SAQA is an acronym for South African Qualifications Authority. It consists of 12 members, who are nominated by South Africa's education department and approved by the Minister of Labour. The SAQA is recognized as a juristic person. This means that it has the rights and duties of a natural person, with the ability to carry out legal acts. SAQA seeks to promote a high level of long-lasting education and training in South Africa, with the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) as its conduit. SAQA was established with the South African Qualifications Authority Act (SAQA Act), No. 58 of 1995.
All the objectives of SAQA concern the NQF. This is a Minister of Education-approved system for classifying, registering and publishing quality-assured qualifications for education and training in South Africa. The NQF is expected to formulate a single learning-achievement standard, improve and maintain the quality of national education and training, remedy past discrimination in employment and education, and make it easier for people to attain their goals in their chosen career paths. SAQA is meant to oversee the advancement of the aforementioned objectives of the NQF.
SAQA is also responsible for coordinating the system's sub-frameworks called General and Further Education and Training; Higher Education; and Trades and Occupations. Assigned to these sections that comprise the NQF are quality councils (QCs) established by the NQF Act No. 67 of 2008 to ensure the sub-frameworks' development and quality. Umalusi is the quality assurer for General and Further Education and Training, in adherence of the GENFETQA Amendment Act. The Higher Education Amendment Act established the Council on Higher Education (CHE) as the QC for Higher Education. As for Trades and Occupations, the Skills Development Amendment Act provides the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations as its QC.
The NQF has 10 framework levels, which are tiers of learning achievement that are labeled one to 10 in ascending order. Each NQF framework level has a level descriptor to describe the level of achievement. As of March 2011, the NQF awards national certificates and diplomas at levels five to eight. The former requires a minimum credit value of 120, while the latter demands twice that amount of credits at 240.
Bachelor's degrees can be earned from as low as level six, with a credit requirement of 360. A professional bachelor's degree, however, requires 480 credits, at level seven. The Higher Education Qualifications Framework, established under the CHE in 2007, enables master's and doctoral degrees at levels nine and 10, respectively.