/ 22 April 2005

A minefield of misunderstandings

Christine Hutton* decided to study further after passing matric with exemption and taking a two year break. ‘It was too late to apply at a state university or technikon, so we started looking for a private higher education institution,” says Tracy.

Christine enrolled for what the prospectus described as a ‘two year diploma in advanced multimedia” at Allenby Campus in

Boksburg, Gauteng.

The Huttons were only alerted to their misconception when Christine received a letter from Allenby Campus offering an opportunity to gain ‘international accreditation” at an additional £90 (about R1 000) – a fee for international exams through a British college – which, said the letter, would enable them to obtain a diploma in multimedia.

‘If that was an opportunity to obtain a diploma, then what was she doing all this time?” asked Matthew.

After numerous phone calls, they discovered that Christine’s course was not accredited by the Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC), the quality assurer for HE.

Their attempts to get Allenby Campus to clarify the situation have been frustrating. ‘When we brought this up with Andrew Gilchrist, a director at the Damelin group, which includes the Allenby Campus, he told us that it was a further education and training (FET) course,” says Tracy.

Gerald Danilowitz, director of national academic management of the Damelin Education group, told the Teacher that the course ‘was submitted to the Council on Higher Education (CHE) as an HE programme in 2000, but was not accepted as an higher education programme by the CHE as they considered it to be too vocational. It has, subsequently, been resubmitted to Umalusi, the FET quality assurer, as an FET programme.”

Derrick Zitha of the HEQC, however, refuted Danilowitz’s claim: ‘Allenby Campus has never submitted an application to the HEQC for accreditation of this course.”

Allenby Campus later retracted its claim to have applied to the HEQC for accreditation.

Danilowitz also conceded that when Christine enrolled ‘the prospectus did not reflect the status of the course. But on request this information would have been furnished.”

The prospectus has since been changed. Danilowitz further stated that ‘diplomas can be awarded on all applicable National Qualification Framework (NQF) levels”. However, Zitha points out that diplomas are qualifications at level five of the NQF – which is higher education, not FET.

Leon White of Umalusi confirmed that Allenby Campus has been ‘provisionally accredited” as an institution and can, therefore, offer FET courses.

The Huttons can lodge a complaint with the Department of Education. But this is small comfort for the Huttons: Christine will have to accept that her parents’ investment of R50 000 and her own efforts have only moved her sideways – not upwards – on the NQF.

* Not their real names