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CHE > Media and Publications > Frameworks Criteria > Criteria for Programme Accreditation
November, 2004


The Higher Education Act of 1997 assigns responsibility for quality assurance in higher education in South Africa to the Council on Higher Education (CHE). This responsibility is discharged through its permanent sub-committee, the Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC). The mandate of the HEQC includes quality promotion, institutional audit and programme accreditation. As part of the task of building an effective national quality assurance system, the HEQC has also included capacity development and training as a critical component of its programme of activities.

Quality-related criteria constitute a crucial element in the execution of the HEQC’s functions, fulfilling the dual purpose of serving as evaluative tools for the HEQC’s audit and accreditation activities and setting broad benchmarks for quality management arrangements in higher education. The criteria are intended to enable institutions to analyse and reflect on their quality management arrangements and to guide the production of self-evaluation reports.

This document deals with the HEQC’s criteria for programme accreditation and indicates the minimum standards for academic programmes. The criteria are intended to be used by:

  1. Higher education institutions:
    • In applications for the accreditation of new programmes or the re-accreditation of existing programmes1
    • As guidelines for follow-up activities after HEQC decisions on accreditation or re-accreditation of programmes.
  2. The HEQC’s programme evaluators in evaluating applications for the accreditation of new programmes or the re-accreditation of existing programmes.
  3. Stakeholders, especially students, as indicators of the minimum standards that the HEQC requires for programme quality.

The HEQC has taken the following contextual imperatives into account in developing the programme accreditation criteria:

  • National policy for higher education as articulated in a range of government White Papers, legislation, regulations and planning documents.
  • The HEQC’s own policy positions as laid out in the Founding Document, Programme Accreditation Framework and other policy documents.
  • National benchmarks set by the higher education branch of the Department of Education (DoE) for institutional efficiency, which include increasing enrolments and graduate outputs, increasing research productivity and improving the diversity profile of graduates.
  • The institutional quality landscape, which includes varying levels of capacity, as well as the fact that a number of institutions are involved in mergers and incorporations, and in changes of mission, focus or identity, as in the case of comprehensive institutions and universities of technology.
  • Partnerships in higher education provision, which include collaboration between and among institutions on a regional basis, between public and private provider sectors, between universities and universities of technology, between higher education institutions and the business sector, and between institutions across national borders.
  • Increasing instances of cross-border provision by foreign and South African higher education institutions, as well as the use of new modes of provision.


  1. A new programme is one that has not been offered before, or one whose purpose, outcomes, field of study, mode or site of delivery has been considerably changed. An existing programme is one that is registered on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) and has been accredited by the Universities and Technikons Advisory Council (AUT) or the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) or the HEQC.


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