Frequently asked re-accreditation questions

Many questions and uncertainties have been identified during the MBA re-accreditation process, particularly among students and prospective students.

These are some of the questions most frequently asked by students and the HEQC's answers to them.

What does the "accreditation status" of an MBA programme mean?
"Accreditation" means that an MBA programme is officially recognised. This happens after an evaluation process has shown that the programme meets or exceeds minimum standards. Accreditation serves as a license for registered private and public institutions to offer the MBA programme.

The HEQC grants accreditation at the following levels, based on the degree of compliance with each of thirteen criteria:

  • Full accreditation: the programme met minimum standards in a large number of criterion areas.
  • Conditional Accreditation: the programme did not meet minimum standards in a small number of criterion areas and this situation may be rectified within the short and medium term. Conditionally accredited programmes that meet the conditions stipulated by the HEQC within 6 months can attain full accreditation.
  • Not Accredited: the programme did not meet minimum standards in a large number of criterion areas and this situation cannot be remedied in the short and medium term. The quality of the programme is seriously compromised.

What are the implications for past and current students if programmes are not accredited?
The institution will not be allowed to take in new students for the programme and has to phase it out. In some cases, current students will be allowed to complete the degree as an HEQC accredited programme. In other cases, the transfer of students to other accredited programmes will be negotiated.

What will happen to the qualifications of those who graduated from a not accredited MBA programme?
"Not accredited" decisions will only be effective from the date of communication to the institution and will only apply to any new intake of students. Past students will have a valid MBA qualification.

What is the likely impact on the recognition of MBA degrees by employers?
Employers will know which institutions offer accredited MBA programmes. They will be able to make informed choices regarding employment and study bursaries.

How would a student know at which institution to register?
The HEQC has a database of all the accredited MBA programmes offered by higher education institutions in South Africa. Enquiries could be directed to Mr. Tshepo Magabane at (012) 392-9153 between 08H00 and 16H30.

Where can I get information on accredited and not accredited programmes?
It is published on the CHE website: or you can view the article at

What was the rationale for the re-accreditation process?
The main purposes of the MBA Re-accreditation process were:

  • To undertake a comprehensive evaluation of MBAs on offer at public and private institutions in South Africa in order to establish the extent, scope and quality of provision.
  • To re-accredit all existing MBAs in order to ensure a common framework for quality.
  • To improve the quality of MBA provision in South Africa.

How widespread is the prevalence of fly-by-night operations claiming to offer MBAs?
The HEQC has identified a number of MBAs that are offered illegally. Institutions have claimed to offer 1-day and 5-day MBAs, counter to current practice in the qualifications structure of SA Higher Education, the National Qualifications Framework and the principles of lifelong learning and outcomes-based education.

Such claims are misleading, as it is impossible to acquire Master's level competencies in 5 days. Many of these institutions have been identified and exposed and the national Department of Education has measures in place to ensure that they stop their illegal operations.

Has the HEQC evaluation raised the standard of MBA programmes in South Africa?
It certainly has started to do so. The re-accreditation process meant that only programmes that meet minimum standards will be allowed to operate. This in itself raises the standards. The next step is about improvement from minimum standards upwards and is related to the conclusions about the quality of provision of the MBA that has been presented in an overview research report. The discussion of the report will help to identify strategies for improvement beyond minimum standards.

What effect do these evaluations have on overseas perceptions of local MBAs?
The international press both specialised (Times Higher) and non-specialised (Time Magazine) has shown an interest in the re-accreditation process. This, together with the fact that the HEQC benchmarks for the MBA took into account international benchmarks such as those developed by AMBA and EQUIS, seems to have had a role in boosting the confidence on the standard of South African MBAs in general.

What was the HEQC focus and why?
The HEQC re-accreditation process focused on 13 criteria, which were developed based on local and international standards. These criteria cover, among other areas, the organisational setting of the programme, the learning programme, teaching and learning, research, student recruitment.

Overall, how did business schools and other MBA providers react to the evaluation?
Panelists and evaluators were well received by the institutions. Most of the providers and the other experts participating in the process felt that it was rigorous and professional.

Will there be regular reviews of MBA programmes after this initial evaluation?
As a matter of policy, the HEQC will follow up on conditional accreditations to monitor that they are taking the necessary steps to meet the conditions stipulated to them. Programmes conditionally accredited have six months within which to comply with the conditions stipulated by the HEQC. Programmes that meet these conditions can be fully accredited. The HEQC will make a public announcement about conditionally accredited programmes that have achieved full accreditation.

Who made the accreditation decisions and on what basis?
Recommendations were made by peer review panels, MBA experts, business experts and experienced managers at higher education institutions. They used a set of criteria developed by the HEQC, in consultation with SA business schools, international and local experts and key stakeholders.

Those recommendations were tabled at a meeting of the MBA Re-Accreditation Committee in November 2003. The Committee's recommendations were communicated to institutions on 12 December 2003, and they were given 21 days from 5 January 2004 to make representations on errors of fact and omission.

These representations, together with the Re-Accreditation Committee's recommendations, were tabled at the HEQC Board meeting for final decision in April and May 2004.

Are institutions responsible for communicating the status of their programmes to students?
It is the responsibility of all institutions to share with the students details of the accreditation reports. Students must ensure that they are properly apprised of the conditions that have been set and the plans of the institution to comply with these conditions.

What will happen with students enrolled in programmes that have not been accredited?
The responsibility for ensuring that students are not compromised in these programmes rests with the National Department of Education. Individual institutions will in consultation with the DoE either pipeline students currently within the programmes or transfer students to other programmes. Institutions with de-accredited programmes are under obligation to ensure that areas of weakness and deficit identified are remedied during the period of pipe-line students or make alternative arrangements for students. Students currently registered at these institutions will receive a qualification that is accredited and registered on the National Qualifications Framework. Students who have already graduated from these programmes still retain the qualification and the validity of the qualification received is not under scrutiny or compromised in any way. The HEQC and the National Department of Education will monitor individual programmes closely during the pipeline phase.

What is the meaning of conditional accreditation?
CONDITIONAL ACCREDITATION means that some criteria have not been met, but there is no compromise in the academic quality of provision and the learning programme. The programmes have the status of being accredited with conditions that must be met within the time-frames stipulated. If a programme has received conditional accreditation, the areas for improvement have been clearly identified by the HEQC in reports to individual institutions. All institutions have responded by providing the HEQC with details of time-lines and implementation plans that have already been reviewed by the HEQC. On establishing compliance with the conditions by the end of 2004, these institutions will then be able to move into the category of FULL ACCCREDITATION. It is the HEQC's responsibility to monitor and ensure that institutions with programmes with CONDITIONAL ACCREDITATION meet all the minimum standards within the stipulated time-period. It is the responsibility of institutions to ensure that they meet and fulfil the conditions set. It is also the responsibility of students to constantly check on the institution's compliance to the improvement plans.

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