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How to Spot a Distance-learning Scam

If you’re keen to further your education or career, note that South Africa has more non-accredited colleges than accredited ones; bear this in mind when choosing a college. By Charmaine Koppehel



Distance education is convenient and saves you money and time. However, its rise in popularity has been accompanied by the emergence of unscrupulous operators who award worthless qualifications.


Richard Leeming, the principal of Academy of York, advises students to do research on a college and its courses before signing up. ‘Make sure the college is registered with a recognised institution and the courses it is offering are also recognised,’ he says. ‘Academy of York is registered with the Department of Education as a Further Education and Training College. We provide education and skills-based training solutions in the South African marketplace that are recognised within their relevant sectors.’


There are two kinds of scam colleges, known as ‘diploma mills’ – those that openly sell degrees and others that pretend to be real schools. Students are lured into the latter with promises of minimal work and learning that awards qualifications in a short space of time. ‘Graduates’ leave these places thinking they have earned a real diploma or degree.


‘The term “diploma” is often misused in this country. Current legislation demands that an accredited diploma course be aligned to the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) and the qualification should take a minimum of three years to complete. Anything below these standards is not actually a diploma,’ says Leeming.

Prospective students should look at the college’s website, social-media pages, physical address and phone number. Any reputable college will answer the phone during working hours and have a physical address that you can visit. Leeming agrees. ‘We invite students to our premises all the time, to come and meet our team of student advisers and see that our team consists of real lecturers and support staff,’ he says. ‘We also encourage prospective students to ask for referrals or feedback from past and current students.’


You should also find out whether the college provides student support that enables a distance learner to keep motivated and ask questions.


Distance learning could be the key that empowers you and gives you the edge when applying for the job of your dreams – just make sure you do your homework first!

For more information visit www.aoy.co.za or www.facebook.com/academyofyork.

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