I assist many distraught private institutions whose applications for accreditation with the Council on Higher Education have not been approved, and assist them to prepare Representations on the criteria they have not met. Here are some key points on the CHE accreditation requirements.
Three processes run concurrently:
• Application to the Council on Higher Education (CHE) for accreditation of the programme(s) the institution plans to offer, based on evidence submitted of quality assurance systems, processes and procedures that will ensure quality programme delivery;
• Submission of the qualification the institution wants to offer, i.e. a new qualification that falls in the Higher Education Qualifications Sub-Framework, which will be registered by SAQA;
• Application to the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) for registration as a private higher education institution (using Form APX-01) to confirm that it is a legal and reputable entity and not a ‘fly-by-night’ institution.
• How long does it take for CHE approval? The application is dealt with by the Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC) of the CHE, and it takes approximately one year for the application to be processed through all the HEQC and SAQA processes after the application is submitted on the HEQC online system.
• Thorough evaluation process: The HEQC and SAQA processes are very thorough and a substantial percentage of applications are referred back to the applicant because the evidence provided in the submission is insufficient or not convincing. Applicants are then given a limited period to make improvements and to submit additional evidence in a Representation, following which the decision could be to not approve accreditation.
• Key areas: The central pillar of the application for accreditation is the qualification and the learning programme based on the qualification, as well as all the processes relating to the design, delivery, assessment, moderation and quality assurance of the programme. Make sure that these are developed by people with the necessary expertise.
• Nature of the HEQC process: The HEQC process is very different from the SETA-ETQA accreditation process, and in many ways far more demanding. The applicant cannot simply submit ‘generic’ policy documents, but has to describe exactly what systems, processes and procedures will be established to ensure that quality and regulatory requirements are met, how these will be implemented, who will be responsible for their development, implementation and quality assurance and what qualifications and relevant experience they have, as well as how the different systems, processes and procedures relate to and support one another.
• How long does it take to prepare the submission? Depending on what is already in place, the preparation can take more than six months (if the institution is newly established with very few policy and other documents in place) or about three to four months (if the institution is established and has a functioning QMS). The duration depends largely on available internal capacity and expertise, and the extent of external assistance required.