The CHE is an independent statutory body established in May 1998 as provided for by Section 4 of the Higher Education Act (Act No. 101 of 1997, as amended), and it also functions as the Quality Council for Higher Education in terms of the National Qualifications Framework Act (Act No 67 of 2008, as amended). It is a Schedule 3A national public entity in terms of the Public Finance Management Act (Act No. 1 of 1999).
The Higher Education Act (Act No.101 of 1997) as amended, mandates the CHE to:
- advise the Minister responsible for higher education and training on any aspect of higher education at the request of the Minister;
- arrange and co-ordinate conferences;
- promote quality assurance in higher education, audit the quality assurance mechanisms of higher education institutions, and accredit programmes of higher education;
- publish information regarding developments in higher education, including reports on the state of higher education, on a regular basis; and
- promote the access of students to higher education institutions.
In terms of the National Qualifications Framework Act, the CHE as the Quality Council (QC) for higher mandated to:
- comply with any policy determined by the Minister in terms of section 8(2)(b);
- consider the Minister’s guidelines contemplated in section 8(2)(c);
- collaborate with the SAQA and other QCs in terms of the system contemplated in section 13(1)(f)(i);
- develop and manage its Higher Education Qualifications Sub-framework (HEQSF), and make recommendations thereon to the Minister;
- advise the Minister on matters relating to its sub-framework;
- consider and agree to level descriptors contemplated in section 13(1) (g) (i), and ensure that they remain current and appropriate;
- develop and implement a suite of policies and criteria, to facilitate the implementation of the HEQSF and the NQF, and protect their integrity;
- develop and implement policy for quality assurance, and ensure the integrity and credibility of quality assurance;
- maintain a database of learner achievements and related matters for the purposes of this Act, and submit such data in a format determined in consultation with the SAQA for recording on the national learners’ records database contemplated in section 13(1)(l);
- conduct or commission and publish research on issues of importance to the development and implementation of the sub-framework; and
- inform the public about the HEQSF and NQF.
The mandate of the CHE has also been enriched and/or elaborated on by government policy positions articulated in, among others, the following policy documents:
- National Plan for the Post School Education and Training (NPPSET), 2019;
- Articulation Policy for the Post-School Education and Training System in South Africa, 2017;
- White Paper for Post-School Education and Training, 2013;
- National Development Plan, 2012;
- National Plan for Higher Education, 2001; and,
- Education White Paper 3: A Programme for the Transformation of Higher Education, 1997.