The problem is so rampant that “Higher education Minister Blade Nzimande has warned prospective students not to fall for bogus colleges, which can cost precious time and money with no return at the end," urges the Independent Institute of Education's General Manager, Peter Kriel.
In some instances, victims are lured by fraudsters based on their need to find cheaper study alternatives, and in others, Kriel says, it is the hasty applicant who takes the bait.
Given that deadlines are looming, prospective students are advised to be especially vigilant about possible scams.
"A hasty and ill-informed decision in coming weeks can have major repercussions into the future. So make sure you check all the boxes before you embark on this new and exciting chapter in your life," advises Kriel who provided us with a guide to verifying a qualification and institution.
How to verify a qualification
South Africa has a register of all qualifications which is managed by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA). This register is referred to as the NQF which assigns specific credit values to a qualification.
Something can only be called a qualification if:
- It has a credit value of 120 as a minimum, and
- Is registered on the NQF with an NQF ID (sometimes called a SAQA ID) number.
The shortest possible qualification is therefore normally one year as it takes about a year of study to do 120 credits. A degree is normally at least 360 credits and so on.
Spotting red flags
Without these two being in place, what you are studying is considered a short course and not a qualification, so it cannot be called a diploma or degree.
So, if a South African institution is offering you a diploma for three weeks of study, it is not legitimate and warning lights should start flashing about that institution.
Before enrolling, prospective students must look up their desired qualification by visiting the SAQA website.
Here, you'll be able to check whether your desired qualification's level and credit value, as well as information about what it covers.
How to verify an institution
For a complete list of all registered private colleges and higher education institutions visit the Department of Higher Education and Training's registers page here.
Beyond the bogus
Kriel says that while fake institutions offering bogus qualifications is one thing, prospective students must also conduct thorough research to ensure that the qualification they're considering is in line with what he calls "work of the future."
"Unfortunately, many qualifications – even from respected universities – are not going to adequately prepare you for the world of work, and work of the future," he warns.
"Keep in mind that technology is constantly advancing, with new approaches, best practices, tools and so forth being incorporated into workplaces all the time... your institution and qualification must be cognisant of this, and importantly, have a close connection to industry to ensure that your education isn’t obsolete by the time you attend your graduation ceremony."
To avoid this pitfall, Kriel recommends getting in touch with career advisors at the institutions you are considering.
"Ask them how they expect your field to evolve in future, and how their curriculum takes this into account," he notes, adding that enquiries as to how an institution plans on incorporating new technological and other advances into their curriculum must also be included.
In the end, Kriel says that prospective students must conduct thorough research before making a final decision, and to make certain that an institution places importance on support and guidance "before enrolment, during studies, and after graduation."
"Find the right qualification for you, ensure that it is registered and accredited, and ensure that your institution is future-focused and committed to the holistic development of students and providing assistance."
Compiled for Parent24 by the Independent Institute of Education.
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