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Accreditation: 5 Things You Should Know

“Are you accredited?” is the first question potential students tend to ask. It is the right question to ask. However, bogus institutions tend to answer “yes,” because they have spurious “accreditation.” To separate the sheep from the goats, you need to know five things about accreditation.

1. The Council on Higher Education is the only recognised accreditation agency in South Africa.

To operate legally in South Africa, a higher education institution must be registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) and accredited by the Council on Higher Education (CHE). If a local institution is not registered with the DHET and accredited by the CHE, it is not accredited.

Do not be duped by institutions claiming to be accredited by other agencies. Bogus Bible colleges (the mere term is tragic) often claim to be accredited by impressive-sounding religious or international accreditation agencies.

2. The Department of Higher Education and Training publishes a register of accredited institutions.

“How can we check if an institution is registered and accredited?” The DHET updates its Register of Private Higher Education Institutions approximately four times each year. It is the official catalogue of accredited institutions. In addition to listing the accredited institutions in good standing with the DHET, it includes sections for institutions whose accreditation is in jeopardy and a list of known bogus institutions. Institutions in category 1, “Registered Institutions,” are fully accredited.

The Register lives on http://www.dhet.gov.za under «Resources» and then «Registers». The August 2019 Register is here. SATS is institution number 89 in category 1.

3. Accreditation is difficult to obtain but easy to maintain.

“What if my institution loses its accreditation?” The system is designed to protect students. There are three good reasons not to worry about this. Firstly, accreditation is difficult to obtain, but not difficult to maintain. The up-front scrutiny of new programmes is so strenuous that an accredited institution should not struggle to sustain accreditation. Secondly, if the authorities revoke an institution’s accreditation, they grant time for pipeline students to finish. Thirdly, if your degree was accredited at the time of issue, the national database will reflect it as such even if the issuing institution closes.

4. SAQA has a service that evaluates foreign qualifications.

To check if a foreign institution has reputable accreditation, you should contact the Centre for the Evaluation of Foreign Qualifications at SAQA.

5. For American institutions, check the CHEA database.

The American higher education system works differently to ours. In fact, it offers fertile ground for dishonest institutions to feign national accreditation and deceive the uninformed.

In America, many states permit any institution to register with the state as a degree-granting institution. This does not constitute accreditation. In our language, it simply means that the institution is a registered educational company. It can be confusing because the registered institution receives documentation from the State saying that it is registered as a degree-granting organisation. Accreditation is separate and subsequent!

The US Department of Education recognises a number of trusted accreditation agencies. There is a central repository that lists all institutions with reputable accreditation: https://www.chea.org/directories. The rule of thumb is that if an institution is not listed on their CHEA database, it is not deemed to be accredited by the USDE.

In summary, to check if an institution is fully registered and accredited in South Africa, consult the DHET Register. To check on a US programme, use the CHEA database. For other foreign qualifications, consider checking with SAQA. These are trustworthy guides, but be wary of claims to other types of accreditation.

Is SATS Fully Accredited?

Yes! SATS has full accreditation with the Council on Higher Education (CHE) and we have no conditions to meet.

Our last cycle of reaccreditation was completed in 2018. On 3 October 2018, we received formal confirmation that all six programmes are fully reaccredited with no conditions remaining to be met. This means that our accreditation is 100 per cent secure until 2023, when the next routine cycle is scheduled.

We are fully accredited for six programmes:

Higher Certificate in Christian Life (120 credits, NQF 5)
Higher Certificate in Christian Counselling (120 credits, NQF 5)
Bachelor of Theology (360 credits, NQF 7)
Bachelor of Theology Honours (120 credits, NQF 8)
Master of Theology (180 credits, NQF 9)
Doctor of Philosophy in Theology (360 credits, NQF 10)

If that is all you needed to know, you can stop here. I want to offer a brief history of our journey with accreditation.

SATS received accreditation in 2002/3 for six programmes: Certificates in Christian Life, Christian Counselling, and Worship Studies, a Diploma in Biblical Studies (2 years), a Bachelor of Theology (4-year with an optional exit point after 3 years), and a Master of Theology. We added the PhD in Theology at our second attempt in 2007/8.

During the reaccreditation cycle in 2009/10, due to changes in the higher education framework, we could not apply for reaccreditation of the Diploma in Biblical Studies or the four-year BTh with an optional exit point after three years. We decided to teach out the Diploma, but to apply for a three-year BTh plus a BTh Honours to replace the four-year BTh. We received the BTh and BTh Honours in 2011, at which point we discontinued our old, four-year BTh. At the same time, the CHE renamed all Certificates as Higher Certificates. We
chose to discontinue the Certificate in Worship Studies due to lack of interest.

The next reaccreditation cycle began in 2015 and ended in 2018—the process took long because of capacity constraints at the CHE. The outcome was full reaccreditation for all six of the current programmes with no conditions.

The DHET and the CHE occasionally introduce new or modified regulations. When they do so, we (and all accredited institutions) need to comply. As long as we comply, these changes pose no threat to our accreditation status. In recent years, changes to the regulations governing RPL and partnership agreements have required adjustments on our side. Whenever such changes arise, SATS complies fully and swiftly. There is currently no threat to our status as a registered and accredited institution.

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