January 26, 2017
South Africa’s leading private higher education institutions have committed to improving the quality and positioning of the sector in the country.
Launched with an official signing ceremony at Milpark Education in Johannesburg yesterday (Wednesday 25 January), SA Private Higher Education (SAPHE) aims to build public awareness of and trust in private higher education by addressing myths and misperceptions about the sector, to ultimately increase access to higher education. Additionally, the association will seek to ensure that there is a greater understanding by the general public of the quality study options available outside of public universities.
“Although the term ‘private universities’ has gained some popular traction in recent months, many are not aware that private higher education institutions legally may not describe themselves as such. Therefore, unlike the situation with private schools, many prospective students are not even aware of the high quality, accredited qualifications they are able to pursue at scores of respected institutions across the country,” says Dr Felicity Coughlan, chair of SAPHE.
“Additionally, there remains a perception that a qualification from a public university is automatically more valuable than one from a private higher education institution. This could not be further from the truth, and unfortunately, this lack of awareness means that prospective students who may have been able to study towards a degree never do so.”
SAPHE members include most of the leading private higher education institutions in South Africa, including The Independent Institute of Education (Varsity College, Rosebank College, Vega, Design School SA and The Business School at Varsity College), Monash, Da Vinci, Boston, Milpark Business School, Southern Business School, the International Hotel School, Aros, St Augustine, AFDA and Inscape.
While SAPHE members have worked together as an interest group for more than five years, a decision was made to formalise the association due to the increased need for a unified and clear voice on the alternatives that private higher education is able to offer to students, society and the economy.
“The potential role of private higher education in the country is not well understood,” says Coughlan.
“Communicating opportunities in the sector to the general public, prospective students and parents is severely hamstrung by the fact that private institutions may not call themselves private universities. This is despite South Africa’s unitary quality assurance system (for the accreditation and registration of higher education qualifications) being equally applicable to both the private and public sector.
“SAPHE is committed to enabling student decisions by clearly communicating what private higher education offers, but more importantly to ensuring that quality and relevance promises are delivered on by its members. A third and equally important objective is one of advocacy with the regulators and with society.”
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