Dept decision may spell the end for college

2017-04-05 06:02
PHOTO: IAN CARBUTTOval College in Hoosen Haffejee Street.

PHOTO: IAN CARBUTTOval College in Hoosen Haffejee Street.

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PRIVATE college Oval International Computer Education is appealing a decision by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) that will result in the institution having to close its doors in 2018.

The 28-year-old institute has colleges in Durban, Pietermaritzburg, Cape Town and Johannesburg with around 1 000 students enrolled in programmes such as Bachelors of Commerce and Information Technology.

According to Oval, the dispute concerns a misunderstanding regarding the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) level of accreditation for the college’s programmes, which has snowballed into a crisis for the institute.

In September last year the Council on Higher Education withdrew the accreditation of all programmes approved to Oval except the certificate in computers and management, DHET spokesperson Madikwe Mabotha told Fin24 in an e-mailed statement.

On November 24, the Registrar of Private Higher Education Institutions announced its intention to cancel the registration of Oval, a process that was finalised on March 3, Mabotha explained.

The cancellation of the registration was made effective on January 24 and Oval is not allowed to enrol new students on any year of the programme from this date, Dr Shaheeda Essack, director of registration of private higher education institutions, wrote in a communique to students and the public on February 15.

Writing in the March 3 Gazette, DHET director general Gwebinkundla Qonde said his “decision to cancel the institution’s registration is due to the failure to comply with condition 1.1 of registration, providing false, fraudulent and misleading information”.

Qonde added that Oval failed to comply with a regulation by failing to upload the learner achievement data of Noelene Vandeyar on the National Learner’s Records Database.

Mabotha confirmed that Oval indicated it intends to review the Council on Higher Education’s decision to withdraw its accreditation in the North Gauteng High Court.

“The Department awaits the ruling of the high court before any further decision can be made,” said Mabotha.

Oval attorney Richard Donachie said yesterday that the court challenge regarding accreditation might drag on into 2018, but that Oval appealed to the office of the minister regarding the cancellation of Oval’s registration, as this would result in Oval shutting down at the end of 2017.

Donachie said that because the matter is under review and being appealed, none of the orders announced are yet applicable and there is no need to close the college.

“We are confident that we will find a resolution to this matter,” he said. The consequences if they do not resolve the matter are dire.

Essack explained that Oval “may not provide or purport to provide higher education” from January 1, 2018 subject to the outcome of the appeal to the minister, lodged on February 10.

“The outcome on the appeal will be released on or before 60 days of the date of lodging the appeal,” said Essack.

Essack told students that despite the appeal, Oval is “required to serve a phasing-out period” with respect to pipeline students; it must “reimburse or compensate any enrolled student who has a lawful claim on the institution as a consequence of its ceasing to operate”; it must “make adequate arrangements for affected students to complete their programmes at a comparable public or private institution”; it must “cease operating before or at the end of the academic year”; and “ensure that no new students are enrolled after the date specified”.

Oval chief operating officer Smalls Nadasen said they were expecting a favourable outcome in April. “All the reasons they gave in the gazette are being refuted. We are expecting a positive outcome soon.”

Oval marketing manager Divani Singh said Oval is still offering its courses and said the students are aware of the situation.

“We have had competitors trying to take our students, but they don’t want to go,” she said. “They are standing by us. Everything is going to come through [for Oval].”

Singh explained that the issue of fraud was a misunderstanding and had to do with miscommunication between the department and the college.

She explained that the information the department had on their system regarding Oval’s academic programmes was not correct.

“The adverts were based on what Oval was offering,” she said.
— Fin24.

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