Considerations on the Designation and Nomenclature of Higher Education Institutions


The Council on Higher Education (CHE) is an independent statutory body established by the Higher Education Act of 1997. The CHE's mission is to contribute to the development of a higher education system that is characterised by equity, quality, responsiveness, and effective and efficient provision and governance and management. The CHE makes this contribution by providing advice on higher education policy issues to the Minister of Education through the quality assurance activities of its Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC), through monitoring and evaluation of aspects of higher education, and through various other activities.

This Research Report is the result of an investigation prompted by a request to the CHE in late 2002 from the Minister of Education for advice on the nomenclature of comprehensive institutions, wherein the Minister also indicated that ‘the CHE could extend its advice to the nomenclature of higher education institutions more generally’. The Minister further indicated that he would ‘appreciate the advice of the CHE on a related matter, that is the criteria to be used to assess the ability of a higher education institution to offer degrees and postgraduate qualifications’.

The CHE initiated an investigation to consider these issues and produce a Report that would

  1. Assist the CHE to advise the Minister of Education on the conditions and criteria under which public and private higher education institutions may be recognised as

    • Universities or Technikons or Institutes of Technology, etc. and/or

    • Undergraduate and postgraduate degree-offering and/or -awarding institutions.

  2. Assist the HEQC to formulate processes and procedures for recognition as one of the designated institutions.

  3. Assist the HEQC to formulate policy and practice around the specific accreditation requirements that institutions need to meet in order to be permitted to offer and/or award undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes.

  4. Assist the CHE to advise the Minister on the nomenclature of higher education institutions more generally.

The investigation has been synthesised in this Research Report by Ms Erica Gillard, who served as the consultant on the investigation.

The investigation took as its points of departure the vision and goals for higher education expressed in the White Paper and the National Plan and the key values and principles that are intended to guide the process of transformation and development in higher education. Further details relating to the investigation are covered in the Introduction to this Report.

As always in an investigation of this nature and in the production of a research report, there are numerous actors to be thanked. The CHE extends its gratitude to the following:

  • The members of the CHE Shape and Size Standing Committee that supervised the investigation.

  • The members of the Council of the CHE, who approved the Policy Advice Report to the Minister of Education that flowed out of this investigation.

  • The academic leaders and managers, noted in the ‘Sources of Information’ section of the report, who kindly made themselves available for interviews and whose thinking and ideas informed the work of the consultant.

  • The local and international academic leaders, managers and academics who submitted documents to the CHE, expressed opinions on the issues at hand, and also expressed views on the nomenclature of comprehensive institutions.

  • Ms Erica Gillard for taking on the investigation and facilitating the work of the CHE Shape and Size Standing Committee.

  • The members of the CHE Secretariat who assisted in the production of this Report, and especially the Project Administrator of the investigation, Ms Chantal Dwyer, and at a later stage Mr Shane Stoffels.

Finally, the CHE is grateful to

  • The Ford Foundation for a grant to support the CHE investigation and the publication of this Report.


Prof. Saleem Badat
Chief Executive Officer, CHE
Pretoria, July 2004