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January, 2005


The Higher Education Act (No. 101 of 1997) sets out quite clearly the roles and responsibilities of the Council on Higher Education (CHE) and its permanent sub-committee, the Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC), with regard to policy and quality assurance related matters in the higher education sector. Simply stated, in terms of their respective mandates, the CHE advises the Minister of Education on matters relating to higher education (HE) and the HEQC manages the quality assurance activities of all public and private providers operating in the HE band.

In terms of its mission and vision, the HEQC supports the development, maintenance and enhancement of the quality of public and private higher education provision in order to enable a range of stakeholders to benefit from effective higher education and training. The HEQC performs its quality assurance duties also in terms of the South African Qualifications Authority Act (SAQA), 1995, (Act No 58 of 1995)1 and the SAQA Regulations of 19982. As an Education and Training Quality Assurance body (ETQA) for higher education, the HEQC is responsible for the accreditation of public and private institutions and their learning programmes.

The underlying objective of the HEQC with regard to quality assurance is:

to ensure that institutions effectively and efficiently deliver education, training, research and community service which are of high quality and which produce socially useful and enriching knowledge as well as a relevant range of graduate skills and competencies necessary for social and economic progress.3 The quality assurance framework and criteria of the HEQC are based on a multi-faceted definition of quality4, viz.:

  • Fitness of purpose based on national goals, priorities and targets
  • Fitness for purpose in relation to a specified mission within a national framework that encompasses differentiation and diversity.
  • Value for money judged in relation to the full range of higher education purposes set out in the White Paper on Higher Education. Judgements about the effectiveness and efficiency of provision will include, but not be confined to, labour market responsiveness and cost recovery.
  • Transformation, in the sense of developing the capabilities of individual learners for personal enrichment, as well as the requirements of social development and economic and employment growth.

The specific functions of the HEQC are to:

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

The essence of the complex regulatory framework of which the CHE/HEQC is part can be briefly stated as:

  • The DoE approves the programme and qualification mixes (PQMs) of public higher education institutions. It funds programmes of these institutions that are accredited by the HEQC, and it registers all private higher education institutions before they are permitted to operate.
  • SAQA registers each qualification on the NQF.
  • The HEQC accredits institutions of higher education to offer programmes leading to particular NQF-registered qualifications. In relevant cases, this is done in co-operation with statutory professional councils and Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs).

Final responsibility for accreditation decisions rests with the HEQC Board.


  1. The South African Qualifications Authority Act, 1995, (Act No 58 of 1995), Section 5(1)(a)(ii).
  2. Regulations under the South African Qualifications Authority Act, 1995, (Act No 58 of 1995).
  3. CHE, Quality Assurance in Higher Education, p 2 (Pretoria: 2001)
  4. HEQC, Accreditation Framework (Pretoria: 2004)


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