New law for SA professional bodies

Professional bodies and professional titles in SA have to conform to new Qualifications Authority policy and criteria, effective from 27 July 2012.

The 2012 policy and criteria outline the manner in which the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) recognises statutory and non-statutory professional bodies, and how professional designations like Architect, Engineer, Doctor, Advocate, Chartered Accountant, Project Manager, and others are registered on the NQF by SAQA.

The policy for professionalisation follows a consultation process with Quality Councils, statutory and non-statutory bodies of expert practitioners in occupational fields, as well as a pilot test of nine professional bodies in various fields of practice, as reported on last year.

The first occupational health and safety professional body to be affected by the new policy, is the statutory SA Council for Project and Construction Management Professions, (SACPCMP), a statutory registrar of a range of construction officials, who is launching registration and continued professional development (CPD) of construction safety practitioners, as reported on in recent months.

In Government Notice 585 in Government Gazette 35547 of 27 July 2012, in terms of Section 13(1)(i)(i) of the National Qualifications Framework Act, 67 of 2008, SAQA publishes the new rules for Professional Bodies. Below is an extract from the Gazette.

11. SAQA is charged with overseeing the further development and Implementation of the NQF as a system of communication, coordination, and collaboration across education, training, development and work.

12. The NQF is developed as an integrated framework, overseen by SAQA, of three coordinated sub-frameworks, each overseen by a quality council;
• Higher Education Qualifications (Council on Higher Education)
• General and Further Education and Training Qualifications (Umalusi)
• Occupational Qualifications (Quality Council for Trades and Occupations, QCTO).

Professional body obligations

Statutory or non-statutory professional bodies shall;
i. Co-operate with the relevant quality council(s) in respect of qualifications and quality assurance in its occupational field
ii. Apply to SAQA to be recognised as a professional body
iii. Apply to SAQA to register a professional designation.

Objectives of the policy and criteria include to;
• Promote public understanding of, and trust in professions, through the establishment of a nationally regulated system for the recognition of professional bodies and for registration of professional designations.
• Encourage social responsibility and accountability in professions relating to professional services communities and individuals.
• Promote pride in association for all professions, including traditional trades and occupations.
• Promote protection of the public by professional bodies from malpractice by registered professionals.
• Encourage international leading practice and raising of esteem for professions in South Africa.
• Facilitate access to, and analysis of, data related to professions, including traditional trades and occupations.
• Support development of a national career advice system.
• Encourage development and implementation of continuing professional development (CPD).

How professional bodies are recognised

Proliferation of professional bodies within the same community of practice will be discouraged, but will be balanced with the recognition that healthy competition and freedom of association should not be impeded. Where more than one professional body for a specific community of practice applies for recognition, the following will be considered;

• No additional professional bodies will be recognised by SAQA in a sector in which a professional body has been established through an Act of Parliament (being statutory bodies) [like SACPCMP].
• No legal impediment to the operation of a second or subsequent body.
• Outcome of a broad consultation within the community of practice and the wider society.
• Distinctiveness of multiple bodies in the community of practice.

How professional bodies are monitored

In administering the policy and criteria for the recognition of professional bodies SAQA shall;
i. Publish for comment its intention to recognise a professional body in the government gazette for 30 days, to solicit any possible objections.
ii. Monitor recognised professional bodies.
iii. Give due notice to a recognised professional body; and in the case of a statutory body, also notify the relevant Minister, that an alleged lack of compliance with the SAQA policy and criteria for the recognition of a professional body Is being Investigated and render the necessary support to the body.
lv. Not charge fees to professional bodies, but reserves the right to recover costs in instances where unnecessary and wasteful expenditure is incurred by SAQA as a result of delays and lack of compliance by the professional body.

Professional bodies may not provide training

19. In meeting the policy and criteria for the recognition of professional bodies a recognised professional body may;
i. Not be accredited as an education and training provider by a Quality Council.
ii. Not be registered as an education and training provider with the Department of Higher Education and Training.
iii. Register its employees on learnerships.
iv. Act as a workplace provider for the delivery of learnerships.
v. Recognise suitable workplaces and be involved in the assessment of workplace experience.
vi. Recognise suitable education and training providers and be involved in the curriculation of learning programmes offered by the education and training providers.
vii. Set and administer its’ own board examinations.

How professional designations are registered

A recognised professional body must register its professional designations on the NQF in accordance with the SAQA policy and criteria for registering a professional designation.

21. Where a professional body that is recognised, or is in the process of seeking recognition, wishes to give formal recognition to an occupational qualification as a precondition for the issuing of its designation, it must enter a formal agreement with the QCTO to attain the authority to develop and/or quality assure such occupational qualification.

22. Professional bodies in South Africa must meet… data requirements.

23. A body is recognised for an initial period of five years, renewable for subsequent five year periods, subject to the favourable outcome of a monitoring and evaluation process conducted by SAQA.

24. SAQA may remove the recognition status from a professional body.

25. If a professional body loses its recognition status its professional designations will be deregistered from the NQF.

Criteria for recognising a professional body

28. A body applying to be recognised as a professional body by SAQA shall;
i. Be a legally constituted entity with the necessary human and financial resources to undertake its functions, governed either by a statute, charter or a constitution, and compliant with and adhere to good corporate governance practices.
ii. Protect the public interest in relation to services provided by its members and associated risks.
iii. Develop, award, monitor and revoke its professional designations in terms of its own rules, legislation and/or international conventions.
iv. Submit a list of members.
v. Set criteria for, promote and monitor continuing professional development (CPD) for its members.
vi. Publish a code of conduct and operate a mechanism for the reporting of and investigating members who are alleged to have contravened the code.
vii. Not apply unfair exclusionary practices in terms of membership admission to the body or when recognising education or training providers.
viii. Make career advice related information available to SAQA.

Policy for registering a professional designation on the NQF

29. A professional designation shall be conferred by a professional body to an individual in the form of a title, status and/or registration number.

30. A professional designation indicates registration of the individual with a professional body, and where relevant, the right to practice in the particular field of expertise governed by the professional body. Retention of the status is dependent upon compliance with the stated requirements of the professional body concerned.

31. A professional designation must be registered separately from a qualification.

34. The same professional designations cannot be registered by more than one recognised professional body in South Africa.

35. Professional designations awarded through international awarding bodies shall meet South African requirements as outlined in the policy and criteria for recognising a professional body and registering a professional designation for the purposes of the NQF Act.

36. Verification queries related to professional designations are the exclusive responsibility of the relevant professional body.

39. SAQA may deregister a professional designation.

Criteria for registering a professional designation

42. In order for a professional designation to be registered on the NQF it must;
i. Be submitted to SAQA by a recognised professional body…
li. Be developed, conferred…
iii. Be monitored…
iv. Be part of a progression pathway which may include an occupational pathway.
v. Be linked to a validated database of names of individuals conferred.
vi. Include, as an initial requirement, an underlying qualfication(s), which may include an occupational qualification(s).
vii. In the case of an individual’s qualification having been obtained at an institution not registered in South Africa, the individual applying to a professional body for a professional designation, must ensure that the qualification has been evaluated by SAQA and found to be comparable to the South African underlying qualification.
viii. Include as general requirements, experiential learning, recognition of prior learning and/or practical experience.
ix. Include as retention requirements continuing professional development (CPD) and adherence to a code of professional ethics/conduct.


“Progression pathway” means a hierarchy of two or more related qualifications and/or professional designations that allows for vertical progression within a profession.

“Provider” means a body that offers any education programme or trade and occupational learning programme that leads to a qualification or part-qualification on the NQF.

Objectives of the NQF include;
i. a single integrated national framework for learning achievements.
ii. access to, and mobility and progression within, education, training and career paths.
iii. enhanced quality of education and training.
iv. accelerated redress of past unfair discrimination in education, training and employment opportunities.
v. contribute to full personal development of each learner, and social and economic development of the nation.

• The above is an extract from Government Notice 585 in Government Gazette 35547 of 27 July 2012.

Construction professions registrar

In a separate but related development in 2012 and 2013, the Council for Project and Construction Management Professions, SACPCMP, a statutory body under Project and Construction Management Act, 48 of 2000, section 2, is extending professional certification, registration and regulation to construction health and safety professionals and practitioners on three levels.

SACPCMP already regulates project and construction management professions, by way of dual registration, linked to seven Acts to regulate the professions of Architect, Landscape Architect, Engineer, Property Valuer, Quantity Surveyor, Construction Project Manager, Construction Manager, as well as the Council for the Built Environment, an umbrella body controlling six professional councils.

Registration criteria include a recognised four year degree or equivalent in built environment, or recognition for prior experience, if supported by recognised education, and three years appropriate experience as a single person responsible, or as a candidate working under the guidance of a registered or registerable person.

SACPCMP is mandated to register safety professionals on three rolls; HS Agent, HS Supervisor, HS Officer. Contact 011 642 1150,

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