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The Directorate: International Education and Partnerships at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) held an online workshop on Evaluation of International Qualifications on MS Teams last week Thursday, 20 August 2020.

The guest speakers were Tshidiso Konese, Senior Manager at International Student Recruitment, Admissions and Marketing at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and Nadina Coetzee, Director of the Foreign Qualifications Directorate at the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA).

In his opening remarks DUT’s Director: International Education and Partnerships Office, Dr Lavern Samuels said the workshop covered a really important topic to a number of victors and directorates at DUT and across the higher education landscape in South Africa.

“It affects not only the international offices but faculties, admissions offices, registrars’ offices. It is the vital part of internationalisation at our universities. I am really pleased to have two colleagues that I consider experts in this field,” said Dr Samuels.

He said Konese has a reputation that proceeds him and has worked with DUT on other workshops, therefore trusts that he will add value into the workshop.

When introducing Coetzee, Samuels said she has led the Foreign Qualifications Directorate at SAQA for a while and has worked extremely hard in this field to develop expertise and develop a team that contributes in a very significant way to the Evaluation of Foreign Qualifications.

“The Evaluation of Foreign Qualifications has a number of facets. Part of it is about the authenticity of qualifications. Part of it is about the prevalence of qualifications. These two coming together give us the type of information that is so important for us to make selection questions and registrations. These are really important decisions for us to make because they are at the heart of the integrity of our academic processes. It is important for us to develop the type of expertise that are necessary to make these decisions but also to know who to go to when we do not have the expertise to make such decisions,” said Dr Samuels.

Out of the workshop, he said he hoped that there will be new expertise and new perspectives that can take them forward.

Dr Samuels said one of the changes they will see after the COVID-19 situation is far more online registrations so they have to look at the processes that can be aligned to online registrations.

He further stated that the Evaluation of Foreign Qualifications can be done for students working remotely but who still needs qualifications evaluated and credentials authenticated so that they can conduct registration processes without compromising the university.

In his presentation Konese was joined by two of his colleagues who are responsible for international admissions at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), Mampou Ngqumshe and Thabang Mothebe.

As practitioners in internationalisation it is very important for us to think through the three concepts. The concepts of recognition, who has the authority to do so and why is it that these credentials must be recognised. The concept of equivalence, is it possible for qualifications even if they are offered by two universities in the same country, can we confidently claim that these qualifications are equivalent. The concept of evaluation is also important, I look forward to that engaging conversation with Nadina,” said Konese.

He said their outline is to look at their perspective as UJ as they do their complex yet exciting work.

Konese emphasised that it is extremely important for universities to invest in skilling those that are responsible for looking at these credentials.

According to Konese, institutes of higher learning should be able to defend the decisions they take around these credentials, if anybody has to challenge them.

He said if universities are serious about internationalising and diversifying the student body they need to have some element of recruitment and an informed go to marketing strategy.

“You don’t just stand up and choose I feel like being in Ghana next week and you go without knowing the targets you are looking at. Are you looking at undergraduate or postgraduate students? Is that market going to give you those types of students when you transfer them to the education system in South Africa? All those issues you will deal with them,” said Konese.

He said at UJ they see internationalisation as the key drive to achieve the international reputation, as their vision is to become the international university of choice, which comes with a lot of responsibilities.

Coetzee said SAQA does the evaluation of foreign qualifications in terms of the National Qualifications Framework(NQF) act. She said SAQA has a board governing it operations and the board has a number of committees of which the verification and comparisons of qualifications committee is one of them.

She said this committee oversees her directorate and as well as the directorate that advise South African qualifications.

“In terms of legislation the Evaluation of Foreign Qualifications is compulsory, in terms of the immigration regulations which require that whenever an application is made for the work permit, the SAQA certificate is required as a part of that application. When we talk about verification we look at the status of the university. One never asks an institution to verify its own status, which is the number one rule. You work with primary sources, no matter what researchers say, you work with the primary source,” said Coetzee.

She described foreign qualifications as those qualifications that belong to systems of education either than that of South Africa.

In order to evaluate these qualifications, Coetzee said there is information required which must be provided by boarder who applies for evaluation and the institution where the qualification was issued.

Coetzee commended the universities for their willingness to always assist SAQA when it needs their expertise in evaluating qualifications.

Pictured: Some of the guests who attended the Evaluation of International Qualifications webinar on MS Teams

Simangele Zuma

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