To be the leader in providing, through various private educational institutions, high quality career-focused higher and further education programmes.
The Independent Institute of Education (IIE) is the largest, most accredited, and recognised registered private education institution in the country. The Institute is responsible for the academic leadership and governance of education and training activities undertaken across a nationwide network of widely recognised brands that cater for learning and development needs at every life stage across the spectrum of education. Focus areas include Schooling (from Pre-Primary to matric), Higher and Further Education and Training (certificates, diplomas, undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, and short learning programmes), and Skills and Learnerships (skills programmes, short programmes and adult basic education and training).
In South Africa, all education institutions need to be registered with either the provincial or national departments of Education. In the case of ADvTECH’s four school brands, comprising 26 campuses across 19 separate sites, the process is the same as it would be for any other school and includes a quality assurance process by Umalusi. With respect to the 22 tertiary campuses, the IIE’s registration by the Department of Higher Education and Training is required in order to provide both higher and further education programmes. The majority of these are higher education programmes that are accredited by the Higher Education Quality Council (HEQC), while further education programmes are accredited by the relevant Sectoral Education and Training Authority (SETA).
This extensive registration and accreditation system ensures a standard quality assurance system across the private and public sectors. The system only applies to full tertiary qualifications and organisations are expected to quality assure Short Learning Programmes themselves against the same standards as apply to full qualifications.
The IIE’s education brands operate in an environment that is dynamic, well resourced, nurturing and student centred. The focus is on academic excellence as well as on gaining life skills that equip students to succeed in the working world now and in the future. Study experiences are designed to develop the intellectual, emotional, social and physical capacity of students while unlocking their potential for excellence. As tertiary qualifications are vocationally directed, they all have an element of work integrated learning either through workplace experience or simulations.
Integral to an IIE education is the commitment to citizenship for all students with community service opportunities being provided as part of the curriculum. By combining volunteer and community service opportunities with programme specific work related skills, students are able to gain valuable experience which stands them in good stead when seeking employment.
ADvTECH’s academic leadership and governance system incorporates the AAC and Senate. The AAC, which includes external leaders in education and business, advises the ADvTECH Board, Senate and IIE on academic matters. Senate is the ultimate academic decision making structure and sets academic policies for the Group. It is chaired by the Director of the IIE, while the Registrar, Heads of Faculty and Heads of Programme are ex officio members along with all other IIE academic staff. Elected representatives of the lecturing body as well as elected student representatives also serve on Senate while representatives from the ADvTECH management team attend as observers. Senate is responsible, either directly or through its committees, for the structure and curriculum of all programmes, teaching and learning, libraries, research and student discipline.
While ADvTECH has achieved an end-to-end primary and secondary private school offering and its capacity is well established in South Africa, the Group recognises the need to provide students with viable alternatives to public higher education, which is oversubscribed. In addition, there are widely available benchmarks available in the school environment which can be used to monitor quality.
Benchmarking tools are not available to higher education, consequently the IIE shifted its focus towards higher education during the year. As a provider of private further and higher education, the IIE recognised the importance of continually monitoring its brands against internal standards. The absence of comprehensive benchmarking mechanisms in South Africa has resulted from the highly segmented nature of private higher education in South Africa: out of 116 institutions in the country, ADvTECH is one of only three industry players with more than 5 000 students.
With the advent of the new HEQF, the IIE focused on the continued realignment of its qualifications, completing the accreditation of a number of new degrees and diplomas as well as continually improving its focus on teaching and learning. Faculty structures were enhanced with the appointment of faculty heads in all degree awarding faculties.
A focus on articulation between programmes enables students to progress from one to the other and also provides access to degree studies for those that do not achieve this with their NSC results.
The career focused higher and further education qualifications offered by the IIE fall under four faculties, each led by a team of academics who provide leadership and guidance on programme content, material and assessment. Each faculty receives input from one or more Programme Advisory Committees which include appropriate external industry and academic expertise to ensure that the content of programmes and qualifications remain current, progressive and relevant.
Another crucial priority during the year was the measurement of quality across the ever increasing range of qualifications offered by the Group’s well differentiated post-schooling education brands that focus on different markets. However, all these qualifications have a consistent quality underpin provided by the IIE in its oversight capacity. The importance of achieving quality assurance standards that can be validated externally has been recognised. The goals in this regard are twofold, being the ability for each brand to secure employment for graduates and the achievement of the top performing academic standards required by graduates to gain access to further public postgraduate studies.
The IIE is committed to delivering quality education through its ongoing investment in research, innovation and the implementation of best practice principles suitably benchmarked. Examples in this regard include:
It is understood that some students need additional support to meet the standards required and this support is provided by all IIE brands. As a result the vast majority of our students are able to meet the often demanding standards. Based on carefully constructed curricula that are delivered through best teaching practices, students are assessed and evaluated regularly so that individual progress and development needs can be monitored and met.
Our academic staff set a quality benchmark in private education. As at December 2011, the Group’s employees held 1 933 degrees including 32 doctorates, 258 masters’ and 572 honours degrees, collectively representing a significant body of intellectual capacity and academic leadership which has underpinned the growth of the IIE’s standing as a successful, quality education provider. While academic skills remain scarce, the fact that qualified professionals with good academic backgrounds are attracted to furthering their careers with the Group is a clear demonstration of its growing reputation and profile in the market. The increasing average staff tenure also bears testament to this, with approximately 1 087 employees having more than five years’ service with ADvTECH.
Lifelong learning is a core value of the ADvTECH Group and, accordingly, the IIE supports its staff in the enhancement of qualifications, academic learning and personal development through bursaries, academic leave and the mentoring of research. “The Journal of Independent Teaching and Learning”, which has been published annually since 2006, enables the IIE to provide developmental support to those wishing to publish for the first time, while simultaneously providing the academic norm of blind peer review for final publication. The Journal makes a valuable contribution to education nationally through this combination of developmental support and high quality peer review. FacultyBytes, a public website managed by the IIE, provides developmental opportunities for new academic writers while at the same time delivering an educationally directed online space for conversations about quality education.
The Private Higher Education Institution Group (PHEIG), initiated by the IIE, is a co-operative body comprising representatives from several private education providers. The aim of the Group is to collectively enhance the reputation of the independent education sector and promote its contribution to addressing the education challenges facing South Africa. During the year, PHEIG pursued co-operative associations between libraries and made joint submissions to the Department of Higher Education and Training, the Council on Higher Education and to the ETDP SETA.
The Director of the IIE, Dr Felicity Coughlan, continued to serve on the HEQC Board and Accreditation Committee in 2011, demonstrating the leadership role and the contribution of the IIE to higher education in South Africa. She was also a member of the reference group on the new accreditation and national review frameworks. In addition, two senior staff members were part of the HEQF alignment panels in 2011, one of whom acted as an evaluator for programme accreditation applications. Several IIE academics serve as external examiners for other private and public higher education institutions.