NSFAS NQF levels university
(Getty Images)
  • Bachelor of Education and Bachelor of Nursing degrees will be funded by NSFAS, but at a new National Qualifications Framework (NQF) Level.
  • This is part of the higher education system’s overhaul, which has phased out legacy qualifications and realigned NQF Levels.
  • This impacts first time entrants who are new to the university system, altering minimum entry requirements and credit criteria.
  • Students who are already progressing through their undergraduate studies are not affected by the changes.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

South African universities have been reminded not to register first-time students for phased-out legacy qualifications. Bachelor of Education (B Ed) and Bachelor of Nursing (B Cur) programmes will still be funded by the National Students Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) but with changes to the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) at an undergraduate level.

The clarification issued by both NSFAS and the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) comes two weeks after a circular notice, detailing changes to previously funded qualifications, was delivered to university registrars. The notice, signed by NSFAS CEO Andile Nongogo, stated that first time entrants (FTEN) would not be funded for certain qualifications in 2021.

This list of defunded qualifications included B Ed and B Cur programmes, which caused a considerable amount of concern among matriculants who had hoped to enter the world of teaching and nursing. The notice was delivered after the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Blade Nzimande, urged students not to enrol in “oversubscribed” qualifications which were landing graduates in the unemployment queue.

Congratulating the class of 2020, following the release of National Senior Certificate (NSC) examination results, Nzimande addressed concerns surrounding the circular notice and clarified the status of funding for legacy qualifications with specific reference to B Ed and B Cur courses.

“Those students who are already being funded for these qualifications may continue to complete their qualifications and their funding will not be affected,” explained Nzimande.

“However, institutions will not be registering new students [FTEN] on the legacy qualifications.”

The phasing-out of these legacy qualifications has been a complex and protracted process, stretching as far back as 2015 when the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) drafted a list of qualifications which would be de-registered. This aligned with the Higher Education Qualifications Sub-Framework (HEQSF), gazetted in 2013, which sought to develop a single qualifications policy for all public and private Higher Education Institutions (HEIs).

NQF levels university
(South African Technology Network)

In addition to the de-registering of certain qualifications, the HEQSF proposed to introduce new qualification names, types, minimum admission requirements and NQF Levels by 2020. NQF Levels, used to determine varying degrees of learning achievements and qualifications, were first introduced by the South African Qualifications Authority in 2008 and have since been adapted to align with the HEQSF.

A National Certificate – also referred to as a matric pass – is ranked at NQF Level 4. This extends all the way to up to NQF Level 10 for a Doctoral Degree. NQF Levels 6 and 7 – associated with Diplomas and Bachelors’ Degrees – were most affected by the new HEQSF.

For example, a legacy Bachelor’s Degree, prior to the implementation of the HEQSF, was rated at NQF Level 6 with 360 credits, indicated as the notional study hours required for achieving the learning outcomes. The HEQSF realigned this qualification to NQF Level 7, with the B Ed degree rated to 480 credits.

Similar changes were made to B Cur qualifications, with specific mention of registering with the South African Nursing Council (SANC) to be afforded access to clinical facilities for training purposes.

Importantly, the HEQSF and subsequent NSFAS defunding does not impact students who:

  • Have already registered for a legacy qualification and have been accepted into university
  • Are currently enrolled and progressing through their legacy qualification

The phasing-out of legacy qualifications, which includes the realignment of NQF Levels, and its impact on NSFAS’ funding model will affect:

  • Students entering the university system for the first time
  • Students who have already obtained a prior university qualification

These changes as part of the HEQSF are not limited to B Ed and B Cur qualifications and extend to:

  • Any qualification that has the word National in its title
  • BTECH qualifications
  • Legacy two-year diplomas
  • Legacy NQF Level 8 qualifications
NQF levels university
(South African Technology Network)

Different minimum entry requirements are needed for various NQF Levels. In this way, students who are unsure of the affect of the HEQSF changes have been urged to contact their universities for clarity, according to the most recent announcement by NSFAS.

“NSFAS will further communicate with universities and provide clarity on the issue,” said Nongogo.

In the meantime, NSFAS is under pressure to verify almost 800,000 applications for 2021.

“We are currently finalising the due diligence and quality checks of the application information received,” noted Nongogo.

“We will communicate funding results once the verification and quality assurance processes are complete, in order to ensure the credibility of this important process.”

Registrations at most universities in South Africa open and close within the first two weeks of March.

(Compiled by Luke Daniel)

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