The Council on Higher Education says printed hard copies of higher certificates, degrees and diplomas look set to become obsolete in the near future.
The Council on Higher Education says printed hard copies of higher certificates, degrees and diplomas look set to become obsolete in the near future.

Varsities urged to move towards issuing ’hard-to-forge’ digital certificates

By Bongani Nkosi Time of article published Apr 21, 2021

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Johannesburg - At a time DA politicians were hogging the headlines for qualification debacles, higher education institutions have been urged to move toward issuing “hard-to-forge” digital certificates.

Printed hard copies of higher certificates, degrees and diplomas look set to become obsolete in the near future, according to the Council on Higher Education (CHE).

The quality council for higher education has released its newly recommended norms of certification for the higher education sector.

“The digital revolution is changing the delivery of higher education globally,” said the document detailing the norms. “Support services responsible for certification are also affected.

“In fact, there are already indications that some institutions are looking forward to shifting from issuing printed hard copies of certificates to digital ones in future.”

Institutions, employers and graduates stood to benefit from digital certificates, said the CHE. Benefits of digital certificates included quick verification and being hard to forge, it added.

“One of the main attractions of a digital certification system is that it has the potential for saving institutions from the increasing cost of investing in large physical spaces to store both blank stationery for use in printing the certificates, as well as the printed copies of certificates.

“Other attractions are that digital certificates are relatively easy to store and retrieve at will by both the holders as well as the institutions,” said the norms document.

“They also enable real-time verification by employers and/or verification agencies such as the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) and similar bodies in other countries.

“Most importantly, it is generally accepted that digital certificates are not easily forged, and are also backed up to guard against loss.”

The Star saw the document last week, coincidentally before news broke that DA Western Cape leader Bonginkosi Madikizela falsely claimed to hold a BCom degree.

DA National Assembly chief whip Natasha Mazzone had her back against the wall too as she faced allegations that she also falsely claimed to have a law degree.

She maintained that the party always knew she only had matric and that she failed to complete her degree.

News broke on Tuesday that the DA was investigating if Marius Koen, its mayor in Saldanha Bay, indeed held an MBA. The party wrote to the University of Hull to confirm Koen’s MBA.

The CHE document said while society traditionally attached value to higher education qualifications, there were instances that raised questions about the rigour, credibility, integrity and validity of the certificates.

“Not surprisingly, therefore, the global society is also increasingly becoming suspicious of some higher education qualifications and certificates.

“The latter point is a matter of serious concern to higher education regulatory authorities across the world.

“Most of them are taking the initiative to develop and implement interventions aimed at protecting and enhancing the integrity of the higher education qualifications and certificates, in order to prevent further erosion of the value that society attaches to them.”

The Star

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