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CHE > Media and Publications > Other > Press Release on Auditor Orientation July 2003
July, 2003

The Council on Higher Education (CHE) has executive responsibility for quality assurance in South African higher education. It discharges this responsibility through its permanent sub-committee the Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC), The Higher Education Act 1997, assigns to the HEQC the responsibility of conducting institutional audits of all higher education institutions both public or private. The purpose of these audits is to ensure that the quality arrangements of all institutions are effective enough to attain acceptable levels of quality and standards in the core function of teaching, research and service learning.

Institutional audits will be conducted on a six-year cycle beginning in 2004. The HEQC is currently testing its audit systems through conducting pilot audits at the University of Pretoria, Vaal Triangle Technikon and Midrand Graduate Institute. Since the HEQC's quality assurance system is based on a peer and expert review foundation, audit panels, composed mainly of experienced and knowledgeable members of the higher education community, will conduct the institutional audits.

In preparation for conducting institutional audits, the HEQC has arranged the first set of orientation programmes for potential auditors commencing 22 - 24 July and 28 - 31 July 2003. The orientation sessions, which will each run over 3 days, is intended to acquaint potential auditors with the higher education landscape in South Africa, the approach of the HEQC to issues of quality and quality assurance, and the HEQC's methodology and criteria for institutional audits. It is hoped that the first orientation programmes will provide a pool of at least 50 people to assist the HEQC in the institutional audits. In addition to local expertise, the HEQC has contracted the services of Dr David Woodhouse, Executive Director of the Australian Universities Quality Agency (AUQA) to assist with auditor orientation.

The participants were selected according to a set of criteria approved by the HEQC. They are mainly drawn from nominations by public and private higher education institutions. Auditors will serve on panels in their own right rather than as representatives of their institutions and sectors. More orientation sessions are planned for March 2004. The auditor orientation programmes of the HEQC represents a further example of the involvement of the members of the higher education community in the HEQC's evaluation of arrangements for quality at higher education institutions in South Africa.

The Council on Higher Education

The Council on Higher Education (CHE) was established as an independent statutory body in May 1998 in terms of the Higher Education Act, No 101 of 1997.

The CHE defines it mission as contributing to the development of a higher education system characterised by excellence, equity, responsiveness to economic and social needs and effective and efficient provision, governance and management.

The Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC)

The Higher Education Act assigned to the CHE statutory responsibility for quality assurance and quality promotion in Higher Education (HE), to be carried out through a permanent body the HEQC. The functions of the HEQC are to:

  1. Promote quality in higher education;
  2. Audit the quality assurance mechanisms of higher education institutions; and
  3. Accredit programmes of higher education.

The HEQC operates within the framework of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) and is accredited by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) as the band Education and Training Quality Assurer (ETQA) for higher education

The Mandate of the HEQC

The work of the HEQC is conducted through the office of the Executive Director, Dr Mala Singh and three directorates. These are:

  1. Accreditation and Coordination
  2. Auditing and Evaluation
  3. Quality Promotion and Capacity Development

The Executive Director provides:

  • Oversight for policy and systems development and ongoing activities in all three directorates of the HEQC;
  • Liaison with the CHE's projects and activities;
  • Liaison with international quality assurance organisations
  • Liaison with other national initiatives in HE in general and quality assurance in particular; and
  • The management of special projects.

The audit and evaluation directorate is responsible for the audit of all higher education institutions from 2004-2009, which is aimed at putting critical elements in place in order to guarantee the quality of provision.

The directorate conducted institutional visits in 2002 and is continuing with these visits to higher education institutions in 2003. The main objectives of theses visits are to enable the HEQC:

  • To arrive at a better understanding of the institution's Quality Assurance (QA) systems and plans;
  • To acquaint the institution with the HEQC's mandate, programmes and plans; and
  • To enable the HEQC to become acquainted with the quality related concerns of the institutions

These visits have provided valuable experiences and insights for future planning both for the institution and the HEQC.

The HEQC is developing a quality assurance framework and criteria based on:

  • Fitness for purpose in relation to specified mission within the 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. Judgements about effectiveness and efficiency of provision will include but not be confined to labour market responsiveness and cost recovery; and
  • Transformation in the sense of developing the capabilities of individual learners for personal enrichment, as well as requirements of social development and economic and employment growth.

Dr Mala Singh
Executive Director HEQC


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