By Reuben van Rensburg
It’s time for religious seminary mills 1 to end

“I have been doing a ton of research on religious seminaries as of late. I really don’t think there is much of an excuse anymore to attend an unaccredited seminary. With NationsU and SATS both having full accreditation and their cost being oh so low, the justification of cost being the main factor for attending unaccredited schools is lost.”

The comment made on a leading international website on matters relating to higher education, namely Degreeinfo.com, caught my attention recently. As a theological seminary of international standing, we have invested significant time and energy to ensure that our institution is accredited in South Africa, by the Council on Higher Education, and registered by the Department of Higher Education. Why have we done this? Well for starters, we believe we need to protect our students and to provide them with a certainty that their qualifications are bona fide and recognized, thereby paving the way for our students to study further, either through SATS or at a similarly recognized institution anywhere in the world.

Bogus is big business

Bogus or unaccredited educational institutions are big business throughout the world, for example. in the US, religious institutions of higher learning do not have to be nationally accredited, but rather authorized to operate by individual State legislation. These Institutions are therefore empowered to give degrees that are not necessarily accredited. Certain seminaries have adopted this practice as well.
This practice, however, does not alter the fact that reputable educational institutions, or even Church and Christian organisations, will not recognize these qualification, nor respect the institution concerned.

Is it a question of submission?

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God,” Romans 13:1

The argument some unaccredited seminaries use to justify their position is the idea that they have to submit only to God. This is a spurious point of view. One does not, for example, question the government requirement of a driver’s licence, in order to legitimately drive a car on the road. In addition, it does not mean that the course content provided will in some way be diluted by the accreditation powers that be.

It’s not about secularism

Meeting the requirements for accreditation in South Africa does not make a theological seminary secular in any way. To be accredited as an institution of learning means that one must meet specific criteria. These relate more specifically to ‘structural elements’ such as staff qualifications, research, premises and a library, rather than the spiritual nature of the course content itself.
In all our years of operating as an accredited theological seminary, never once has the spiritual content of our courses been scrutinized, questioned or challenged by our education authorities. We are accredited because we meet the very stringent educational requirements set by the Council on Higher Education. So accreditation does not necessarily impact the content or integrity of the theological material presented.

Bible-based, Christ-centred, Spirit-led

In our 20 years of existence, and in line with our mission to restore truth to the church, SATS has focused on ensuring that our material is Bible-based, Christ- centred and Spirit-led. Christians from all denominations are welcome to study with us. In fact, SATS now has over 2200 active students from 75 countries, who are registered for our undergraduate, honours, masters and doctoral programmes.
These students are drawn from a wide spectrum of churches and Christian organisations.
Our mission is to make our course material affordable and accessible through our online delivery model.

Serving God with excellence

Underpinning our mission at SATS is our emphasis on serving God with excellence. This surely must apply to Christian leaders wherever they are.
Why would you settle for less?

What to look for when considering studying at a theological seminary

  • Is it Bible-based?
  • Is it accredited by a reputable agency?
  • Is it most closely aligned with your Christian values and practice?
  • Does it build up your faith and knowledge in the Lord Jesus Christ?
  • What do you see in the lives of others who have studied there?
  • What do others who have studied there say about the institution?

SATS’ accreditation and registration credentials

SATS is a registered as a Section 21 company (Reg. no. 2002/005184/08), a PBO (18/11/13/2403) and an NPO (033-343- NPO).
SATS is registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training as a Private Higher Education Institution under the Higher Ed. Act 1997. Registration Certificate no: 2001/HE08/05
We are also a founder member of the National Association of Distance Education Organisations in South Africa (NADEOSA) and a member of the Association of Private Providers of Education, Training and Development (APPETD), the South African Institute for Distance Education (SAIDE), the International Council for Evangelical Theological Education (ICETE), the International Council for Higher Education (ICHE), the CHEA International Quality Group (CIQG) and the World Evangelical Theological Institute Association (WETIA).
Our Council on Higher Education accreditation and Department of Higher Education registration provide assurance that the quality of our programmes is of the highest standard.

Our programmes are therefore nationally and internationally comparable and the credits earned with us are truly “portable”, i.e. they can be transferred to other accredited, registered institutions. The increasing number of international students confirms the acceptability of our programmes around the world. Read more…
Recently our MTh and PhD programmes were submitted to two of the most frequently used and highly recommended evaluators in the USA, namely the International Education Research Foundation, Inc. (ierf.org) and the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers’ International Education Services, and both confirmed that these degrees represent attainment of a level of education comparable to the equivalent degrees from a regionally accredited university in the United States. Our degrees are also recognised by the German website anabin.kmk.org/ which provides information about the evaluation of foreign qualifications, and by the Brazilian and Argentinian governments. According to research conducted by Dr Evan Hunter of ScholarLeaders, we have more PhD students than any other accredited, evangelical seminary in the non-western world. The IQAS (International Qualification Assessment Service) in Alberta, Canada, an independent, secular assessment service used by many Canadian universities to establish the quality of foreign qualifications, has evaluated the SATS B.Th. as the local equivalent of a “three-year Bachelor’s degree with a focus in theology”.

1 What are diploma mills?
Diploma mills or degree mills tend to have drastically lower requirements for academic coursework, with some even allowing students to purchase credentials without any educational activity. Students may be required to purchase textbooks, submit homework, and take tests, but degrees are nonetheless conferred after little or no study. Diploma mills are motivated by profit and often claim accreditation by non-recognized or unapproved accrediting bodies (accreditation mills) set up for the purposes of providing an appearance of authenticity.
What are accreditation mills?
An accreditation mill is an organization that awards educational accreditation to higher education programs without having government authority or recognition from mainstream academia to operate as an accreditor. Accreditation mills are much like diploma mills and, in many cases, are closely associated with diploma mills. The “accreditation” they grant has no legal or academic value but is used in diploma mill marketing to help attract students. Source: www.abet.org