National review of professional and academic programmes in education offered by Higher Education Institutions in South Africa: Briefing document on the national review

The Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC) of the Council on Higher Education (CHE) has the mandate in terms of the Higher Education Act (Act No. 101 of 1997) to:

  • Promote quality in higher education;
  • Audit quality assurance mechanisms of higher education institutions;
  • Accredit programmes of higher education;

Because of the large number of existing programmes that were offered by higher education institutions at the inception of the CHE and HEQC, the HEQC decided to focus on the accreditation of new programmes. Existing programmes in certain key areas would then be dealt with through national reviews. The re-accreditation of MBA programmes offered by higher education institutions in South Africa was the first national review undertaken by the HEQC.

National reviews constitute a particular form of accreditation that focuses on the re-accreditation of existing programmes in a specific discipline area. National reviews are conducted within the context of the general HEQC accreditation criteria but they also include criteria specific to the programmes /or disciplinary area focused on. They take into account providers' as well as stakeholders' concerns and interests in the training of students or professionals in a particular area including the articulation between the learning programme and the skills required from graduates in the actual work situation.

National reviews have three main components: the re-accreditation of programmes; the follow-up process on the re-accreditation results; and the production of a report on the state of provision in a particular programme/or disciplinary area.

To this effect, in 2004, the HEQC Board took a decision that the next national review will be conducted on selected professional and academic programmes in Education.

The following factors guided the choice of programme area for the HEQC Board:

  • The quality of school leavers qualifying for higher education is dependent on the quality of teacher education, amongst other factors.
  • The ability to implement school reforms depends on the quality of teachers amongst other factors.
  • Concerns have been expressed by the Department of Education and other stakeholders about the quality of teacher education provision in South Africa
  • There is a need on the part of the HEQC for evaluation criteria to enable judgements on new applications to offer teacher and other education programmes, especially from institutions that have not offered these before.
  • The Department of Education's request in its National Plan for Higher Education that the HEQC should prioritise the review of the quality of postgraduate programmes. The development of the next generation of researchers in education depends to a large extent on the quality of such programmes.
  • The fact that a considerable number of institutions are presently involved in mergers could have implications for the quality of teacher and other education programmes.
  • The recent incorporation of former teacher education colleges into universities could have quality implications for these programmes.

A framework document was developed to guide the process. Given that existing data was not sufficient for planning purposes or to support the preparation of the report on the state of provision, it was necessary a baseline survey was designed and completed by providers of teacher education programmes. The data from the questionnaire will inform the selection of programmes/specializations to form part of the Review.