There is an ongoing battle of ideas that a degree is a better qualification than a National Diploma. There is also an ongoing battle that a University Diploma is better than any other National Diploma.
The facts tell a different story. In addition, Growth Institute has more than 40 years’ experience in education and the institution has, first hand, observed the facts discussed in this article.
Level of diplomas
Private Institutions (such as Growth Institute and the ICB) and Universities offer diplomas at NQF Level 5 and NQF Level 6. Both sets of diplomas are offered under the auspices of SAQA and from a quality perspective, they are on equal footing.
Private institutions (such as Growth Institute and the ICB) also offer programs at NQF Level 3 and NQF Level 4. These programs are specifically designed to bridge the growing knowledge and capability gaps between Grade 12 and the First Year at universities.
Preparation for University Courses
Programs offered by private institutions are designed to move students gradually from high school levels towards degrees. It is a fact that 78% of first year students at University do no go on to the second year. In addition, only 15% of those who started in the first year, eventually finish with a degree.
Private programs allow students to get used to the discipline associated with tertiary studies.
Escalating Learning Levels
Students who do not finish their university studies for any reason, do not have a qualification that recognises prior years’ learning. They actually walk away with nothing to show.
Programs at private institutions have multiple exit levels. In other words, at the end of each academic level, students are awarded a qualification. This means that even if they leave after the first year, they have something to show for it.
Growth Institute also offers students a route to start a series of advanced diplomas after they have finished their NQF 6 program at our institution. These programs could lead to either an Honours Degree or to an MBA where experiential learning form part of those programs’ admission requirements.
Required Pass Marks
Many private institutions (such as Growth institute and the ICB) have a required pass mark of 60%. Since these programs are assessed and endorsed by professional bodies, students do not automatically pass if their final exam mark is 59.99%.
On the other hand, the required pass mark of university courses is 50%. Also, students who have a final exam mark between 46% and 49.99% could receive a discretionary pass mark of 50%.
From an employer’s perspective then, it is a choice between choosing someone who needed to achieve a minimum of 60% in all exams, or someone who achieved the bare minimum in an exam.
Application of Learning
From time to time Growth Institute’s clients insist to have person with degrees in Accounting and Financial management accepted on our learnership programs. Over the years, Growth Institute has observed that some of these graduates could not master the first year and second year levels of the ICB programs.
We have also found that students who first completed the NQF 6 programs of the ICB performed better in university studies. The reason why ICB students do better before they go to university is that they have gained some work experience and/or life experience. They are also better disciplined in their studies than those who went to university directly from school.
Since some programs (such as those offered by Growth Institute and the ICB) are recognised by one of more professional bodies, students can start their own small practises sooner than their university counterparts. In fact, some professional bodies award designations based on a combination of work experience and the level of the student’s qualification (which does not need to be a degree).
Meeting Scarce Skills Needs and Employability
Programs offered by Growth Institute and by the ICB are designed to meet the national scarce skills needs. In addition, as stated earlier, a person with a qualification that is endorsed by a professional body, should stand a better chance to be employed.
Employers are not aware of the fact that the ICB programs have very high required pass marks. However, Growth Institute have seen cases where employers reconsidered their choices between a candidate with a degree and a candidate the completed the ICB program.
Time to Enter the Workplace
On average, it takes a person with a degree up to three years to find a job. On the other hand, students with professionally endorses lower level qualifications can start their own small practices and create their own work in line with the mandates from professional bodies such as the ICBA.
Jobs versus Work
The whole world (including South Africa) is moving towards a dispensation of workeracy. This means that fewer people are willing to work for a boss. They want to have their own little businesses and they want to contribute to the economy by employing others.
Those who think that a qualification means an automatic ticket into a job, have not yet discovered
 A phrase coined by Dr. Norris Dalton.