FAQs

CHE > FAQs

Post-School Education

What is higher education?

'Higher education' means all learning programmes which lead to qualifications which meet the requirements of the Higher Education Qualifications Sub-Framework (HEQSF), which is a sub-framework of the National Qualifications Framework as contemplated in the South African Qualifications Authority Act, 1995 (Act No. 58 of 1995).

What is the difference between a public and private higher education provider?

Public higher education providers are institutions that have been established and funded by the state through the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET). Public providers include universities, universities of technology and comprehensive universities.

Private providers, on the other hand, are owned by private organisations or individuals. Although many of them offer the same qualifications as public providers, private provider institutions are mainly privately funded or sponsored and are generally not subsidised by the state.

Where can I find a list of public universities?

To view the list of public universities click here: 
http://www.dhet.gov.za

What is accreditation and why should programmes be accredited?

Only programmes accredited by the HEQC can be offered by a higher education institution, whether public or private. Private providers are also required to be licensed and registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET).

Accreditation refers to a recognition status granted to a programme for a stipulated period of time after an HEQC evaluation indicates that it meets minimum standards of quality. One of the main reasons for programme accreditation is to protect students against poor quality programmes.

Where can I find a list of public FET colleges?

To view the list of public FET Colleges click here:
http://www.dhet.gov.za

Where do I find a list of accredited private higher education institutions?

To verify whether the institution or programme is registered and accredited consult the Register of Private Higher Education Institutions at: http://www.dhet.gov.za/

Where do I find a list of accredited private FET colleges?

To verify whether a private FET college is registered and accredited consult the List of Registered Private FET Colleges at:
http://www.dhet.gov.za

How do I find an accredited provider who offers a specific qualification or unit standard?

Education and Training Quality Assurance Bodies (ETQAs) keep databases that contain, among others, their constituent providers and the unit standards and qualifications that they are accredited to offer. Therefore, you need to contact the relevant ETQA for the information. For a list of ETQAs see http://www.saqa.org.za/show.php?id=5742.

 

NQF

What is the NQF and how will it be of benefit to me?

The NQF aims to:

  • create a single integrated national framework for learning achievements;
  • facilitate access to, and mobility and progression within education, training and career paths;
  • enhance the quality of education and training;
  • accelerate the redress of past unfair discrimination in education, training and employment opportunities.
What elements make up the NQF?

The NQF is a single integrated system which comprises three elements:

  • General and further education and training - this element incorporates schools and FET colleges
  • Higher education - this element includes universities, universities of technology
  • Trades and occupations - this element involves workplace learning and skills development such as learnership

SAQA

What is the role of SAQA?

SAQA together with the three Quality Councils (QCs) must seek to advance the objectives of the NQF by:

  • Developing, fostering and maintaining an integrated and transparent national framework for the recognition of learning achievements;
  • Ensuring that South African qualifications meet appropriate criteria, determined by the Minister of Education and are internationally comparable; and
  • Ensuring that South African qualifications are of an acceptable quality.
  • Communicating the NQF to the public
  • Facilitating research initiatives and disseminating the outcomes thereof
  • Evaluating foreign qualifications
What are SAQA's objectives?

SAQA's objectives are to:

  1. Advance the objectives of the NQF;
  2. Oversee the further development and implementation of the NQF; and
  3. Co-ordinate the elements within the NQF

Higher Education Data

Where can I get data on the higher education sector?

The CHE receives HEMIS data from the Department of Higher Education and Training and collects data from StatsSA and makes this publically available through VitalStats publications and the Performance indicators project. Specific data queries can be directed to the Information Manager.

Can I access higher education data for this year?

No, data must be verified by institutions before being made publically available and for this reason the most recent data available is for two years prior to the current year. The Department of Higher Education and Training may be able to assist with more recent data in some instances.

Where can I get data on the private higher education sector?

Reliable data on the size and shape of the private higher education sector is not available at present. However, the South African Qualifications Authority collects information for the National Learners' Records Database and can provide some detail on the private institutions.

Standards Development

What problem is standards development actually addressing and how will standards address the problem?

The development of standards is not a reaction to a specific problem. It is, rather, a necessary aspect of implementation of the HEQF, through the establishment of a benchmark for the award of each qualification type. The aim is to enhance public perceptions about consistency between similar qualifications offered by different institutions and in different fields of study. The purpose of a standard is to state an agreed purpose of a qualification type and the graduate attributes that are evidence of the purpose being attained. The standard states what a programme leading to the qualification type intends to achieve and how we can establish that it has been achieved. This would show fitness for purpose.

The approach of the CHE to standards development is an approach that is regarded as appropriate for higher education, and for its sub-framework. Different sub-frameworks may require somewhat different approaches to standards.

Is standards development distinctive from quality assurance

There is a distinction. Standards aim to provide institutions with nationally-established benchmarks for qualifications, that may be used for internal quality assurance as well as external comparison. For HEQC quality assurance, standards will be part of the criteria used in the process. For example, a standard provides the specific qualification-type context in which accreditation Criterion 1 will be applied to institutional programmes

Will qualification standards just mean more regulation of higher education, and greater demand for compliance?

Standards do not intend to increase the amount of regulation of higher education. As statements of what a qualification must achieve, standards should be part of, and inform, the normal processes of programme design, accreditation and review. They will require institutions to meet expectations of quality determined by peers. The standard should be owned by its investors, including the academic community in the field.

What implications for, and impact on, institutional differentiation will standards development have?

A key aspect of institutional differentiation is the selection of qualifications that each institution offers. The standards will focus on qualification types, but will not attempt to influence the design and development of programmes that lead to the qualification. The institution’s mission, goals, context and priorities will largely influence the range of qualification types that it will offer. If the qualification type has an agreed standard, and the institution’s programme meets that standard, it could be approved as part of its range of offerings. Differentiation, on the basis of qualification-type combinations, would be clear, but this would not be determined by the standards themselves.

Should standards distinguish between various modes of tuition?

No. Whatever the mode of tuition, there needs to be comparability between what the qualifications achieve. The institution selects the mode of tuition (or combination of modes), and accounts for its compatibility with the qualification.

Will qualification standards incorporate standards for work-integrated learning?

Standards assume that different qualification types, and the pathways and fields of study for which they are awarded, have different approaches to the integration of WIL. The starting point for a standard of a qualification is its purpose and how graduate achievements reflect that purpose. Where WIL is fundamental to the purpose and achievements, this will be addressed in the standard, but the standard will not prescribe the ratio of institution-based/work-based learning or the methods by which WIL is to be assessed.

Are qualification standards adequately distinguished from other types of standards?

The Framework aims to clarify the distinction between qualification standards and other kinds of standards, such as teaching, learning and research standards, performance standards, institutional quality assurance standards, etc. Most other standards are related to the level of programmes, rather than qualification types. The distinction between qualification standards and other kinds will be addressed in a glossary of terms.

How will qualification standards be aligned with programme development?

As described above, qualification standards focus on the relationship between purpose and graduate achievements and attributes. They are, in a way, the genus of which each programme with its qualification is a species. Standards are categorically different from the design of specific programmes. While they do not prescribe the curriculum or content of a programme leading to the qualification, programme development will necessarily take them into account, as benchmarks of what the programme ought to achieve.

How will the CHE role of developer of standards relate to the SAQA role of registrar of qualifications?

It is important to distinguish between standards developed for qualification types, and qualifications (based on the qualification types) awarded by institutions. While, in terms of the NQF Act, SAQA will register higher education qualifications only on recommendation of the relevant QC (the CHE), the actual relationship between the development of qualification types and the SAQA registration of qualifications requires further unpacking.

The CHE ‘role of developer’ needs clarification. The CHE itself has neither the intention nor the capacity to develop standards on its own. The actual development will be done by expert peer groups drawn from institutions and fields of study or professions, coordinated by the CHE on the basis of a framework approved by the Council.

What benefit will qualification standards have for students?

Students (and the general public) will be able to check that a programme offered by an institution meets the standards of the qualification type that will be awarded. (Standards are, in turn, used by the HEQC as benchmarks according to which criteria are applied to accredit the programme.) The CHE will need to ensure that standards are published in a form that is accessible to students and the public.

How will standards development foreground and integrate communities of practice, and who would the communities comprise?

Qualification types will be developed in consultation with higher education experts in the area of general qualification design. The application of qualification type standards to fields of study will be done in consultation with experts in the relevant fields. Such expert groups will comprise the communities of practice that will participate in standards development. These groups will be authorised by the CHE to perform the tasks. 

How will standards affect institutional autonomy and academic freedom, and how will they ensure a balance between autonomy and accountability?

Because they do not determine the curriculum, content, methods of delivery or assessment of programmes, qualification standards should not affect institutional autonomy and academic freedom. They will affect institutional accountability in the sense that qualifications awarded by the institution will need to meet publicly-accessible standards for the qualification type.

How will standards accommodate contextual and institutional-type differences?

Standards inform qualification types, irrespective of the institutional type where they are awarded.

How will standards influence or affect the relationship between the function of the CHE as quality assurer and the professional body function of setting requirements for professional designation or registration?

The Framework proposes a gradation from qualification type (for example, a Bachelor’s degree) to a qualification in a particular field of study (for example, a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering). The award of the qualification will need to meet the general standards of that type, irrespective of the field of study. This implies that the CHE will be responsible for ensuring that all awards of a qualification type, irrespective of the field of study, meet the qualification-type standards. As far as particular fields of study are concerned, the curriculum, content and delivery of a programme are the responsibility of the awarding institution. Qualification standards focus on outcomes and attributes that the qualification imparts to the student. The standards are developed by academic communities. The relationship between the award of a qualification and the extent to which it meets a professional body’s requirements for designation is a matter that needs to be resolved between the awarding institution (or the sector as a whole) and the relevant professional body. However, the development of qualification standards in consultation with communities of practice implies that representation from professional bodies will be essential in all cases where the application of generic qualification types to specific fields of study needs to be informed by particular professional requirements. This should help to ensure compatibility between the institution’s qualification and the requirements of the professional body.

What is the proper relationship between NQF level descriptors and qualification standards in higher education?

In the ‘nested’ approach of the HEQF, NQF level descriptors form the ‘outer and most generic layer of qualification specification’. We have the odd situation that standards are being developed when the ‘outer layer’ has never been officially approved, and is considered inadequate to the task of qualification specification. The level descriptors aim to cover all offerings at a particular

Are the differences represented (or implied) by a contextual-conceptual knowledge spectrum or by the notion of qualification pathways?

References to qualification pathways and knowledge mixes are intended to assist institutions in matching their qualification offerings with their mission, goals, priorities and contexts. They do not imply any kind of categorisation of institutional types, nor do they in themselves place limitations on the qualifications that an institution may offer, as long as it is able to meet the standards for those qualifications. It is not the function of qualification standards to determine the PQM of an institution, or how it may vary from time to time. An expert community of practice will determine the particular conceptual-contextual blend that a qualification type should have, and institutions should decide (subject to PQM approval) what qualification types they are best able to offer, and in what fields of study.

National Reviews

How are programmes for a national review identified?

The identification of a programme for a national review follows a strict process. The National Reviews Committee (NRC) recommends possible areas of national reviews to the HEQC. In choosing the area, the NRC takes in to account factors like the proliferation of the programme or scarcity thereof; identified areas of national need or even concerns raised by higher education stakeholders. A proposal setting out the reasons for an intended national review of the programme is prepared by the Directorate for National Reviews. The proposal writing itself follows a formal process and must demonstrate the substantive reasons for the review. Once the proposal has been approved by the different stakeholders and the NRC, it is presented to the HEQC for approval. The HEQC has the final decision regarding a national review.

What is the process regarding the approval for a national review of a programme?

This is a formal process. A proposal setting out the reasons for a possible national review is presented to the HEQC for approval by the National Reviews Committee. The proposal demonstrates consultation with peers, stakeholders and other relevant experts in the programme area; knowledge of local and international literature in the proposed area; knowledge of the programme offered across the national higher education sector and the comments and suggestions of an established reference group consisting of programme experts and other relevant stakeholders. The proposal emanating from this process is presented to the HEQC for approval.

How are criteria and minimum standards for a national review established?

Once the HEQC has approved the proposal for a national review of a programme, the Directorate begins the process by inviting programme experts to develop and finalise the minimum criteria and standards for the impending review. These criteria and standards will be drawn from the Criteria for Programme Accreditation of the HEQC. These criteria will apply to all institutions offering the programme and determine the accreditation status of the programme.

What is a self-evaluation report?

The self-evaluation report (SER) is the most important document in the national review process. It is the core document prepared by each participating institution according to the mutually established criteria and minimum standards. The SER allows each Department to prepare a critical appraisal of the programme with a view to improve it. This is an opportunity for Departments to identify areas of good practice, areas for improvement and other interventions to enhance the quality of the programme.

What is a site-visit?

The site-visit is an integral aspect of the national review of a programme. This part of the review corresponds to the actual evaluation of the programme. It is conducted by an expert peer-review panel. The peer-review panel evaluates the SER and appendices and through a collection of oral and documentary evidence during the site-visit makes an informed judgement regarding the re-accreditation status of the programme. The re-accreditation status of the programme is determined by the extent to which the programme meets the established criteria and minimum standards.

What is a review-panel?

The CHE selects a review-panel to conduct a site-visit on its behalf. The chairperson of the panel is the official conduit between the panel and the institution. The typical panel consists of three or four people, one of whom serves as chairperson. In constituting the panel, the CHE ensures the acceptability and suitability thereof by communicating its composition to the institution. An institution has the right to object to the composition of the panel and must communicate its reasoned objection to the HEQC. It should be noted that the HEQC will only consider demonstrable conflict of interest as a valid ground for objection. At the site-visit, each member of the panel is assigned tasks related to the review. It is the duty of the chair to allocate tasks that are commensurate with the panel’s expertise. At the end of the site-visit, the panel discusses and agrees on the key elements of the site-visit report. At all times, the panel has to note, that the review is an evidence-based exercise and that their role is to ensure that all evidence used to reach a judgement respect this fundamental injunction.

What happens after the site-visit?

Before the review-panel disbands, the chairperson ensures that the review-panel members do not leave without handing in their CHE Reviewer Report. The chairperson also ensures that the institution’s site-visit coordinator provides all required documentation related to the site-visit to the CHE representative. The report emanating from the site-visit must reach the CHE within 7 working days of the site-visit. The CHE scrutinizes the report for accuracy and offers suggestions (where applicable). Upon receipt of the report, the HEQC and the National Reviews Directorate assume responsibility for all further processing thereof.

What does the National Reviews Committee do?

The National Reviews Committee (NRC) is a specialist committee that supports the HEQC in the area of programme reviews. It consists of eight to ten members in majority drawn from the public higher education sector. The chairperson of the NRC is a member of the HEQC. Each member is appointed for a period of 4 years and can be renewed once. Some of the salient tasks of the NRC include scrutiny of draft panel reports and making recommendations in respect of re-accreditation to the HEQC; evaluating draft reports for consistency and tone before they are sent to higher education institutions for comment; reviewing progress reports and informing the HEQC regarding all further engagements with an institution.

What are the outcomes of the re-accreditation process?

The national review of a programme is an evidence-based exercise. The outcomes of the process are determined in a holistic manner and not in a technicist way by calculating the sum total of outcomes against individual criteria. The following classification is used for the re-accreditation outcomes of a programme:

  • commend indicates continuation of accreditation and recognition of examples of good practice and innovation in relation to several accreditation criteria;
  • meets minimum standards shows continuation of accreditation and indicates that minimum standards as specified under the different criterion are met;
  • needs improvement shows that the programme will be accredited with conditions as it fails to meet the minimum standards which can either be remedied within a 6-month period or where critical minimum standards relating to programme design or teaching and learning are not met, the programme will be placed on notice for withdrawal of accreditation;
  • does not meet minimum standards shows that the programme does not meet the minimum standards required to ensure the fitness of the programme and indicates withdrawal of accreditation.
Who is responsible for maintaining quality of programmes?

The national review of a programme forms part of the CHE’s quality assurance functions. One of the principles of the HEQC addresses the location of responsibility for and quality of the programme. The HEQC is adamant that the responsibility for the programme and institutional quality rests primarily with the higher education institution itself. The production of an SER at the time of a review where institutions have the opportunity to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the programme demonstrates that institutions are responsible for maintaining the quality of programmes.

Can institutions disagree with the re-accreditation outcome decision of the HEQC?

The HEQC makes re-accreditation decisions based on the review panel’s draft reports and recommendations from the National Reviews Committee. The relevant report with its accreditation outcome is released to each institution. In the event of an institution disagreeing with the re-accreditation outcome, it has 21 working days within which to make representation to the HEQC. The institution has to base its representation on the findings of the report and may clarify its position relative to the HEQC report and re-accreditation outcome. Additional information will only be allowed to support claims already made.

What is the HEQC's response in the case of an institutional comment being submitted?

The HEQC follows the process and procedure as set out in the Framework for the National Review of Programmes. According to the Framework, the CHE will appoint a reviewer to review the report in question and the re-accreditation decision in the light of the institutional representation. The National Reviews Committee will consider the reviewers recommendation and makes its recommendation to the HEQC. The HEQC has the final say and will take into consideration all relevant documentation and make its decision. This decision will then be communicated to the institution. The decision of the HEQC is final and binding on the institution.

What are Improvement Plans?

An Improvement Plan is a document produced by an institution after the national review process. Only institutions whose programme were accredited with conditions or are placed on notice of withdrawal are required to produce an Improvement Plan. A programme that fails to meet minimum standards and thus retain its accreditation status is required to meet the stipulated conditions within a specified timeframe. Institutions offering such programmes are required to report to the HEQC on the status of improvement in the programme. All improvement plans received by the HEQC are subject to evaluation. The HEQC assumes full responsibility for monitoring the fulfilment of all stipulated conditions before full accreditation can be granted.

What is the Report on the State of Provision of the Programme?

This report emanates from the national review of a programme. This report provides a detailed overview of the programme across the South African higher education landscape. Whilst the report provides an in-depth analysis of the programme, it does not name and shame institutions.

Accreditation

What are the Criteria for Accreditation and where do I find them?
What is the Higher Education Qualifications Sub-framework?
Are institutions limited as to which programmes or qualification types they are allowed to offer?
How do I apply to the CHE for accreditation?
How do I apply to the CHE for re-accreditation?
How do I apply to the CHE for a new / additional site of delivery?
How do I make a request for an appointment with the CHE?
How do I register for an online username and password?
Where do I check for the deadlines for submissions and related meetings?
How much do I pay for an application to the CHE?
How do I update my application if I have already submitted it?
How do I check the status of my application?
When will I get an outcome on my application?
How long after a programme is accredited does an institution have before the programme must be implemented?
What does a site visit entail?
Does the CHE accredit short courses or SETA qualifications?
Can institutions accredit their own short courses?
What is the difference between NQF level 5 and 6 qualifications offered by the CHE and the QCTO?

HEQCIS

Where can I find assistance in using Edu.Dex?

There is an Edu.Dex user manual, which is accessed as follows:

In the Edu.Dex application:

Select Help on the main Edu.Dex menu,

Select the Edu.Dex user manual menu item

OR

On the Edu.Dex web http://www.Praxis.co.za/EduDex

Select Level 3 – Training Provider on the left hand menu,

Download the Edu.Dex user manual (PDF document) in the right-hand pane.

 

You can also get help by e-mailing a description of your problems to the Edu.Dex support team at Edu.Dex@praxis.co.za  with your contact details (name, institution name, contact number). Someone on the Edu.Dex support staff will contact you.

Can the Edu.Dex username and password be changed?

Yes, the user name and password for Edu.Dex can be changed. Please consult the Administration Menu chapter in the help file. The section Edit Edu.Dex login credentials menu explains the process.

Do we need MS Access installed?

No. You don't need to have any other components or software installed to run Edu.Dex.

Is Edu.Dex platform dependent?

Edu.Dex has been developed for a Windows based platform.

If you would like to install Edu.Dex on an operating system other than Windows, please contact the Edu.Dex support team at Edu.Dex@praxis.co.za with your contact details (name, institution name, contact number). Someone on the Edu.Dex support staff will contact you to discuss the matter.

What do we do if we have foreign postal codes, since the current string only allows 4 character postal codes?

In order to retain the integrity of your own data, whilst at the same time meeting the requirements of the specification, please ensure that the extract of person records from your information system does the following:

If the person has a foreign postal address postal code, replace the full postal address with your institution’s postal address.

If the person has a foreign physical address postal code, replace the full physical address with your institution's physical address.

 

You don't need to change the data in your information system. You only need to replace the postal address and physical address for the affected person records, in the extract.

How do we enter unknown biographical data for a foreign national?

If the person is a current learner, please collect the required information from them. If the person can no longer be contacted, the Edu.Dex support desk will submit the incomplete data to the HEQCIS database as a once off exercise for your institution.

Please contact the Edu.Dex support team at Edu.Dex@praxis.co.za with your contact details (name, institution name, contact number). Someone on the Edu.Dex support staff will contact you to discuss the matter.

What if the disability status of a learner was not included on the learner's application form four year ago?

Set the disability status code for the learner to "None".

If the database has earlier information (perhaps from another provider) that shows this person has a disability, that information will be retained. The HEQCIS database automatically retains disability statuses other than "None". This can be manually overridden if an incorrect disability status was submitted to the HEQCIS database.

If that has happened, please contact the Edu.Dex support team at Edu.Dex@praxis.co.za with your contact details (name, institution name, contact number). Someone on the Edu.Dex support staff will contact you to discuss the matter.

Where do we indicate different sites?

There are two ways to indicate different or multiple sites in your data submissions. You need to discuss it with us first to determine the best route for your institution.

Please contact the Edu.Dex support team at Edu.Dex@praxis.co.za with your contact details (name, institution name, contact number). Someone on the Edu.Dex support staff will contact you to discuss the matter.

Can data be submitted for institutions that do not exist anymore?

Yes, there are a number of different ways to upload data where the provider no longer exists, or has merged with another provider. We will need to discuss the matter in order to determine which of these best suits your specific circumstances.

Please contact the Edu.Dex support team at Edu.Dex@praxis.co.za with your contact details (name, institution name, contact number). Someone on the Edu.Dex support staff will contact you to discuss the matter.

What does HEQCIS stand for?

Higher Education Quality Committee Information System.

What happens when a student who has been enrolled at one institution, enrolls at another institution?

Student information:

The HEQCIS database stores all the information for each person, who is studying or has studied, in one place. That means that each student has one record and all of the information for that student is stored there, regardless of how many different institutions they are or have been enrolled at. The database does not keep separate information for each student at each institution. (Technically: there is a person table that stores the details for each person as a single record.)

If a person who already has a qualification (or part of a qualification) enrolls for further study at another institution, and that institution sends new information about the person to the HEQCIS, the details that are stored for that person will be updated if the new information is more recent. If, however, there are concerns about the quality of the new information, then the old information will be retained.

Identifying students:

Each individual can be identified in a number of ways – for example by their national ID number, their passport number or by their student number. (And, for someone who has studied at different institutions, they will have different student numbers for each institution.) Because of the importance of these identifying numbers, they are never updated. If new identifying numbers are submitted, all of these will be saved. Student numbers are stored along with information about the provider so that it is clear which student numbers belong to which provider.

(Technically: the HEQCIS database has a separate table that stores the data values used to identify the person. If new identifying information is received for a person, the new student number and any other identifying values will be inserted into this table. Student numbers are saved together with the provider that issued the student number, making student numbers unique on a national level.)

Identifying enrolled students:

Each time a person enrolls for a particular programme, the database links them with a specific qualification code. (Qualification codes are specific to a provider and a provider may not use the qualification code of another provider.) The database has a record of every qualification that this person has ever been enrolled for.

(Technically: the HEQCIS database has a table that saves the details of a person enrolling on a qualification. This table stores student identifying information and the qualification code. Each time a student enrolls in another qualification, another record is added to this table. That way the database has a record of each enrolment.)

What happens to the data for a student that drops out after successfully completing two years of a three year qualification?

All the data that has been submitted about that student continues to be kept in the HEQCIS database.

What happens with the data of private providers that do not exist anymore?

Any data that has been submitted remains on the HEQCIS database.

Why do you collect this data?

The CHE collects data about students enrolled in public and private higher education and the qualifications that they are awarded. This information is collected so that we can pass it on to SAQA to add to the National Learners’ Records Database (NLRD). We are obliged to do this in terms of legislation that makes the CHE the Quality Council for Higher Education.

We also collect data about public and private higher education that helps us to better understand the state of higher education and how well it is performing. This information is used to inform the advice that we give to the Minister. Ultimately, this information assists planning and policy-making in higher education.

What right does the CHE have to collect data from private higher education institutions?

The Higher Education Act (Act 101 of 1997), chapter 2, par 6 says that: "Every national and provincial department of state, every publicly funded science, research and professional council and every higher education institution must provide the CHE with such information as the CHE may reasonably require for the performance of its functions in terms of this Act." Definitions (chapter 1, par 1) of the Act says that a "higher education institution" is defined to include those that are "registered or conditionally registered as a private higher education institution under this Act" so that private higher education institutions are required by the act to provide "such information as the CHE may reasonably require".

The National Qualifications Framework (NQF) Act (Act 67 of 2008) established the Council on Higher Education as the "Quality Council (QC) for Higher Education" (chapter 5, paragraph 25). The functions of a QC, in terms of paragraph 27 (j) include that they must:

"(i) maintain a database of learner achievements and related matters for the purposes of this Act; and

(ii) submit such data in a format determined in consultation with the SAQA for recording on the national learners’ records database contemplated in section 13(1)(l)"

The mandate SAQA operates under is also obtained from the NQF Act, where the functions of SAQA include the requirement to "maintain a national learners' records database comprising registers of national qualifications, part-qualifications, learner achievements" (chapter 4, paragraph 13 (l)).”

How does the CHE decide what data to collect?

The information collected by the HEQCIS is either needed in order to fulfil our obligation to send data to the NLRD, or is of use to us in assessing the state of higher education provision in South Africa. The exact data to be collected may change from time to time. The Higher Education Act and the National Qualifications Framework Act do not prescribe the data to be collected.

Why do you ask for optional information?

There is information that would be useful to us, but that institutions may not be able to supply – either because it is information that they do not collect, or because it is information that is sensitive and that they would prefer not to supply. Where the information is not absolutely necessary for our work, making it optional enables those who do have and are willing to share the data to provide us with at least some information.

Is the data collected from private higher education institutions the same as that collected from public higher education institutions?

No. The public higher education institutions provide much more data, but they send their data directly to the Department of Higher Education and Training. The data submitted by the public institutions is collected in the Higher Education Management Information System (HEMIS), which is much more comprehensive and complex.

As far as student information is concerned, both HEMIS and the HEQCIS collect personal information such as student identity numbers and other identifying information. This information ensures unique and accurate identification of students.

Why should institutions comply and submit the data requested?

1. The database benefits you and your students

The information supplied to the HEQCIS is submitted by the CHE to the National Learners’ Records Database (NLRD). This national information system is used by employers to verify the qualifications of employees and prospective employees. The NLRD is also used to assess the state of skills in the country and reflects the contribution that your institution makes to the country’s skills base.

2. For the national good

By assisting in building this database, we can build an understanding of the skills available in South Africa and of the higher education sector. This will assist decision-makers and national planners to make the most informed decisions concerning higher education and the labour market in South Africa.

3. It is a legal obligation

The Higher Education Act (Act 101 of 1997), chapter 2, par 6 says that: "Every national and provincial department of state, every publicly funded science, research and professional council and every higher education institution must provide the CHE with such information as the CHE may reasonably require for the performance of its functions in terms of this Act." Definitions (chapter 1, par 1) of the Act says that a "higher education institution" is defined to include those that are "registered or conditionally registered as a private higher education institution under this Act". So that private higher education institutions are required by the act to provide "such information as the CHE may reasonably require".

Who keeps the data collected by the HEQCIS secure?

At present, the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) is contracted by the Council on Higher Education (CHE) to manage the HEQCIS. SAQA houses the HEQCIS on a server maintained by SAQA. This server is secured behind a firewall with strict access control.

Who has access to the data?

Only three individuals have direct access to the HEQCIS database, the database administrator (DBA), the HEQCIS Manager, and the NLRD Director.

The information stored in the database is extracted twice per year and submitted to the National Learners' Records Database (NLRD). This is the responsibility of the DBA. The security of the NLRD is controlled by SAQA.

Reports on the data in the HEQCIS are prepared for the CHE and used to monitor the higher education sector. These reports only show aggregated data. Information from the HEQCIS is only published in aggregated form. Mailing lists are never published or handed to anyone.

Can another provider pick this information up?

No. Providers do not have access to the data in HEQCIS.

What should institutions do to ensure that student's rights are protected?

Institutions should make their own decisions about what is appropriate for their students. At the very least, institutions should make their students aware of the need to transmit their personal data to the CHE and to SAQA. It is currently not the norm among higher education institutions to ask students to sign consent, although one or two of the public universities do this.

If institutions feel that there might be a challenge from students, they should ask for consent. This can be done in one of two ways.

 

One option is to request students to sign a form indicating that they consent to their information being transmitted in this way. This can be included on the enrolment form.

Another option is to inform students that their information will be transmitted to the CHE and to SAQA and to give them the option to request that this does not happen. Students can be given a form to complete if they do not want to have their information transmitted.

Why should students consent to having their data submitted?

For the student, there are three reasons for consenting:

1. Verification of the learner's achievements

Should a specific qualification stated on a CV not be found on the NLRD when a prospective employer searches for it, it might be considered that such an achievement does not exist. Although the verifications service recommends that the specific institution be consulted in the case where the achievement is not found, not all bother to make the enquiry.

2. Being included in skills searches

Sometimes the NLRD receives requests from third parties to do targeted mail-outs for specific jobs on offer that require people with specific achievements. In these cases, it is most beneficial to students to have their details on the NLRD.

3. For the national good

By assisting in building this database, we can build an understanding of the skills available in South Africa and in the higher education sector. This will assist decision-makers and national planners to make the most informed decisions concerning higher education and the labour market in South Africa.

If a student challenges the release of their personal information to the HEQCIS and ultimately to the NLRD, is the level of compliance in terms of security and privacy defendable?

Yes, we believe it is.

Can the Edu.Dex user name and password be changed?

Yes, the user name and password for Edu.Dex can be changed. Please consult the Administration Menu chapter in the help file. The section Edit Edu.Dex login credentials menu explains the process.