Bogus Colleges to Avoid in South Africa in 2024

Each year we see a lot of students being victims of fly-by-night colleges, these are bogus colleges that are not registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) as public or private higher education institutions to provide education programs as per section 51(1) of the Higher Education Act, 1997 (Act No. 101 of 1997).

These colleges are mushrooming everywhere and could fool anyone into believing that they are legitimate when they are not.

It is that time of the year when desperate students will fall into the trap of registering with bogus colleges with the hope of furthering their studies, leaving them with invalid certificates of higher education and money to go to waste. Some of these colleges are registered, but they offer courses that are not accredited.

To help you be alert, we offer tips on how you can identify a bogus college, how to check if the institution is registered with the department, and how to claim a refund if you are a victim.

Red flags of bogus colleges:

  • Consultants promising jobs after graduation.
  • Consultants and websites offer two degrees for the price of one, as well as huge discounts.
  • Exaggerated and numerous claims on accreditation in order to land credibility to the college.
  • The name of the college is similar or identical to those of prestigious universities such as Cambridge and Oxford University.
  • The application form is questionable in that it does not require information or proof of formal schooling identity documents.
  • The absence of a physical address for the legal entity called the institution or the awarding body.
  • Local tuition centres proposing to offer qualifications on behalf of foreign and international universities.
  • Continued and undue emphasis on international accreditations and international qualifications.
  • The use of seals, crests, and logos used by legitimate institutions such as the department of higher education and training, public universities, and public colleges.
  • Diplomas and degrees are offered in a short period of time, making it possible to receive several degrees in one year.

Public and private colleges are to be registered with the DHET wherein they will have a registration certificate which is normally displayed on the premises of the institution. The certificate contains the institution details, the provider, and all the qualifications offered by the institution.

You will have to check if the course you intend to do is accredited by the quality committee of the Council for Higher education (CHE) and/or the Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) and/or the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO). If the qualification is accredited, it should also be registered with the South African Quality Authority (SAQA).

How to check if the college is registered

Registered and active colleges are listed on the department’s website so, the first step is to visit the department’s page to check if the college you want to enroll at is on the list. If it’s not on the list then that institution is a scam, it will be safe to stay away.

If you require further information on the college you are interested in, you may send an email to with your enquiry. You can also contact the department on 0800 872 222. In South Africa, such accreditation is awarded by SANAS – the South African National Accreditation System.

Once you have confirmed the college registration, you may proceed to check if they are allowed to offer the course you want to do. The department will refer you to the relevant accreditation bodies for further assistance.

How to get a refund

You may claim for a refund if you were scammed by any bogus college by informing the department of higher education wherein, they will issue a written confirmation of whether the college or qualification is registered or not.

Thereafter, you may approach the college management and request a refund. If they refuse to refund, you have an option to approach the small claims court for assistance provided the amount you are claiming is not more than R15 000.

If it is more then you may use a private lawyer or seek help from the Legal Aid Board. You may also report the matter to the South African Police Services.


Before you enroll at any college, do check how long the institution has been operating, where it is located, the infrastructure of the building, and how professional the staff is when engaging with existing and potential students (responding to student queries, maintaining records, and their overall administrative system).

You may also verify if lectures are qualified for the modules they are offering lessons in.

The department continues to work tirelessly to close down fly-by-night colleges but, it remains your responsibility to verify the colleges before applying and registering for any course.