Abstracts and excerpts

Sector skills planning

Post-school pathways

Education to employment

Research projects

Forecasting skills demand

Labour Market Intelligence Project

Democratic post-schooling

HRDS review

Minister's project

Wholesale & Retail sector

VEOP pilot

NQF-related research

Conferences and calls for papers

INAP conference

NQF research conference

Higher education review


Post-school statistics


Youth and skills


NQF-related research

With contributions from Heidi Bolton

The mandate of the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) includes conducting and managing research on the development and implementation of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) and assessing the NQF’s effectiveness (NQF Act, s. 13(1)(k)). SAQA’s research agenda includes short-term projects and long-term research collaborations that feed into policy development, implementation, critique and refinement. Findings are disseminated through research events and publications in ways that build the community of NQF researchers.

SAQA’s short-term projects are conducted in-house or in collaboration with experts from organisations across the country. SAQA’s long-term projects are collaborative multi-faceted studies involving partnerships between SAQA, public Higher Education Institutions and other organisations. Each study addresses transversal issues that affect several sectors across the system for education, training, development and work in the country. Each explores issues relating to at least one of the stated NQF objectives. All have strong theoretical bases and follow rigorous scientific research principles. All use mixed methods to increase the depth, breadth and generalisability of the findings.

1. SAQA-Rhodes research partnership work has examined education, training and skills development in the relatively new fields of environmental education and education for sustainable development. Findings from the first phase were fed into the National Skills Development Strategy (NSDS) III. The current phase considers the development of articulated systems for new forms of qualifications and learning, and speaks to the ability of the NQF to address future skills needs.

2. SAQA – University of the Western Cape (UWC) research partnership work on Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) included a cross-case study of RPL practices at four different sites: two universities, the Workers College in KwaZulu-Natal, and a private Further Education and Training (FET) provider.  In all cases, the design and implementation of RPL were found to need specialised programmes to equip participants with the necessary conceptual and learning tools appropriate for different contexts. RPL practices in each case involve mediation between different forms of knowledge and learning. Findings have been fed into the development of new national RPL policy.

3. The SAQA – UWC lifelong learning research partnership seeks to understand contextual pushes and pulls, changing priorities, and institutional contestations which may impact profoundly on professional development. It involves three pilot sites in a university with a 50-year tradition of providing access to working people; it probes barriers and affordances for professional development, from institutional, workplace and individual vantage points.

4. The SAQA-University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) research partnership addressed gaps in information about Further Education and Training (FET) College lecturers. Some of the research questions included: Who are the lecturers? From which education and training pathways have they come? What are their knowledge bases? What workplace experience and expertise do they have? And how do they teach? Findings are being fed into work towards FET College lecturer qualifications. 

5. The SAQA-University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) research partnership examined the experiences of the School of Tourism and Hospitality at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) as a case study of the integration of vocational and academic education and training in higher education. At the time of the study (2008-2010) it was found that in the field there was little understanding of the differences between academic and vocational knowledge. Although the institution from which the case was drawn was formed through a merger, very little progress was observed in terms of understanding what merging meant for curriculum design, delivery and assessment. The barriers between academic and vocational knowledge remained. Among the contributing factors to this reality were a lack of understanding of the possibilities and limits to integration afforded by the Higher Education Qualifications Sub-framework (HEQSF) of the NQF. More recent research (for example Nel, in SAQA 2013) has taken these questions further with a detailed look at potential curriculum alignment in other knowledge areas. 

Republic of South Africa. 2008. National Qualifications Framework Act, 2008 (Act 67 of 2008). Pretoria: Government Printer.

South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA). 2013. 2nd National Qualifications Framework Research Conference: Building Articulation and Integration, Book of Abstracts. Kopanong, Johannesburg, 4-6 March 2013.

Dr Heidi Bolton is Director: Research at the South African Qualifications Authority, email:


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Enquiries or contributions may be directed to: Nomakholwa Makaluza Tel: 012 312 5243 Email: Department of Higher Education and Training, 123 Francis Baard Street, Pretoria 0001