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South African language schools officially recognised by government

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • South Africa’s Department of Higher Education and Training has announced that it will formally recognise the country’s ELT schools as fully accredited private colleges
  • This recognition extends only to members of the country’s peak body for ELT schools: Education South Africa (EduSA)
  • The main effect of the announcement is that students applying to EduSA member schools are now eligible to formally apply for South African Study Permits, thus allowing them to pursue studies in the country for extended periods of time

South Africa’s Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) has moved to formally recognise the members of the English language school association Education South Africa (EduSA) as fully accredited private colleges. The main outcome of this decision is that applicants to EduSA member schools may now formally apply for a Study Permit. This opens the door for students to pursue their studies in the country for an extended period, as opposed to entering on a 90-day Visitor’s Visa and then applying for an extension while they are in South Africa.

As such, the decision effectively makes it easier for students to study English in South Africa, and so provides greater regulatory stability and certainty in visa processing going forward.

After years of frustration, a welcome announcement

The news has long been awaited by the country’s English Language Teaching (ELT) sector. The sector suffered a major blow in 2014 – a year of record-high enrolments – when the South African government passed new immigration legislation that excluded language schools from the country’s Study Permit process.

The following year (2015), enrolments fell off by 37% and student weeks declined by 22%. EduSA brought the South African government to court over the matter, and in 2016 reached an out-of-court settlement that provided for Study Permits to once again be awarded for applicants to EduSA schools as an interim measure.

Still, formal government recognition and accreditation of the sector was concluded only through the recent DHET decision, of which EduSA says in a 28 August statement:

“After years of struggling with issues around where ELT fits into the educational environment of South Africa, after being referred from one government department to the next, several courts hearings, representations to parliament and government ministers in an array of roles, we now fall very clearly under the DHET as Private Colleges.”

A boost for an already recovering sector

Despite the legislative roadblock caused by the 2014 Immigration Act – and the subsequent hassles for ELT students who were required to apply for 90-day visitor’s permits and extensions – South African schools worked hard to rebound from the setback, targeting markets where students could immediately receive Visitor Visas to study in the country.

In 2016 and 2017, enrolments began climbing again, to the point where 2017’s numbers (10,040) nearly met those in the peak year of 2014 (10,110). And in 2017, student weeks (61,270) actually exceeded those achieved in 2014 (57,500).

Cooperation from embassies and streamlined processing

Johannes Kraus, Chairperson of EduSA, states: “We believe and hope that we will now have greater cooperation from South African embassies, consulates, and missions around the world. The process of Study Permit (visa) applications should now be clear, unambiguous, streamlined, and stress-free for all agents and students.”

Agents can now assure students that they can formally apply for a study permit to study at an
EduSA school, and therefore have the option to study in South Africa for extended periods.

Mr Kraus adds, “The last four years have been rather intense with various ups and downs, therefore, this accreditation with DHET means the world to the association and its member schools.”

For additional background, please see:

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