Prof Stanley Mukhola, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Teaching, learning and Technology.
Although these changes will result in the phasing out of the well-known National Diploma and B Tech qualifications, Alumni in possession of such qualifications will not be affected. These qualifications will remain relevant in the market, even after the introduction of the new Diploma, Advanced Diploma and Bachelor Degrees.
In view of the phasing out of the so-called nated qualifications (National Diplomas and B Tech degrees), 2019 will be the last year during which new students will be enrolled in these qualifications. Such students will be given sufficient time to complete their qualifications, except where the entry requirement for specific programmes have changed. An example is the Faculty of Science, that, in order to meet the various Health Councils’ requirements, will in future only confer Bachelor degrees. Therefore, it is extremely important to note that, from 2020, B Tech degrees will no longer be conferred. TUT faculties where the new HEQSF qualifications will be implemented from 2019 are Management Sciences, Humanities, Arts, as well as Engineering and the Built Environment.
Detailed information on the envisioned changes is contained in the various Faculty Prospectuses. This includes changes in the fee structure, where some course might be slightly more expensive than in the past, as well as the progression of students.
In line with the previous framework, the HEQSF provides the basis for integrating all higher education qualifications into the National Qualifications Framework (NQF). It also provides a basis for standards development and quality assurance. It provides a mechanism for improving the coherence of the higher education system and indicates the articulation routes between qualifications, thereby enhancing the flexibility of the system and enabling students to move more efficiently over time from one programme to another as they pursue their academic or professional careers.
A very important consideration was public confidence in academic standards, which requires public understanding of the achievements represented by higher education qualifications. The HEQSF is thus designed to ensure a consistent use of qualification titles and their designators and qualifiers.
The revised HEQSF recognises three broad qualification progression routes with permeable boundaries, namely, vocational, professional and general routes and it provides greater clarity on the articulation possibilities between these qualification routes:
- Introduces two additional qualification types to the existing nine, and includes additional variants of particular qualification types.
- Clarifies the interpretation of some existing qualification types, namely, the Bachelor's Degree, as having two potential orientations - professional and general academic.
- Provides for greater flexibility and options with respect to professionally oriented qualifications.
- Facilitates the potential convergence of diploma and degree study routes at the Honour’s level instead of at the Master's level, as was previously the case. The new structure is Higher Certificate, Diploma, Advanced Diploma that replaces the B Tech degree, Bachelor’s Degree, Master’s Degree, Doctoral Degree and Postgraduate Degree.
Before any of the HEQSF programmes could be implemented, proper procedure should be followed. Firstly, the Council on Higher Education (CHE) must accredit the programmes. This is followed by the Department of Higher Education and Training clearing the PQM, after which the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) will register and give each programme an identification number.
The HEQSF establishes common parameters and criteria for the design of qualifications and facilitates the comparability of qualifications across the system. Within such common parameters, programme diversity and innovation are encouraged. Higher education institutions have a broad scope within which to design educational offerings to realise their different visions, missions and plans and to meet the varying needs of the stakeholders and communities they serve.
In addition, Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL), as an access mechanism, is an important feature in the new process. In expanding access to students, 10% of the total enrolments per qualification should in future come the RPL stream.
The HEQSF thus operates within the context of a single, but diverse and differentiated higher education system. It applies to all higher education programmes and qualifications offered in South Africa by public and private institutions.
Ultimately, the process is aimed at improving standards and enhance the chances of employability for students and alumni.