Accredited qualification

Undeniably, a recognised, fully accredited qualification can launch your career and open up many opportunities for prime appointments or desirable promotions. However, the post-schooling system can often be tricky to navigate, specifically if you want to check if the qualification you want to do is accredited.

If you know where to go and what to look for, checking the status of any qualification and institution becomes relatively easy. Unfortunately, there is not a single place or website you can go to check accreditation and registration. What you need to check for one type of institution and qualification is not necessarily the same as what you need to check for a different kind of institution or qualification.

In this article, we will first do a quick overview of the different types of institutions and qualifications in the post-schooling system and then how to check for the accreditation of a specific kind of qualification.

Overview of the South African post-school education system

Let’s begin with an overview and understanding of the South African education system. The South African schooling system can be divided into two parts: the schooling sector (up to matric) and the post-schooling sector. South Africa has a Department of Basic Education (for the schooling sector) and a Department of Higher Education (for the post-schooling sector).

Secondly, South Africa has three accreditation bodies: Umalusi, the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) and the Council on Higher Education (CHE).

  • Umalusi is responsible for accreditation matric, adult matric and vocational qualifications.
  • The QCTO is responsible for accreditation qualifications for trades and occupations, also known as the SETA qualifications.
  • CHE is responsible for the accreditation of Higher Education qualifications (Higher Certificates, Diplomas, Degrees).

NQF sub-frameworks

Post-school qualifications can be categorised as either a Higher Education qualification (think University or a University of Technology) or a Trades and Occupation qualification. This article will only focus on post-school qualifications, that is, the qualifications accredited by the QCTO and the CHE.

All qualifications are recorded on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) and registered by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) on the framework. The NQF consists of three sub-frameworks, one for each quality council.

  • Umalusi has the General and Further Education and Training Sub-Framework (GENFETQSF)
  • QCTO has the Occupational Qualifications Sub-Framework (OQSF), and
  • CHE has the Higher Education Qualifications Sub-Framework (HEQSF).

Steps to check a qualification

Processes are often easier to follow if broken down into smaller steps. So, we will discuss two easy steps to check and determine the accreditation status of the qualification.

  1. First, we will determine the type of qualification.
  2. Second, we will look up the institution and check the qualification status.

Determine the type of qualification.

Sometimes, someone with limited knowledge jumps the gun and blindly accuses an institution of offering unaccredited qualifications or courses. This happens when you look for accreditation information in the wrong place. For instance, if you look under Umalusi for the accreditation of a post-school institution, then you will never find the information you are looking for! Similarly, you cannot look for accreditation information on a Higher Education institution on the QCTO website. To know where to look, we first need to know the type of qualification we are dealing with.

Usually, an accredited institution will make it reasonably easy for you to check the accreditation status of your qualification. Simply because it is something they are proud of and would want to advertise.

Your first step is to check if the programme is a Higher Education or a Trades and Occupation-type qualification.

Higher Education-type qualifications

Suppose the institution states that the qualification is accredited by CHE or the HEQC (The Higher Education Qualifications Committee is a body of the CHE). In that case, it is a Higher Education type qualification. Higher Education qualifications have the following naming conventions: Higher Certificate, Advanced Certificate, Diploma, Advanced Diploma, Postgraduate Diploma, Degree, Honours degree, Masters degree, and Doctorate degree.

QCTO-type qualifications

If the institution states that the qualification is accredited by the QCTO, a SETA, or a Quality Assurance Partner, it is a QCTO-type qualification. QCTO-type qualifications can be occupational certificates, the old “N” qualifications, and, in some cases, Diplomas and Higher Certificates.

NOTE: The words ‘diploma’ and ‘Higher Certificate’ are reserved for qualifications registered in the HEQSF and are now being phased out from the QCTO.

Looking up the institution

Now that we know whether it is a Higher Education-type qualification or a QCTO-type qualification, we can move on to the next part, where we want to look up the institution and verify the status of the qualification. 

The Higher Education institution should be able to provide you with a copy of the Department of Higher Education registration certificate, which must include all the qualifications the institution is accredited and registered for. 

The Skills Development Provider (QCTO institutions are known as SDPs) should be able to provide you with an accreditation certificate from QCTO or the Quality Assurance Partner (QAP) that must include the qualifications the SDP is accredited for. 

If it is a Higher Education-type qualification

If the full qualification is a Higher Certificate, Advanced Certificate, Diploma, Advanced Diploma, Degree, or any postgraduate qualification, then it must be accredited by the Council on Higher Education. For a Private Higher Education Institution to offer any qualification, the qualification must be accredited by the CHE, registered on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) and registered with the Department of Higher Education (DHET).

Incidentally, this also makes checking the accreditation and registration of a PHEI the easiest. Argumentatively, a registered PHEI also gives students the most comprehensive peace of mind regarding their studies. Registration with the Department of Higher Education by a provider requires a “surety” (a type of insurance that will refund students if anything should happen to the provider) and annual reporting to the DHET, ensuring that the provider continues to operate at the highest quality.

To check a Private Higher Education Institution’s registration status and the qualifications they are registered for, go to www.dhet.gov.za > resources > registers. Download the Register of Private Higher Education Institutions. Then, you only need to look up the institution’s name, and the list of qualifications the institution is accredited for will be listed in this register. 

The register consists of:

  • Registered institutions
  • Provisionally registered institutions
  • Institutions whose registrations are cancelled but who can still appeal
  • Institutions whose registrations have been cancelled
  • Institutions that requested to be deregistered
  • List of identified “bogus” or illegal institutions.

NOTE: If a PHEI introduces a new qualification, there may be a short period before the new register is updated. However, the institution must have a copy of the new registration certificate that will list the new qualification. You can request a copy of this certificate to verify the qualification status you are applying for.

If it is a QCTO-type qualification

The QCTO accredits all Occupational Qualifications, Old trades, N4-N6 programmes (NATED Report 191), Historical Registered Qualifications and Skills programmes. Unfortunately, you cannot go to a single place to check the accreditation status of these types of qualifications. Therefore, a provider’s accreditation status for these qualifications is a little trickier to check and confirm.

Some of these qualifications are accredited directly by the QCTO, and others, precisely the historically registered qualifications, are accredited by Quality Assurance Partners (QAPs), also known as SETAs, as delegated by the QCTO.

For a list of accredited Skills Development Providers and test centres, visit https://www.qcto.org.za/for-skills-development-providers.html. How to check the accreditation of a provider accredited by a Quality Assurance Partner. You will need to go directly to the QAPs website for a list of accredited providers. This list will also usually include the qualifications an institution is accredited for.

If you need clarification on an institution’s accreditation status, please feel free to contact the QCTO directly. https://www.qcto.org.za/contact-us.html.


A recognised and accredited full qualification is fundamental to launching your career and opening desirable job opportunities. A little research may pay off to ensure that the qualification you want to register for is indeed accredited.

To check the accreditation of Higher Education-type of qualifications (accredited by the Council on Higher Education (CHE)), download the Register of Private Higher Education Institutions from the Department of Higher Education’s website and look up the institution in the register under either Registered Institutions or Provisionally Registered Institutions,  https://www.dhet.gov.za/SitePages/DocRegisters.aspx. The PHEI should also be able to provide you with a registration certificate from the DHET. In addition, listing all the qualifications the institution is accredited for. 

To check the accreditation of a QCTO-type institution (SDP), go to the QCTO website. Lookup and find the institution on one of their lists: https://www.qcto.org.za/for-skills-development-providers.html. A QCTO Historical Registered-type qualification may also be accredited by a Quality Assurance Partner (QAP). In this case, you may need to contact the QAP to confirm the accreditation status of a qualification. If you are unable to do this, contact the QCTO directly. The SDP should also be able to provide you with a copy of the accreditation certificate from the QCTO. In addition, they can also provide a recognised QAP listing the qualifications for which the SDP is accredited. 

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