- Created on Monday, 17 September 2012 09:40
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As the students of 2013 rush to sign up at tertiary institutions, education expert Dr Felicity Coughlan, Director of the Independent Institute of Education, warns that whether the choice is to go public or private, a thorough investigation of both campus and course is essential.
“Every year, hundreds of thousands of students have to go through a difficult process to determine which the best place is for them as individuals to study. What makes this process even harder, is the fact that sometimes an institution or qualification may not ultimately provide you with the outcome you had been promised when you signed up,” says Dr Coughlan.
She says that while standards were improving in both public and private sectors, gaps remained and that, to ensure peace of mind, students had to do their homework before investing time and money.
Coughlan says prospective students could do the following to protect themselves:
Check that the institution is registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training
A list of registered private higher education institutions is available on the website of the DHET, as well as the SAQA website. Private institutions are also required to display their registration certificate in their reception.
Never accept the mere presence of a so-called registration number as proof of registration.
Check that the qualification is accredited – if that is what you require.
Note that there is a difference between quality assurance and accreditation of qualifications. It is possible that a registered private higher education institution’s programmes may not all be fully accredited or registered higher education programmes. This may impact on your ability to register for further studies if that is your ambition, so ensure you know what you are signing up for.
The status of programmes themselves can be checked on the SAQA website, but some caution needs to be exercised here as this register is not always 100% up to date and there is a delay between processes.
The best approach is to ask the institution concerned for evidence of registration and accreditation, which they should be able to provide without hesitation.
Investigate the reputation of an institution – in person and online.
Visit campuses and speak to existing students, especially those who are enrolled in or have completed the course you intend to take, to ensure that the institution and course will meet your specific needs.
Private and public institutions are subject to the same quality assurance requirements and often offer similar services and facilities. Equally, similar challenges appear in various guises in the private and public sphere.