How to verify a tertiary qualification before studying

The 2024 academic year is set to start soon for those attending a South African university, TVET college, or other form of tertiary institution. While the prospect will prove daunting for many, it is imperative that learners and parents alike verify that the tertiary qualification they are pursuing is legitimate and recognised.

In fact the rise in bogus universities and colleges, both locally and abroad, is so rife that this week a media briefing was held to warn students of the dangers of studying a non-recognised qualification.

To that end, earlier this week, the South African Qualification Authority (SAQA), Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO), Council on Higher Education (CHE), and Umalusi held a media briefing to address bogus institutions and fake qualifications.

“Whilst SAQA does not deal directly with accreditation and by extension bogus colleges or institutions, the SAQA searchable website database is of course a useful tool for self-vetting the offering of learning institutions. In addition to checking their accreditation status, checking the legitimacy of their qualifications on our searchable database is quite easy and convenient,” emphasised SAQA CEO Nadia Starr.

“Those wanting to vet an institution before they or their loved one leaves South Africa for foreign study, should use the SAQA service on our website called ‘check the status of foreign institutions,” she added per SA News.

With representatives from all of the organisations urging South Africans students and parents to do the right thing and verify a tertiary qualification or institution, we have shared the steps in order to do so online below.

When it comes to checking the validity of a qualification, SAQA is your first port of call as Starr pointed out. Here the organisation has a massive database that is searchable, but can prove difficult to actually find. We had some trouble initially, but the steps are as follows:

  • Head to the SAQA website here;
  • In the Services tab, click on the Registration of Qualifications and Part-Qualifications option;
  • From here you can access one of three different databases – All Qualifications, Registered Qualifications, or Expired Qualifications;
  • The All Qualifications database is your best starting point, as you will be able to see there status of everything;
  • From there you can search by Qualification, with up to 12 different search criteria available.
  • Provided the information you supplied is correct, if a qualification yields no result, it should serve as a red flag.

“Our process… is to confirm that the qualification is registered on the NQF [National Qualifications Framework], either national or the foreign NQF, that the institution was accredited to offer the qualification and that the graduate claiming the achievement did indeed achieve the qualification,” Starr continued.

If you are studying in a vocational field, such as an electrician, mechanic, or airline ground crew, that’s where the QCTO comes in.

Its website has a simple portal for you to check both full-time and part-time registered qualifications.

The database here details the qualification type, its NQF level, how many credits are required to complete it, as well as partners that regulate the profession, and a SAQA link to see if it meets additional standards.

[Image – Photo by Agence Olloweb on Unsplash]


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