3 December 2009 by

Overseas Universities lawful in South Africa – Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr acts for CTI Education Group

The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria has ruled that the Higher Education Act does not prohibit a South African education service provider from facilitating the delivery of higher education in South Africa by a foreign university.

In an application by CTI Education Group (Pty) Ltd against the Minister of Higher Education, Judge Claasen found that CTI is entitled to offer courses on behalf of a foreign university on condition that the overseas university develops its own curriculum, assesses the students itself and awards the degrees itself.

Private education service providers have welcomed the decision particularly in the light of repeated accusations from the Department of Education that their conduct in facilitating the operation of overseas institutions is illegal.

Tim Fletcher, a director in the Dispute Resolution practice group at business law firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr who handled the matter for CTI said, "The interpretation that the Department tried to place on the words in the Act was inconsistent with the plain meaning of the words. It is unfortunate that the matter had to go to court at all but we are very pleased with the result."

The Department of Education argued that all university qualifications offered to students in South Africa must be accredited by the South African Qualifications Authority whether the university is situated in an overseas country or is a local institution. The court found that there was nothing in the Higher Education Act or its regulations which supported the Department's approach.

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