The implementation of the Department of Education's policy on regulating private higher education.
Naicker, Tholsiavellie Socklingum.
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Education in South Africa, in the times of the national government, had been regulated and controlled. During the 1990's, however, with the emergence of the new democratic government, the degree of control and regulation eased to allow a spirit of free enterprise. This provided entrepreneurial opportunities to engage in the provisioning of education. These opportunities proved very successful resulting in good business options. This development was not matched with any regulation or standards, consequently no mechanisms were in place that provided guidelines on personal and academic quality. In most cases private providers were not of an academic background and therefore based their practice strictly along business lines. Private providers sought accreditation from international partners. This had reciprocal benefit in that it added a sense of legitimacy and credibility to the private provider while at the same time providing financial benefit to international universities. Over time, as a result of lack of research and development in this sector it was assumed that the private sector was responsible for the loss of student numbers in the public sector. This together with the findings of the task group delegated by the Minister of Education highlighted the urgent need to regulate this sector. This resulted in a sequence of events that gave rise to the regulation policy. The policy required that private providers report on their quality assurance mechanisms. The process was two pronged namely, the application for accreditation and the application for registration. The Department, as a result of lack of capacity, had engaged SAQA (South African Qualifications Authorities) to implement the accreditation process. This was an interim process till such time the Higher Education Quality Council is fully set up. The process proved complex, the document to apply for accreditation, termed the "blue book" was not a user friendly document. This coupled with the lack of academic experience in quality assurance on the part of private providers, resulted in severe implementation problems. This study addresses the implementation process by the Department of Education. It looks at the responsibility and participation of all stakeholders in the process and attempts to identify what factors had contributed to the poor implementation. The study probes the responses from private providers in Kwa-Zulu Natal and from the regulatory authorities. The study is grounded in the literature survey. One must be mindful that this regulation process is a new development. The work of the HEQC and the Council on Higher Education is new. Currently there are web sites that outline clearly their aims, objectives, process and procedures. However, at the time of the first implementation in 1998, little information was available. The documentation was developed after the process had been implemented. This coupled with understaffing from SAQA and the DoE exacerbated the problem. This study therefore explores the implementation process. This process is now improved and changed now the Council on Higher Education has implemented the quality assurance mechanisms.