National Standards and Reviews

The National Reviews are about re- accrediting existing programmes offered at higher education institutions and form part of the CHE's quality assurance system. One of its aims is to increase public confidence in higher education programmes and qualifications.

This Framework sets out the evaluation and re-accreditation policy for programmes and qualifications identified for national review. Since approval of an original Framework for national review in September 2012, there have been two major developments affecting the approach to national reviews. One is the implementation of the HEQSF gazetted in October 2014. The other is progress by the CHE in development of standards for higher education qualifications. Qualification standards serve an important function as part of the national review process, in that the standard provides a benchmark for the purpose of the qualification and the graduate attributes that manifest it. This Framework replaces the original Framework approved in September 2012.

The National Review process is aligned with the programme accreditation system which evaluates new programmes and existing programmes. The fundamental aims of a national review are to ensure that minimum standards in programmes are met, that students are protected from programmes that do not meet minimum quality standards and that public confidence in higher education programmes is assured. To be re-accredited, programmes need to meet the national qualification standard and the programme-level criteria.

Qualification Standards Development

The Higher Education Qualifications Sub-Framework (HEQSF) assigns to the CHE the responsibility for developing standards for all higher education qualifications. The CHE must ensure that such qualifications meet the criteria of the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) for registration on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) in terms of section 1(f)(ii) of the Higher Education Act as amended.

The HEQSF requires that standards must have legitimacy, credibility and a common, well-understood meaning, and they must provide benchmarks to guide the development, implementation and quality assurance of programmes leading to qualifications.

The role of the CHE as the Quality Council for Higher Education means that its responsibility for standards should proceed alongside its other statutory responsibilities in the areas of quality assurance, including the accreditation and re-accreditation of programmes, institutional reviews, and national reviews. The co-existence of all these responsibilities in the same body puts the CHE in a privileged position to advance the objectives of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) within the higher education system.

One of the roles of the Directorate is to develop policy and a framework for qualification standards, including adapting the standards to qualification types, academic fields and disciplines, with the aim of informing and guiding the development, registration and publication of qualifications.

The CHE proposes a limited approach to standards development, focusing in the first instance on standards relating to the generic qualification types in the revised HEQSF and, secondly, on standards relating to the broad subject fields aligned with the Classification of Educational Subject Matter (CESM) categories that are used by the DHET for funding purposes.

The CHE will rely to a great extent on academic expertise in the relevant fields or disciplines, since the focus is on the purpose, outcomes and graduate attributes that characterize specific knowledge fields and disciplines. The Directorate will engage experts groups in the development of qualification standards. The CHE will establish a Standards Advisory Committee, comprising representatives of the higher education sector, to advise the CHE on the coordination of the standards development project, and to provide advice on the validity, consistency and compatibility of the standards developed by various expert groups.

Emphasis is also placed on the need for standards development at a national level to recognize and accommodate the need for institutional autonomy in respect of the design, delivery, assessment and evaluation of institutional programmes leading to qualifications on the HEQSF.