Students Still Falling Victim To Bogus Colleges

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Each year, reports of students registering with bogus colleges reach the Parliamentary Committee. After concerns were raised, the Council on Higher Education revels the measures they have in place to ensure that students are able to identify which institutions are registered and accredited.

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It is easier to fall victim to a bogus college than some may think and almost every year incidents of this occurring are reported to Parliament. These institutions make use of fake crests and logos used by official institutions, such as the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) and public and private universities.

These fake institutions often have similar names to legitimate institutions and lead students to believe that they are accredited by the DHET and the Council on Higher Education (CHE) and offer appealing qualifications to unsuspecting students.

With the lack of space available at the majority of South Africa's tertiary institutions and the desperation many students feel to further their education, it is no surprise that students look elsewhere and land up registering with bogus institutions. This results in students wasting time and money on a qualification that they cannot use.

In South Africa, in order for a qualification to be relevant and recognised by employers, it needs to be accredited by the DHET. The DHET ensures that higher education institutions are meeting the necessary requirements to produce skilled and capable graduates.

In 2018, 40 individuals were prosecuted for operating fake schools across the country. Since then, the DHET, South African Police Services and the Prosecution Authority have been working together to identify and remove all fake colleges in the country, however, some still manage to slip through the cracks.

The CHE Addresses Parliament's Concerns

During a Parliamentary meeting at the beginning of the month, the Committee questioned what the CHE is doing to ensure that they are communicating with students to confirm whether or not an institution is accredited with the DHET.

Ms Vuyokazi Memani-Sedile, the new chairperson of the CHE, revealed that private institutions accredited by the Council, were subject to institutional audits and several institutions are selected each year to undergo these audits.

Additionally, the CHE does not work with institutions that are not accredited.

The Department keeps a register of all accredited institutions in the country and students and parents are encouraged to double check whether or not an institution is accredited before registering with them.

CHE Measures In Place

CHE states that they, together with the relevant institutions, need to embark on an awareness programme. However, there is a whistleblowing line where bogus institutions can be reported.

In order to create awareness, the CHE can visit the relevant institutions themselves as Memani-Sedile says it is sad that students are being taken for a ride and leaving after years of studying without a recognised qualification.

The state of higher education is regularly monitored through quality assurance to evaluate the measures institutions have put in place to ensure that they are achieving the goals they have set out to achieve, as well as meeting the necessary standards and requirements. This applies to both public and private tertiary institutions.

The quality assurance process involves two measures; accreditation and institutional audits. The CHE first needs to examine the programmes the institution wants them to accredit. Then institutional audits will need to take place to ensure that the institution still qualifies for the accreditation.

To examine whether an institution is accredited, you can visit the DHET website for a list.

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