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Universities urged to recognise college qualifications

The government is courting universities to recognise the qualifications of technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges and to enrol their graduates at advanced study levels.

Speaking to the Mail & Guardian on Tuesday at Unisa, director general of the department of higher education and training Gwebinkundla Qonde said it was still difficult for college graduates to continue their studies at universities.

“What we experienced in the system is that … if [a TVET graduate] wants to further his or her studies beyond [college] … the universities are not recognising their qualification,” Qonde said.

Yet the department has approved “articulation” policies and, as Qonde put it, Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande has, “since the establishment of this department [in 2009], … embarked on an aggressive drive to build an integrated post-school education and training sector”.

Smart co-operation
The white paper on post-school education and training that Nzimande published in January identifies a seamless progression of college graduates to university as one of the keys to unlocking sustainable employment for millions of underprivileged youth.

“We must make it a point that there is articulation between what is offered at a college level and at a university level. If you’re doing an engineering [course] at a TVET college and if, after your qualification, you want to pursue your studies further the universities must be able to give you credit at what you’ve studied,” Qonde said.

“You can’t study from scratch as if you’ve never done engineering in your life. It’s not the best way of utilising the state resources that are so scarce, [and] it’s waste of time for our youth to be subjected to repetitive programmes of learning.”

Qonde was speaking to the M&G after a meeting where Unisa signed an agreement with 12 colleges.

The agreement, described by Unisa as ground-breaking, paves way for the colleges to offer new higher ­certificate qualifications. Unisa is working with the institutions to develop and offer relevant curriculum.

Enabling our youth
Qonde said this partnership would “allow students to articulate TVET programmes into diploma and degree studies”.

He reminded the meeting that the government, through the National Development Plan, wanted to have tripled access to higher education by 2030. “In order to realise this goal we need to create a post-school education and training system that provides a range of ­accessible alternatives for young and older people.

“There should be clear linkages between schools, ­technical and vocational education and training colleges, universities, other providers of education and training and the world of work.”

But, as one principal pointed out, the colleges need to improve their standards and shed perceptions of being second-class institutions.

Growing improvements
Unisa already recognised college qualifications, vice-chancellor Mandla Makhanya told the M&G.

“When students present themselves we basically look at the programmes that they’ve completed and then check the extent to which they are aligned to the programmes that they intend pursuing.

“If they come in with some qualifications of course they don’t start from scratch, they actually join at a level that is appropriate to what they’ve already completed.”

Universities now accepted college students without matric but with National Certificate Vocational (NCV) level 4, according to Qonde.

“If you’ve got NCV level 4, it’s equivalent to a matric certificate. If you’ve got NCV, universities now enrol you more than they used to. Before they would reject a student who’s got NCV level 4, even if they passed quite well and qualified for admission.”

“It’s no longer taking place now because we’ve agreed and acknowledged that this is an equivalent of grade 12 and it’s accepted.”

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Bongani Nkosi
Bongani is an education reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

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