The Department of Higher Education and Training hands out information warning students about a long list of bogus colleges operating in Gauteng. Picture: Antoine de Ras
The Department of Higher Education and Training hands out information warning students about a long list of bogus colleges operating in Gauteng. Picture: Antoine de Ras

Prospective students be on the lookout for bogus colleges, here are the red flag

By Harvest Thwala Time of article published Dec 6, 2021

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As the country gears up for the 2022 academic year, Grade 12 learners who qualify for progression to higher learning institutions will start registering for programmes of their choice at various institutions.

Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande has raised concerns about the continuing and recently reported cases of bogus institutions awarding honorary doctorate degrees to unsuspecting individuals.

This comes after it was found that one of the local celebrities and an entrepreneur Shauwn Mkhize known as Mamkhize, received an honorary doctorate in philosophy for good deeds from one of the malicious colleges.

At the end of October 2021 there were 89 additional bogus colleges than had previously been identified.

In a statement, Nzimande said a number of these bogus colleges are not registered with the Department as public or private higher education institutions to provide higher education programmes as required by section 51(1) of the Higher Education Act, 1997 (Act No. 101 of 1997) (“the Act”)

“I have already requested the Council of Higher Education (CHE) to investigate and advise on appropriate action on all the reported cases of the awarding of these bogus honorary degrees,” Minister Nzimande said.

According to the Department of Higher Education and Training Spokesperson Ishmael Mnisi said: “Upon discovery of non registration, we write to them to produce their registration documents, failure to do so, we instantly close the college. We work with the Police in closing them down.”

Mnisi revealed that the department have community outreach programme in collaboration with the Department of Basic Education, Provincial Departments of Education, Universities and TVET colleges to raise awareness about this problem.

“We also meet with registered colleges from time to time to continuously to engage them on our legislation and how they must always improve on their compliance particularly when they make changes to their initial registration information,” He concluded.

Students are warned to be wary of the following kinds of behaviour from institutions:

  • Consultants promising jobs after graduation.
  • Consultants and websites offering two degrees for the price of one as well as huge discounts.
  • Use of nomenclatures to qualifications, for example, a Bachelor of Commerce degree is different from a Bachelor of Commerce in Financial Management degree.
  • Official-looking bogus colleges that use seals, crests and logos used by legitimate institutions such as the DHET, public universities and public colleges.
  • Exaggerated and numerous claims on accreditation in order to lend credibility to the college.
  • The names of colleges are similar or identical to those of prestigious universities such as Oxford University and Cambridge University.
  • An application form is questionable in that it does not require information or proof of formal schooling, identity documents, etc.
  • Diplomas and degrees offered in a short period of time making it possible to receive several degrees in one year.
  • The absence of a physical address for the legal entity called the institution or the awarding body.
  • Local tuition centres purporting to offer “qualifications” on behalf of “foreign” and “international” universities.
  • The continued and undue emphasis on “international accreditation” and “international qualifications”.

Students are advised to register their complaints on HELLOPETER so as to alert other students.

Students rights

Students are encouraged to know their rights as students, which are enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, the Higher Education Act, 1997

In order to claim a refund from a college, students are advised as follows:

  • Inform the department and obtain written confirmation from the department that the programme/college is not registered and the nature of the contravention.
  • Request the college principal for a refund, failing which you have to approach the courts.
  • For amounts up to R15 000.00, you can approach the Small Claims Court with the letter of confirmation from the department.
  • For amounts above R15 000.00, you must engage an attorney. Students who cannot afford legal fees may approach the Legal Aid South Africa at 0800 110 110.
  • For disputes on a contractual agreement, you must contact the Office of Consumer Affairs in your region or the office of the National Consumer commission (NCC) at 012 761 3000 or [email protected]
  • Inform the nearest police station, sign an affidavit and open a case, if you wish -- noting that the Department will open a case on your behalf.
  • Any dispute arising out of a contractual agreement must be settled in a court.

See the list below of registered and non-registered Private Higher Education Institutions:

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