Steering clear of fly-by-night colleges


As the class of 2013 - thousands of them newly armed with Bachelor?s
passes - scramble to secure a space at universities and colleges, an education
expert has warned prospective students to ensure they carefully scrutinise
institutions before signing up.

"Thousands of newly matriculated young people are being turned away at
universities due to space constraints. It is encouraging to see so many
prospective students include private higher and further education institutions as
they consider alternatives. It is therefore most regrettable that there are still
some unscrupulous people exploiting students? difficult situation, for fraudulent
and selfish financial gain,' says Dr Felicity Coughlan, Director of the Independent
Institute of Education (IIE).

The IIE is SA?s largest and most accredited private higher education
institution, and Coughlan notes that private institutions are required to adhere
to the same rigorous quality assurance processes as state universities -
meaning that if you register at the right private institution you are able to gain a
qualification of equal standing and quality.

Most private institutions operating throughout the country are registered
and accredited and almost all offer a viable alternative for students seeking a
post-school study opportunity, but it is a travesty that the actions of some taint
the whole sector, Coughlan says.

"Students unfortunately do not seem to realise just how easy it is to check
the credentials of private institutions and thus deny themselves the protection
of being sure about the status of the institution - and therefore the qualification
- they are choosing,' she says.

"All the key information about the registration of an institution is available in
the Register of Private Higher Education
kept by the Department of
Higher Education and Training, and the information is also readily available from
reputable institutions.'

Click here to view the href="
FromSkillsPortal" target="_new"> Register of Private Higher Education

Additionally, there are ways students can - and should - interrogate
institutions before parting with any money.

"There are a few key questions to ask to which there are some simple
answers, and if an institution is able to respond appropriately, it is worth
considering,' she says.

Before signing up, ask the institution:

? To show you their certificate of registration with the Department of Higher
Education. It should detail the campus, provider and the qualifications offered.
No certificate - no go.
? All higher education qualifications need to be accredited by the Higher
Education Quality Committee of the Council on Higher Education - if they are not
accredited they will not appear on the certificate referred to above. There is no
other document detailing the accreditation which is why checking if the
qualification is on the certificate is an essential step.
? All qualifications must be registered on the NQF by SAQA and students
should ask for the SAQA NQF identity numbers.

"Students eager to sign up in the current climate where spaces at tertiary
institutions are scarce may be tempted to forego this little bit of additional
hassle,' says Coughlan. "But failing to make the effort makes you enormously
vulnerable to scamsters.

"By taking the time to ask these simple questions, you contribute to
strengthening the private higher education sector by making it harder for
scamsters to continue to operate.'

What do you think?
How can we prevent fake training providers from taking advantage of students?