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CHE > Media and Publications > Other > CHE News - Issue no 8
November, 2004

CHE launches Task Team on Government Involvement in and Regulation of Higher Education, Institutional Autonomy and Academic Freedom

The CHE has appointed a Task Team to investigate this important issue, to stimulate debate, attempt to build shared understanding, and produce a Research Report.

Members of the Task Team include: Prof Njabulo Ndebele (Vice-Chancellor: University of Cape Town and Chairperson, SAUVCA); Mr Steven Friedman (Senior Research Fellow: Centre for Policy Studies); Justice Kate O'Regan (Judge: Constitutional Court); Dr Khotso Mokhele (President and CEO: National Research Foundation); Prof Deborah Posel (Director: Wits Institute of Social and Economic Research); and Prof. Ebrami Sall (CODESRIA).

The specific aims of the investigation are to:

  1. Identify, describe and critically analyse the claims being made of government interference in higher education and responses to these claims
  2. Describe and critically analyse the nature and modes of government involvement in higher education transformation, as well as the nature and modes of involvement of other regulatory bodies
  3. Describe and critically analyse the conceptions of institutional autonomy, academic freedom and public accountability that are held by key higher education actors - the government, the Council on Higher Education, higher education institutions, and various stakeholders
  4. Advance argument and conclusions on the nature of the involvement of government and other regulatory bodies in higher education and on actors conceptions of institutional autonomy, academic freedom and public accountability and their relationships
  5. Advance argument and conclusions on the validity and appropriateness of actors conceptions of institutional autonomy, academic freedom and public accountability, in general and in the specific context of South Africa and higher education transformation

Colloquium on Ten Years of Democracy and Higher Education Change

CHE in association with SAUVCA and CTP is holding a Colloquium on Ten Years of Democracy and Higher Education Change on November 10-12, 2004

The Minister of Education, Mrs GMN Pandor and Professor Aki Sawyerr, the Secretary General of the Association of African Universities will deliver the keynote addresses on the opening evening.

Topics at the colloquium include

  • A decade of democracy: Freedom, Responsibility and Transformation of/in South African Higher Education.
  • Ten years of higher education change: Instruments and strategies in relation to context and goals of transformation- Retrospect and prospects.
  • National imperatives and the micro-politics of higher education change: Institutional voices
  • Conceptions of the transformed university: 'South African', 'African', 'Engaged'…
  • Institutional autonomy, academic freedom and public accountability in the first decade of democracy: Government independent agencies and institutions in higher education change.
  • The first decade: Outsider perspectives.
  • Further and higher education and training and person power development
  • Higher education in the second decade: New challenges to policy and practice.
  • Reproducing and transforming the social composition of the next generation of academics
  • The internationalisation of South African higher education

More New Programmes Accredited

As part of its many responsibilities, the Accreditation and Coordination Directorate is accrediting new learning programmes on a regular basis. During the period April 2003 to March 2004, the HEQC processed 678 applications from public and private providers to offer new learning programmes and qualifications. The processing of the applications involved comment on applications, committee screening for approval, conditional approval or rejection, and occasional site visits. All applications from public providers of higher education were processed by the Interim Joint Committee (IJC) while applications from private providers were processed by the Accreditation Committee. This is an interim arrangement until the new accreditation system is implemented.

Private Providers Accreditation

Routine accreditation

Between April 2003 and March 2004, 255 programmes were submitted for accreditation by 79 private providers. Of these programmes 45% were accredited and 55% were not accredited. In addition, some programmes were returned to the providers to complete missing information and resubmit.


Between April 2003 and March 2004, 38 private providers submitted 138 programmes for re-accreditation. Of these programmes 46% were accredited and 54% did not comply with the minimum requirements to be accredited. All the programmes submitted underwent a site-based evaluation.

Accreditation Reviews

According to the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act, if an institution and/or its learning programmes have not been successfully accredited, they have 21 days to submit a written representation to the HEQC. Between April 2003 and March 2004, 14 private providers submitted applications for reviews. The HEQC analysed these applications and granted reviews in 22% of the cases. 78% of the applications for review were not granted.

In relation to 18 requests for review considered, 15 requests were declined and the initial recommendation not to accredit the institutions and/or programmes was upheld. In the three cases where the HEQC ruled in favour of the institution, new site visits by new panels were conducted. In all three cases accreditation was granted to these institutions and/or programmes.

Click here to see accreditation results for public providers.

Public Providers Accreditation

Routine Accreditation

Between April 2003 and March 2004 the Interim Joint Committee considered 285 programmes from universities and technikons.

126 programmes submitted by universities were accredited in the following fields:

  • 32 Science, Engineering and Technology
  • 28 Business and Commerce
  • 49 Education
  • 17 Humanities

In the former technikon sector 82 programmes were accredited in the following fields:

  • 5 Science, Engineering and Technology
  • 7 Business and Commerce
  • 68 Education
  • 2 Humanities

For more information about the accreditation process visit the Accreditation Directorate page on the CHE website

Honorary Doctorate for Prof. Badat

Prof. Badat

Prof. Saleem Badat, has been awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of the Free State at a special 100th anniversary ceremony in recognition of 'outstanding achievements in the shaping of policies and practices of the higher education environment'.

In accepting the honorary doctorate as a 'singular honour', Badat paid tribute to the University of the Free State as 'historically a pioneer in developing the field of higher education research and in also innovating creative mechanisms to enhance access for historically disadvantaged learners'. Recognising that 'like all other higher education institutions, it faces formidable challenges', he expressed confidence 'it will overcome all hurdles and remake itself as an engaged and truly South African university'.

Badat's acceptance speech lauded high quality higher education as 'an immensely valuable public and social good'. He stated that it could 'powerfully contribute to economic development, to positioning South Africa to engage proactively and critically with globalisation, to social equity and justice and to the building and consolidation of our young democracy', adding that ' in all these regards, the University of Free State has a vital role'.

Badat however warned against 'expectations of higher education that are misguided and unrealistic'. He said that it was 'unreasonable to allocate to higher education institutions responsibilities that are principally that of other institutions', and to make demands 'that could reduce them to something other than knowledge producing and disseminating institutions'.

The HEQC in international fora

By the end of 2004, the HEQC will have formal cooperation agreements with quality agencies in a number of countries. An MOU with AUQA (Australian Universities Quality Assurance) in Australia is already in operation. MOUs are planned with the NAAC (National Assessment and Accreditation Council in India, the Quality Assurance Agency in the UK, and NOKUT (Norwegian Agency for Quality in Higher Education) in Norway. The areas of cooperation with these agencies include exchange of information, staff exchanges; use of each other auditors, and interactions with the wider higher education communities from the signing countries. In the case of national quality assurance agencies from countries with higher education providers operating in South Africa, the MOUs include the possibility for the institutional audits of those institutions to be undertaken jointly.

The international and regional work of the HEQC has assumed increasing importance in respect of the impact of globalisation on areas such as cross-border provision, co-operation and exchange of information with counterpart organisations and capacity building initiatives.

The international and regional work of the HEQC entails not only the development of co-operation agreements with counterpart QA agencies but also membership of international QA bodies like INQAAHE, and participation in international QA fora ,e.g. the Unesco Global Forum on International QA.

Participation in international QA bodies gives the HEQC an opportunity to be up to date with international issues on quality assurance and to help shaping the international discourse on QA policies and practices, especially in developing country contexts, at a time of rapid globalisation of higher education provision. In this regard the HEQC has been involved in supporting the Association of African Universities (AAU) in its task of developing a strong focus on QA as part of the AAU portfolio of activities.

The HEQC international work is led by Dr Mala Singh, as part of the direct responsibilities of the Executive Director.

Quality promotion and capacity development on the move

The Quality Promotion and Capacity Development Directorate has started a number of initiatives in its two fundamental areas of responsibility: supporting the development of capacity at system level for the implementation of the HEQC quality assurance system and promoting the importance of quality in higher education through a host of activities and research projects.

The main activities undertaken this year under the capacity development responsibility have been auditor preparation and the training of programme evaluators. About 500 new and existing programme accreditation evaluators will be trained for the HEQC's new online programme accreditation system in 2005. The training will focus on the process by which peers arrive at evidence-based judgements using the HEQC's new programme accreditation criteria.

The other projects initiated by the directorate this year are:

  • Student's Quality Literacy project
    This project, which targets both prospective and current students, aims at increasing student's awareness of quality and QA systems in higher education and to encourage them to engage in QA structures and to assess the nature and quality of education that institutions provide.
  • The Development of Generic Standards for NQF Level 5 Qualifications
    The HEQC has initiated and funded a project to develop generic Level Descriptors (LDs) for NQF Level 5 qualifications to use these to propose generic standards and exemplars for Level 5 programmes in four different fields of learning.
  • Distance Education Project
    In response to the recommendations of the CHE Task Team on Distance Education to report (DE) the HEQC has initiated a project focused on the quality of DE provision. The DE Project will run for three years and will involve a close collaboration with the National Association of Distance Education Organisations of South Africa (NADEOSA) and other stakeholders.
  • Vocational Education Project
    This joint project is funded by the HEQC and implemented by the CTP. The HEQC and the CTP share a concern that the model used to standardise and assure the quality of much work-integrated teaching and learning at ex-technikons is no longer adequate.

Delegated quality assurance functions to Higher Education Institutions

As an accredited ETQA the CHE, through the HEQC can delegate some of its responsibilities to higher education institutions. Among these responsibilities are

  • Certification of qualifications.
  • Recognition of prior learning (RPL).
  • Assessor training and development.
  • Moderation of assessment.
  • Quality management of short courses.

The process of delegation of these functions requires that the HEQC ascertains the institutions' policies and practices, including monitoring mechanisms. With this purpose in mind the HEQC requested HEIs to submit information on their policies and practices in the areas of RPL, assessor training, moderation and the quality management of short courses. The submissions were analysed by external consultants and a series of regional workshop were held to discuss good practices.

During August 2004 the HEQC held five regional workshops at the following institutions Vaal University of Technology, UNISA, Fort Hare, East London Campus, the University of Western Cape and the University of KwaZulu-Natal that were attended by a total of 203 delegates from universities, universities of technology and private providers.

In relation to the certification of qualifications the HEQC has developed a new framework that will help to determine the nature and status of certification and the certification processes at institutions of higher learning. The framework will also facilitate the monitoring of the integrity and credibility of certification processes helping institutions to combat the proliferation of fraudulent certificates.

More auditors trained

The preparation of auditors is one of the responsibilities of the Quality Promotion and Capacity Development Directorate that organises training workshops to ensure that members of institutional audit panels have the skills, knowledge and understanding that they need to carry out their roles during institutional audits. These workshops are increasingly focused on specific activities within the audit process, such as report writing, interviewing and the use of different types of quantitative and qualitative evidence.

Three institutional auditor preparation workshops were held in May and August 2004, for a total of 78 potential auditors. Two more workshops will be held in November 2004 for approximately 50 potential auditors, most of whom are quality assurance managers at public and private HE institutions. The main purpose of these workshops is to enable QA managers to prepare their institutions for audits more effectively.

Additional training was provided for 12 persons who may be selected to chair audit panels, and for 12 audit report writers. Report writers are full members of the audit team, but have particular responsibility for assisting the HEQC to compile the audit report.

The HEQC continues to welcome nominations by institutions of suitable persons who meet the HEQC nomination criteria who are available to attend the auditor preparation sessions and to serve on audit panels.

May - August 2004

Date Number of Participants WORKSHOP TITLE
12 - 13 May 2004 34 Auditor Preparation
7 - 8 July 2004 12 Chairperson Preparation
12 - 13 July 2004 12 Report Writers' Preparation
18 - 20 August 2004 17 Auditor Preparation
25 - 27 August 2004 27 Auditor Preparation

The Audit cycle started in August 2004

The first six-year audit cycle started in August 2004 with the institutional audits of Management College of Southern Africa, Oval International Computer College, City Varsity and Central University of Technology, Free State. Each of the institutions completed their institutional self-evaluations and submitted the audit portfolio. The audit portfolio is the core document used by the audit panel of peers to validated the claims made by the institution about its quality management arrangements. Auditors were selected for each institution and audit panels met to consider the portfolios before the visit. At the time of the release of this Newsletter all four audit visits had been completed.

Each audit is concludes with the production of an audit report which is given to the audited institution. Summaries of these reports will be available on the CHE website.

Next year the HEQC will undertake nine institutional audits, three at public higher education institutions and six at private providers. The public providers to be audited are

The private higher education institutions that will be audited in 2005 are

A large group of auditors is required to be available to serve on audit panels in the next six years as higher education institutions undergo the audit process. The Quality Promotion and Capacity Development Directorate of the HEQC provides regular preparation sessions for potential auditors refer back to the aritcle in the newsletter over two days.

The HEQC is in the process of preparing guidelines linked to the audit criteria that identify possible documentation and sources of evidence and relevant tables that institutions can use in preparing for audit. The HEQC Board recently approved audit regulations for the conduct of institutional audits. These regulations will be submitted to the Department of Education for gazetting.

New Accreditation System ready to roll

In line with the policy intentions of the White Paper, the HEQC has developed a single accreditation system applicable to both public and private providers of higher education.

The new system has been developed by a working group of experts and HEQC staff, who in turn received advice from a reference group consisting of representatives from relevant stakeholder organisations and international experts. Both higher education institutions and other stakeholders have been consulted during the development process.

The accreditation system will function online. The HEQC expects the online accreditation system to be piloted by the end of this year and to be ready for receiving the first submissions in 2005.

The final accreditation criteria are being introduced to higher education institutions at regional workshops conducted by the Accreditation Directorate. The preparation of guidelines, manuals, and tables of evidence that must accompany applications for accreditation will be finalised by November.

The Accreditation Directorate is collaborating with the Directorate for Quality Promotion and Capacity Development to train programme evaluators for the new system.

The report on the State of the Provision of the MBA in South Africa will be launched on 9 November

National reviews such as the one focused on the MBA are a particular type of accreditation concentrated on a programme. They have three constitutive parts: the re-accreditation, the follow up on the re-accreditation results, and the preparation of a report on the state of provision in the selected programme area.

From the very beginning of the re-accreditation process that assessed 37 MBAs offered by local public and private providers and some transnational providers, it was clear that the exercise was going to culminate with a system level analysis of the quality of the provision focused on good practice and improvement.

The State of the Provision of the MBA in South Africa, which will be launched at a workshop on 9 November, is a constitutive part of the process of national reviews as conceptualised by the HEQC. The report has five chapters that focus on the following issues: the MBA landscape in South Africa; a macro analysis of the results of the re-accreditation process; the local and international debates about the content and structure of the MBA programme; the learning programme of the South African MBAs; and the role of the MBA in South African society.

It is hoped that the experience of the re-accreditation of the MBA will help to define future national reviews such as the forthcoming one focused on professional and academic programmes in education, which is already in the preparatory phase.

The State of the Provision of the MBA in South Africa will be available on the CHE website after 9 November.

A Year of Publications

The advice and the quality assurance divisions of the CHE have had a productive year in relation to the production of publications. Both the CHE and the HEQC have released a number of policy documents after consultation with HEIs and other relevant stakeholders.

Publications to be released during October-November

Policy Documents

  • HEQC, A Framework for Programme Accreditation
  • HEQC, Criteria for Programme Accreditation

Research reports

  • The State of Provision of the MBA in South Africa
  • Ten Years of Democracy in Higher Education

All publications can be accessed through the CHE website.


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