institutions are scarce may be tempted to forego this little bit of additional hassle, but failing to make the effort makes you enormously vulnerable to scamsters. By asking these simple questions, you contribute to strengthening the private higher education sector by making it harder for scamsters to operate.”