I attended the meeting arranged by DHET held on Tuesday 30 October 2012 to brief Private FET Colleges on the implications of the Interim Guidelines on the Registration and Accreditation of Private Providers Offering Qualifications or Part-qualifications in the Trades and Occupational Sector. I believe all parties involved already read the guidelines, so I will not repeat them here. The DHET should be commended for organising the meeting and for the patience that Dr Buthelezi and other DHET speakers showed towards the attendees. I will get back to this in my closing remarks.

The following are some salient aspects of the guidelines that were discussed:

  1. All qualifications that were previously registered as SETA qualifications will be transferred to the QCTO. One would like the QCTO to confirm that they will accept unit standard aligned qualifications until such time as new curriculums have been written for all qualifications. This will probably take a number of years.
  2. If you voluntarily opt out of your provisional registration with DHET or if you do not indicate in writing that you wish to keep your provisional registration until it expires your institution’s name will be removed from the DHET database. This might have serious implications because clients and learners do not always understand the system or the NQF, and their perception is that learning institutions registered by DHET are better than ones that are not. Furthermore, DHET is creating unnecessary work for themselves because they will need to process annual reports submitted by private learning institution that opt to keep their provisional registration. Why not just cancel all provisional registrations and communicate this as widely as possible? Private learning institutions can also communicate what this means to their clients, as Mentornet already did.
  3. Not being required to register with DHET if you offer only OQF qualifications and part-qualifications is a temporary arrangement. The Skills Development Act will be amended in the near future and will then stipulate that such learning institutions, accredited by the QCTO, must also register with DHET.

In closing, I wish to return to my remark in the first paragraph that the DHET presenters displayed remarkable patience. You know, it is true that state departments do not always provide a professional service, and we all experience quite some frustration because of this. However, we will achieve nothing by being rude and insulting towards people, especially when they do their best to keep us informed. It is very easy to read a person’s body language, especially if it is accompanied by a hostile tone of voice. If you push people they will always push back and you will not achieve anything by shouting at them, threatening them, blaming them and adopting a superior attitude. Ironically some private providers know so little about the NQF and ETD related legislation that they are making utter fools of themselves. I was truly impressed with the mature and patient manner in which Dr Buthelezi dealt with the man who clearly does not even know what the requirements for accreditation and registration are but still adopted this attitude of being very clever and informed. Treating people with respect can go a long way towards fostering a climate of trust and co-operation. Even if the government officials are no always as proficient as they should be, we can achieve so much more by having more understanding for them and explaining rather than attacking, asking rather than demanding and guiding rather than insulting.

Dr Hannes (Jaap) Nel, MD Mentornet   

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Hi Hannes,

The response from QCTO is as follows - "Current SAQA registered qualifications have been extended by SAQA on behalf of the QCTO for another three years as an interim transitional arrangement until the QCTO Qualifications are in place.

The ETQA regulations that governed the ETQA functions of SETAs and Professional Body ETQA came to an end on 30 September 2012. As form 1 October 2012, the QCTO delegated the Quality Assurance Functions of the re-registered SAQA Qualifications to the current SETAs and Professional Body ETQAs in line with their allocated Qualifications to quality assure by SAQA before 1 October 2012.

Hi All

Does anyone have information on this second meeting scheduled for mid-January to discuss the FET College registration? Date, time & venue etc.?


Handri Stadler

Hi there everybody,

I'm really grateful to be able to be part of this forum. I appreciate reading the different perspectives regarding the relationship between the DHET and private providers. It is my intention to further my understanding of how the DHET understands the role and status of private providers.

We are still in the 'interim' phase as indicated by the Joint Communique 1 of 2012 in which:

  • Private SD providers who are not yet registered with the DHET and who wish to offer only OQF qualifications and part-qualifications on Levels 1 - 10 are currently not required to register with the DHET.
  • Private SD providers who are already registered with the DHET for OQF qualifications or part-qualifications may continue with their current offerings, but do not need to apply for re-registration with the DHET when their registration period ends.
  • Private SD providers who are currently registered with the DHET and wish to extend their scope of provision to offer additional qualifications or part-qualifications that are registered on the OQF need only to apply for accreditation with the QCTO or the delegated body.

My understanding of this is that the 3 bullet points above (as taken from the Joint Communique) thus temporarily suspend or negate the parts of the Higher Education Act and the Further Education and Training Colleges Act which require private higher education institutions and FET colleges respectively to register with the DHET.

I am thus a little confused and anxious as to the DHET's recent 'Warning Statement' in which the DHET urged students, parents and guardians to ensure that the institutions they enrol with are legally registered. The implication of this statement is that institutions MUST be registered with the DHET (students are encouraged to check for themselves the registration status of any private FET college by logging on to the DHET website). This is all in connection with the DHET being "inundated with complaints from students who have fallen prey to bogus, illegal or unregistered private Further Education and Training (FET) colleges".

In other words, their statement says that Private FET Colleges that are not registered with the DHET could be in some way seen as 'bogus' and 'illegal'.

Does anybody else see this as unfair and in some way contradictory to what was stated in the Joint Communique?

We are all aware that there are shady providers out there who are only interested in fleecing students and that these providers should be shut down. 

However, I do feel that the DHET is creating an unnecessary sense of panic and confusion in the minds of students and prospective students. The DHET, by issuing such statements, is unfairly impacting on the reputation of ethical private FET Colleges that, for reasons outlined in the Joint Communique, are not currently registered with the DHET.

The College that I represent is currently registered with the DHET. However, there are several private colleges that are no longer registered with the DHET, and these colleges are by no means 'bogus' or 'illegal'. 

It is difficult not to think that the DHET sees private FET providers in a less than favourable light. In the DHET's White Paper for Post-School Education and Training (2013), there is reference to 'unscrupulous private providers' who offer provider programmes. The text continues by saying these providers mislead students. In addition, strong reference is made to 'private providers, including large and apparently reputable ones, openly advertise unaccredited courses in the knowledge that the authorities do not have the capacity to deal with their transgressions'.

This is a major bone of contention for me - it is not illegal or unscrupulous to offer unaccredited courses.

According to the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) document entitled “Criteria and Guidelines for Short Courses and Skills Programmes”:  

“Short course provisioning is one of the most dynamic features of the emerging education and training system of South Africa.   …. A third area where short course provisioning is important is where learners require a target short learning programme to upgrade skills and knowledge to ensure success in their chosen field of learning.  

… Non-credit-bearing short courses include a variety of short learning programmes for which no credits are awarded.   … In conclusion, the purpose of short learning programmes could be any, or a combination of the following:  

• To provide learners with practical (hands-on) learning where appropriate;

• To increase employability, self-employment possibilities and mobility within a workplace and a sector;

• To provide access to learning opportunities towards nationally registered unit standards and qualifications;

• To provide occupationally directed and focused learning; and • To contribute towards closing the skills gap as identified in the Workplace Skills Plan (WSP), the Sector Skills Plan (SSP) and National Skills Plan (NSP)”. 

According to SAQA's “Criteria and Guidelines for Short Courses and Skills Programmes”, there is a clear rationale and need for unaccredited programmes:

  • To provide learners with practical (hands-on) learning where appropriate;
  • To increase employability, self-employment possibilities and mobility within a workplace and a sector;
  • To provide access to learning opportunities towards nationally registered unit standards and qualifications;
  • To provide occupationally directed and focused learning, and
  • To contribute towards closing the skills gap as identified in the Workplace Skills Plan (WSP), the Sector Skills Plan (SSP) and National Skills Plan (NSP).

[Paraphrased from: “Criteria for Approving Skills Programmes”, Department of Labour, 2001].


In addition, a short learning programme could also have as its purpose to:

  • Update learners on new developments and insights in their professions;
  • Upgrade foundation knowledge for successful completion of a chosen field of learning;
  • Earn credits towards formal programmes should learners wish to build on the learning attained through short learning programmes; and / or
  • Be intended for personal enrichment.

My College is very clear and transparent in informing students about the differences between accredited and non-accredited courses. We do everything we can to avoid misleading our students in any way. 

I am concerned that the DHET is misinforming the public about:

1) DHET registration requirements, and

2) The legality of unaccredited programmes.

I use the word 'misinformation' quite specifically as it is my opinion that the DHET is providing, inter alia:

  • Contradictory information, and
  • Factually incorrect information,and
  • Insufficient information.

This misinformation is highly damaging to those private Colleges that really care about their students and who do everything in their power to distance themselves from the practices of 'unscrupulous' and 'illegal' providers.

I would welcome the comments and feedback from the other members here. 



Hello Sonia, I am not sure why your impressions appear In the Skills Universe only now, because we actually discussed the issue of registering private learning institutions last year already. Nevertheless, I fully agree with what you wrote and am delighted to see that there are some private providers, like your company, who do seem to strive towards offering quality learning.
Your remark that “It is difficult to think that the DHET sees private FET providers in a less that favourable lights” is, in my opinion, correct. I am currently studying The White Paper for Post –school Education and Training and will post my notes on this once I’ve read everything. For the time being it is my impression that the Minister is still targeting private learning institutions when he refers to REGISTERED private learning institutions when he knows very well that private learning institutions offering occupational learning have been asked by his Department not to register, or to voluntarily waive their registration if they are registered.
I strongly feel that this is an issue that the APPETD should take up with the Minister. I might be mistaken, but from what I saw last year the APPETD is working so hard at becoming a private provider of certain ETD services (like becoming an AQP, developing quality assurance instruments for the QCTO, etc.) that they are actually missing their mandate.
Dr Hannes Nel, MD Mentornet

Hi there Dr Nel,

Thank you for your reply. I look forward to reading your notes on the White Paper. 

Am really glad to read that you agree with my thinking about how the DHET sees private FET providers. 

Looking forward to discussing this more,



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