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Rooting Out Bogus Colleges

THE fact that higher education is so highly valued makes it attractive to criminals to swindle money out of unsuspecting and often desperate victims.

Rooting out bogus colleges

In most cases this is through bogus colleges, pretending to offer quality education at bargain prices but in fact offer nothing but misery and hardship to those they trap.

The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) takes the curse of bogus private colleges very seriously, and is working hard to stamp them out.

The Department has intensified its efforts to raise public awareness of the importance of verifying the status of any institution offering either university-level degrees or technical qualifications before registering.

Lists of bogus colleges are published on the Register of Private Higher Education Institutions and updated monthly on the Department’s website.

With the Constitution grants anyone the right to establish their own education and training institution, it has to be registered with the DHET.

While many private higher education institutions (HEI) are above board, some are not.

The DHET’s Annual Report for 2014/15 says close partnerships with the South African Police Service and education authorities in the United Kingdom and the United States of America to combat bogus colleges and degree fraud have yielded results.

The relationship with the police has resulted in a squad within the police’s national commercial and financial intelligence unit that coordinates investigations into illegal private HEIs and fraudulent education qualifications.

At least 39 bogus colleges have been shut down, either directly by the SAPS and the Department or through the legal process of the courts.

A further 95 illegally operating private institutions have been closed since 2010, many of which were permitted to reopen when they complied with registration laws.

The Department has also formed a Stakeholder Forum with key roleplayers, including the Association of Private Providers of Education, Training and Development; National Prosecuting Authority (NPA); National Consumer Commission (NCC) ; Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training (Umalusi); Quality Council for Trades and Occupations; and the South African Qualifications Authority.

The forum established in 2012 works to identify unregistered and bogus colleges, and the roleplayers have formally agreed to act swiftly to prevent further harm to students by unscrupulous education institutions.

The NPA has also been key in securing criminal convictions in cases brought before the courts, while the NCC has helped to mediate consumer disputes between students and private HEIs which may not lead to criminal prosecutions.

This is all combined to result in a sharp drop in complaints from the public, parents and students about illegally operating colleges from 2 021 in 2011 to 560 in 2014, and in 15 cases students were refunded fees.





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