The work of SAQA`s Research Directorate

SAQA is the custodian of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) and is mandated to oversee its implementation and further development. SAQA recognises the need for an NQF that is informed by ongoing, rigorous and evidence-based research and evolves as circumstances change. SAQA utilises a research driven approach to policy development where research outputs are fed into policy and practice.

Research is one of the main areas of responsibility of the organisation and is specified in the NQF Act (2008) thus:

  1. conduct or commission investigations on issues of importance to the development and implementation of the NQF, including periodic studies of the impact of the NQF on South African education, training and employment; and
  2. publish the findings of the investigations (NQF Act 67 of 2008: 10).

SAQA`s Research Directorate was established in 2007; current deliverables are to:

  • advise the Minister of Higher Education and Training on matters relating to implementation and development of the NQF;
  • conduct/commission research on issues of importance for the implementation and development of the NQF, including periodic studies of the impact of the NQF; and
  • provide support for SAQA as a research driven organisation, as the NQF coordinating body, and as the developer of national policy for assessment, Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) and Credit Accumulation and Transfer (CAT) in the country.

These deliverables are met through a number of research and research-related initiatives outlined here:

  1. Long-term partnership research. This research is conducted using a research partnership model in which SAQA partners with Higher Education Institutions and other research organisations. The following seven partnership projects are either underway or have been completed recently; more detail on each of the initiatives can be seen in the booklet SAQA`s Research Agenda:
    1. SAQA-Division for Lifelong Learning (DLL) research Specialised pedagogy: a comparative study of Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) practices across the changing landscape of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) [underway]
    2. SAQA-Rhodes University research Understanding learning pathways and systems of work and learning across the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) landscape [currently underway]
    3. SAQA-University of the Western Cape (UWC) integration research Lifelong learning and National Qualifications Frameworks (NQFs) [currently underway]
    4. SAQA-University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) research FET College Lecturers: biography, knowledge, pedagogy [completed March 2012]
    5. SAQA-Rhodes University research Change-oriented learning and sustainable development[completed March 2011]
    6. SAQA-Joint Education Trust (JET) preliminary research Towards assessing the impact of the South African National Qualifications Framework (NQF)[completed July 2010]
    7. SAQA-University of the Witwatersrand (WITS) research into the Integration of academic and vocational knowledge [completed March 2010]
  2. Current response research projects. These small initiatives include analyses of draft policy documents, trends in learners` results, and aspects of the education and training system that are under development or under review, among others, research into National Certificate (Vocational) [NCV] and NATED (N) learner results; a 2009, 2010 study of convener systems; position papers on Credit Accumulation Transfer (CAT) 2013, 2013 and Lifelong learning, Recognition of Prior Learning (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014). Other short term projects include:
  • SAQA-UWC research into the impact of HE policies on adult learners from poor, working class backgrounds (2010/11)
  • SAQA-Burton Malaga research into RPL in SETAs (2012/13)
  • SAQA-SAIDE research into accreditation possibilities for Workers Education (2013/14)
  • SAQA-CIPSET research into articulation possibilities in Community Development (2013/14)
  • Research into Learning Pathways in the Energy and Water sector (2014/15)
  1. Co-ordination of NQF-related research and dissemination of research findings via national conferences, research colloquia, workshops, NQF seminars and other events. This work involves hosting NQF-related research events for staff from the Departments of Higher Education and Training, and Basic Education; SAQA; the Quality Councils; SETAs; public and private providers at all levels in the system; organised business and labour; professional bodies; and other NQF organisations and interested individuals. The events seek to coordinate and map NQF-related research; disseminate findings to where they could have the highest efficacy or assistance; build NQF-related research networks and capacity; and deepen understanding of NQF-related theory and practice. The events are usually linked to one or more publications. Current and recent SAQA research events include:
  1. Providing support for the development of SAQA as a research-driven organisation, as the NQF coordinating body, and as the developer of national policy for Assessment, Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) and Credit Accumulation and Transfer (CAT). The Research Directorate regularly hosts workshops for SAQA staff and the Quality Councils; staff members from other NQF-implementing organizations are often invited. In addition, SAQA processes and instruments are informed by research and associated research collaborations. Joint work is done by a number of NQF organisations for example, on assessing the effectiveness of the NQF. Policy processes include further collaborative work; reference groups are created through democratic process, and policy development typically involves integration of research findings and advice from the reference groups.
  2. Publishing research outputs and work-shopping research findings. SAQAs Research Directorate has a range of research outputs including research reports; peer-reviewed journal articles; books and booklets. These items are generated by SAQA staff; through the research partnerships or work relating to partnership research; current-response initiatives, and through SAQAs research events.
  3. Advising the Minister. Outputs from SAQA`s research partnerships and other analyses and initiatives are used as a basis for briefing documents, position papers and presentations for advising the Minister of Higher Education and Training, and for informing policy-makers on all matters relating to the implementation and development of the NQF.
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