South Africa

MAVERICK CITIZEN: Education authorities consider action against Damelin college after flood of student complaints

The Mowbray campus is one of 14 Damelin colleges built around South Africa in the past 78 years. The private tertiary education provider is owned by Educor, which also owns CityVarsity and Durban Central Technical College. (Photo: Joyrene Kramer)

The Department of Higher Education and Training and the Council on Higher Education are both considering stripping accreditation and registration of some of Damelin college’s programmes. This comes after the two authorities received complaints from students about poor quality education, going back years. However, Damelin remains mum on how it will address students’ concerns.

Public and private tertiary education institutions are accredited by numerous authoritative and regulatory bodies in South Africa. Now, two of the foremost authorities are moving towards withdrawing accreditation on some of the programmes offered by two of Educor Holdings’ colleges — Damelin and Damelin Correspondence College.

Damelin has 14 campuses around the country, whereas Damelin Correspondence College fashions itself as a “digital-first” virtual campus. Educor Holdings owns other brands such as CityVarsity, ICESA and Intec College.

Matters have come to a head after years of complaints by students. 

Students who spoke to Maverick Citizen detailed their endless pleas for study materials, online access, assignment and exam results, certificates and refunds owed to them. They say their careers are being hampered as a result.

Educor Holdings is yet to respond to questions as to how it will address these and other issues. However, Maverick Citizen understands that the group has begun to reach out to individual students. They have reportedly been assured of assistance, but not all of it has materialised.

Read: Damelin college: Students up in arms over empty promises of refunds

Damelin is registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training and its programmes are accredited by the Council on Higher Education (CHE). It has provisional accreditation from Umalusi. Damelin Correspondence College, on the other hand, has only provisional registration and accreditation from all three authorities. 

The Department of Higher Education and Training is “contemplating” cancelling the registration of three of Damelin Correspondence College’s national certificate engineering programmes as well as its vocational national certificate programmes.

The department said it had, for the last five years, been aware of the problems students faced with regard to Damelin Correspondence College. It discovered there were unresolved issues through media reports, students’ complaints and legal challenges to the college.

It said it met the managing director of Educor Holdings, Julian Kanigan, in June and July 2019. Kanigan “undertook to deal decisively with students’ complaints against Educor Group institutions”. 

“Since that undertaking by the managing director, there has not been any notable decline in the number of student complaints received by the department,” department spokesperson Ishmael Mnisi told Maverick Citizen.

The department advised students seeking refunds to approach the small claims court if the amount was below R20,000. Alternatively, it plans to possibly rectify the situation by cancelling the registration of a selection of programmes.

The Council on Higher Education has also acknowledged that it is aware these students are experiencing difficulties. It says it receives “numerous” complaints from students. It refers complaints relating to refunds to the department, but follows up on any complaints about the quality of education being received. 

It says it has been involved in litigation with Damelin since 2019: “The case relates to the CHE withdrawing the accreditation of some of its programmes due to quality concerns.”

Umalusi said it could not comment as the students’ complaints did not relate to the one programme it has accredited for Damelin. MC/DM

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