Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande will soon present a National Qualifications Framework (NQF) Amendment Bill to Parliament for approval.
Minister Nzimande explained that the NQF Amendment Bill strengthens all the mechanisms to deal with misrepresentation of qualifications, as well as the verification by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) of all qualifications of public servants, members of boards and staff of public entities, and consultants to government departments and entities.
“Its other objective is to strengthen the quality assurance and credibility of the post-school education system, which will require private colleges and private higher education and training institutions which offer qualifications registered on the Occupational Qualifications Sub-Framework (OQSF) to be registered with the Department of Higher Education,” Minister Nzimande said.
By tightening up this area, the Minister said the department will more effectively deal with bogus institutions and misrepresentation by institutions of the status of teaching and learning.
This comes as the department, SAQA, the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO), the Quality Council on General and Further Education and Training (Umalusi), and the Council for Higher Education (CHE) recently signed and issued a joint communiqué on the registration and accreditation of private education and training providers offering OQSF qualifications.
As the local, regional and international demand for quality qualifications grows, Minister Nzimande added that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) also recently finalised the SADC Qualifications Framework (SADCQF), “a development that will make the movement of learners and workers across the region much easier”.
The SADC Regional Qualifications Framework will be formally launched at the SADC Education, Training and Science and Technology Ministers meeting later this year.
“The SADCQF, which consists of 10 levels based on learning outcomes, will enable member states to reference their NQFs and national education systems against the agreed regional framework, which means that SADC countries will be able to benchmark their qualifications against the SADCQF.
“This most welcome development will enable easier movement of learners and workers across the region and internationally, as the implementation of the SADCQF includes Quality Assurance (QA) and Verification of Qualifications,” Minister Nzimande said.
Name and shame perpetrators of fake qualifications
Meanwhile, the Minister warned perpetrators of fake qualifications, saying that they would be prosecuted and publicly named and shamed when caught, “as fraudulent qualifications posed a grave danger to the credibility of the country’s education system”.
As part of the regulatory move, SAQA will register the names of holders of bogus and fake certificates on its website, a move that the government hopes will end the prevalence of qualification forgeries.
“This is the reason why we have embarked on legislative measures to curb phoney qualifications, where we are proposing a roll of shame for holders of such bogus qualifications. One of the most precious things any country can have is the credibility of its qualifications and higher education system, which is why we are acting robustly on the scourge,” the Minister said.
The Minister published new regulations late last year, which will require employers to refer their employees’ degrees for validation and verification.
“Unless employers, institutions and citizens can feel confident that individuals have earned the qualifications that they purport to have, the entire system will lose its legitimacy,” he said.
Number of qualifications fraud cases reported
Over the past few years, a number of cases of qualifications fraud, including high-profile figures have been reported by the media.
As of 31 March this year, SAQA has found a total of 447 national qualifications and 1 015 foreign qualifications to have been misrepresented.
The fraudulent qualifications uncovered ranged from poor copies of legitimate qualifications, to high-quality forgeries that are very difficult to differentiate from the original.