Home South African South African universities could be downgraded or closed under new regulations

South African universities could be downgraded or closed under new regulations


Institutions of higher education, specifically universities, need to focus on teaching and learning, research and community engagement.

File: University of the Western Cape Main Hall. Picture: UWC/Supplied

SOUTH African universities could face downgrading or being shut down entirely if they do not meet the latest requirements according to the new draft rules that aim to differentiate types of educational institutions, which were published this week.

Changes include a university must offer a wide range of studies, must contribute to their local community, and have a strong research component, or they will be classified as a college.

“Private higher education institutions that fail to meet the criteria for their officially recognised institutional type will be subject to de-registration and/or change in registration,” the draft states.

In terms of policy, the institution has to be a university college. At least 95% of its programmes must be registered on the Department of Higher Education’s framework.

According to the draft regulations, any new university must be established as a university college first to “enable the development of the necessary administrative, management, academic and quality assurance systems, which are critical to the successful establishment of an autonomous university, with the support and under the guidance of the institution to which the university college is affiliated”.

To upgrade to a full university, a university college must show it has stable management capacity, some research activities, and “sufficient and sustained” enrolment for all its programmes, both undergraduate and post-graduate.

At least 85% of qualifications must be on the HEQSF. Of those, at least half must be offered at a doctorate level, and at least 5% of enrolment in such HEQSF programmes must be for post-graduates.

The draft criteria adds that higher education colleges would either specialise in something such as business or nursing, or will operate “in a limited number of interconnected fields or domains, for example: allied health sciences such as nursing and emergency medical care, safety, security, policing and military studies, or, art, drama, film and design”.

At least 60% of qualifications must be on the higher education qualifications sub-framework (HEQSF) level.

According to the draft regulations, a university college is defined as an institution “that is planned to develop or grow or evolve into a university over time, under the trusteeship of an existing established university (whether public or private) and funded (whether publicly or privately) for this purpose”.

Full universities may be teaching-led, comprehensive, or research-led, but all three kinds have common requirements. Those include 95% of qualifications being on the HEQSF, “research and produce knowledge contributing to the national development needs and international scholarship”, and involvement “in engagement activities within its locality contributing to the wider development of its community”.

The comment period on the draft policy is open for 30 days.

Universities South Africa’s Linda Meyer encouraged people to comment on the proposed policy.

Speaking to eNCA, Meyer said institutions of higher education, specifically universities, focused on teaching and learning, research and community engagement.

Commenting on the draft regulations, Meyer said critically, for universities, it would have to have a strong research component where new knowledge is produced.

“If we look at our universities currently, there are a number of universities that are world-renowned for their research activities, and certainly, these are the types of institutions that we will be referring to as universities as we go into the future.

“Universities of technology might have a different focus, might be university colleges, but really we will see as the policy unfolds, as the regulations are implemented, how this will affect the universities sector,” she said.


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