Education could be one of the most valuable investments you will ever make, but to ensure you get the maximum return, do your homework before enrolling for a tertiary qualification.
Besides being clear about what you want to study and how the qualification you choose will help achieve your career goals, also make sure that the institution you decide to attend has the right accreditation.
Unfortunately there are people who take advantage of prospective students. They claim to offer tertiary qualifications but don’t have the proper, or sometimes, any accreditation. This means that even though you have paid and passed, the qualification you obtain is worthless.
According to The Independent Institute of Education (The IIE), South Africa’s largest and most accredited private higher education institution, the easiest way of finding a list of accredited institutions, is to go to the website of the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) and follow the Qualifications and Part Qualification link. The site reflects the institutions’ accreditation and registration status.
There are plenty of respected, accredited institutions offering a huge array of courses. In fact the range of choice is so vast it can be daunting to prospective students.
The IIE further advises that even before deciding on a course, it’s important to understand the types of tertiary facilities and what they offer.
There are two types – public institutions, which are subsidised by the state, and private institutions, which receive no state subsidy.
Only public institutions are allowed to call themselves universities in South Africa, even though private higher education institutions have to adhere to the same regulations as public universities, and often offer the same range of qualifications. That’s why it’s probably worth investigating options at both public and private higher education institutions.
Within both the public and private sectors, there are two kinds of institutions.
Further education and training (FET) colleges offer qualifications linked to a specific range of jobs or employment possibilities, ranging from courses such as beauty therapy or plumbing to IT or business studies. Qualifications normally go no higher than National Qualifications Framework (NQF) level 4, a national certificate, and are not part of an academic progression leading to higher education.
Higher education institutions offer qualifications such as degrees, higher certificates and diplomas from NQF5 to 10.
Before making a decision, think carefully about the career you want to follow, research the qualifications that will be required to achieve your goals and then find out about the options available and the institutions that offer them, and the cost.
According to the IIE institutions can organise similar courses differently. Some can be very academic, while others are strongly focused on practical skills and work readiness. Their advice is to read the course descriptions in detail to determine what is best for you.
Although it can bring great rewards, for most people getting a tertiary education is a serious financial commitment. That’s why you should consider carefully what you want to do and how the qualification will help you achieve this, before deciding on the most applicable course and institution.