Be Aware of Your Educational Rights


Your education is an incredibly important investment of time and money. The importance of registration, accreditation and licensing of institutions, qualifications and conferring bodies cannot be over-emphasised. However, these things can be fairly confusing – a fact that some institutions will regrettably trade on with misleading communication and even illegal presentation of credentials. In addition to the many highly recognised and accredited higher education institutions in South Africa, there are also unscrupulous providers and poor quality programmes.

Armed with the right information and a few key questions you will be well positioned to get all the facts you need to be certain you are making wise decisions.

Firstly, it is important to understand the difference between Higher Education (HE) and Further Education and Training (FET) 


Higher Education and Further Education and Training are managed by the same government department – the Department of Higher Education and Training. Providers of both register with the Department but details are kept on two registers. Higher Education qualifications are accredited by the HEQC and are all post-school level and are on levels 5 to 10 of the Higher Education Qualifications Framework (which is the top part of the National Qualifications Framework). Only qualifications accredited by the HEQC can be called Higher Education qualifications. Further Education and Training Qualifications are “non-school” qualifications at NQF level 1 to 4 and they are accredited and quality assured by Umalusi or a SETA.

Is the institution registered by the Department of Higher Education and Training? (DHET)?

All providers of higher education have to be registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training – remember that Varsity College is a brand of The Independent Institute of Education (Pty) Ltd so you will find our registration details in the Register of Private Providers of Higher Education which can be found on the SAQA (SA Qualifications Authority) Further Education and Training providers also need to be registered and can be found on the Further Education Register.

If the institution is registered, great, but is the qualification I am studying or want to study registered? And at what level is it registered?

(Please see definitions of the difference between the conferring body or institution, and the institution providing tuition (tuition centre) and a brand of an institution further down in this document.)

A higher education qualification is one that has been accredited by the Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC). Once it is accredited it can be registered by SAQA on the NQF (National Qualifications Framework). Only registered and accredited qualifications can be offered as higher education qualifications.

You can find a list of current registered qualifications on the SAQA website.

How do I do this?

Visit, click on 'Qualifications and Part-Qualifications and unit standards' on the right hand side. Search for the qualification and the conferring body, for example The Independent Institute of Education. (Please note though that the process of registering a qualification by SAQA can take up to a year after accreditation so the fact that a qualification is not yet on the website does not mean it is not accredited or in fact registered) If you cannot find the registration details on the website ask the institution for proof of accreditation. This should not be difficult to provide.

Remember that if you are registered with two institutions (one which is the conferrer of your qualification and one which is your tuition centre) such as The Independent Institute of Education’s Varsity College, the SAQA registration will be through the name of the institution for which you write exams and who will provide you with your qualification (ie the conferrer).

Some courses are advertised as programmes and others as qualifications. What is the difference? What is the difference between a qualification and a short learning programme? Answer
This is important as some institutions use this language to mislead. A qualification is only a qualification if it is registered on the NQF, accredited by the HEQC (if it is higher education) and registered for that institution by the DOE. It can only be those things if it meets the requirements of all three – that means it is at least a full year of study (120 credits) and is in the format that is required. Sometimes qualifications are called programmes or have programmes in them (an academic year could be called a programme). The key thing to keep in mind