Choosing between Private and Public Institutions
Tertiary education in South Africa currently comprises 17 state-owned Universities, 9 state-owned Universities of Technology, and 50 state-owned TVET colleges. While this may seem like a large number of available public institutions, capacity at each institution is limited. This means that not everyone who applies and meets the entrance criteria are automatically accepted.
Many students thus choose to obtain a qualification at a private institution.
South African private higher education institutions or PHEIs, unlike their PHEI counterparts such as Harvard or Stanford in the US, are not allowed to call themselves universities, but may offer the same levels of qualifications as a public university. Embury Institute for Higher Education, for example, is the institution I help lead and it specialises in degrees, diplomas and higher certificates which, over the last two decades, helped produce some of the country’s very best teachers.
At present, some 300 private providers of higher education currently help bolster the country’s tertiary capacity.
Choosing a Mode of Study
Nearly half of all higher education students study through distance learning. Popularly known in some circles as the “learn while you earn” option, it is highly cost effective and offers flexibility. Distance learning students generally have the option to take a little longer to complete their qualifications than their contact learning counterparts and save money not having to travel to or live near a campus. Distance learning students also have the space to hold full-time jobs.
While distance learning is a viable option in both the public and private education spaces, it requires discipline and dedication together with a fair amount of maturity and focus.
How much will all this cost?
The first year of a Bachelor’s Degree in Education at a public institution costs around R 70 000, of which the state subsidises half. Student fees are thus responsible for half that amount. At Embury, the full private experience will cost around R 48 000 in 2019.
If you’re considering a private institution, keep the following in mind:
o Choose a Registered Institution
All private institutions must be registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training who issue a Registration Certificate. Ask to see it if in doubt.
o Choose an Accredited Programme
Ensure that the specific qualification is accredited. All accredited qualifications will appear on the Registration Certificate.
o Choose a Well-Respected Institution
Employers and past students are your best sources to gauge institutional reputation. Google is another great way to find out what current students think of the institution.
o Choose a Specialist
Most large private institutions offer a variety of qualifications while a handful specialise. Specialist institutions, e.g. those operating in the film, teaching or IT sectors, offer a unique learning experience given their singular focus, and that, in most instances, their lecturers are either industry practitioners or former sector professionals. Most importantly, specialist providers are generally respected by the industry, which means that employment rates among graduates from specialist institutions often reach in excess of 90 percent.
By Dr Naresh Veeran, Chief Commercial Officer of the Embury Institute for Higher Education