What is the Difference between a Diploma & National Diploma | Regenesys

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The South African education environment has carefully outlined descriptors for all approved qualifications. The descriptors specify the exit level of each qualification. But to differentiate between and a diploma and a national diploma – which are just two of these qualifications – we need to dig a little deeper than just their exit levels.

THIS ARTICLE COVERS:

  • The differences between a diploma and national diploma
  • Which diplomas are being phased out?
  • What you need to get into a national diploma programme
  • The National Diploma in Public Administration 
  • What else can I study once I have a National Diploma in Public Administration?

The differences between a diploma and a national diploma

Qualifications in South Africa are regulated by two bodies mandated by the Higher Education Act to assure the quality of education within the country: the Council on Higher Education (CHE) and the Quality Council for Trade and Occupation (QCTO). The CHE looks after Higher Education Institutions (HIEs) and traditional academic programmes, while the QCTO is responsible for occupational qualifications and trade qualifications. 

Diplomas are qualifications registered and quality assured by the CHE. These qualifications are awarded at NQF level 6. Currently, the South African Qualifications Authority’s (Saqa’s) website lists 877 qualifications registered as diplomas.

National diplomas, on the other hand, are qualifications registered and quality assured by the QCTO. These can range from NQF level 5 to NQF level 7. Currently Saqa’s website lists 124 qualifications as national diplomas.

The biggest difference between a diploma and a national diploma? One qualification is academic in nature (the diploma programmes) while the other is occupationally driven (national diploma programmes). This means that national diploma programmes are based on the application of skills within the framework of the occupation (the job it has been written for). 

Which diplomas are being phased out?

It is also important to mention that national diplomas are being phased out by the QCTO, as these qualifications are in a process of being rewritten and reregistered to link directly with the occupation. For example – the National Diploma: Project Management will expire shortly because a new qualification – the Occupational Certificate: Project Manager – has been developed and registered. 

What you need to get into a national diploma programme

Admission to a national diploma programme usually requires the completion of a qualification at one NQF level below the exit level of the desired qualification. This means, if the qualification you are interested in – for example, the National Diploma in Public Administration, exit level NQF 7 – you need to have completed an NQF 6 qualification to qualify for admission.

However, each occupationally directed qualification (skills programmes) has a Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) statement. This may help you gain access to the programme even though your prior qualifications are insufficient. If, for example, you have only an NQF level 5 qualification, but do have workplace experience, you can ask that your work experience is recognised through the RPL process of the institution to admit you to a level 7 programme. 

diploma in public administration

The National Diploma in Public Administration

The National Diploma in Public Administration (NDPA) – an NQF level 7 qualification – specialises in the management functions of the public sector. This diploma in public administration and management – a national diploma – allows public servants to build on their existing knowledge and explore a variety of specialisations vital to middle managers in the public sector. These specialisations are divided into eight courses within the qualification:

  • Public Strategic Management 
  • Public Communication Strategies
  • Public Finance and Administration
  • Public Policy Management
  • Public Project Management
  • Public Human Resource Management
  • Public Sector Management
  • Fundamentals of Research

Because of the unique nature of occupational qualifications, students can choose one course, complete it and gain credits for it. Each component of the programme can be completed over a period of time, as credits towards the qualification never fall away, and will always be connected to your name on the National Learners’ Records Database. 

What else can I study once I have a National Diploma in Public Administration?

Once you have completed a National Diploma in Public Administration, which is an NQF level 7 programme, you will be eligible to apply to enrol in an NQF level 8 programme. These are usually postgraduate programmes, such as Regenesys’ Postgraduate Diploma in Public Management. This more advanced diploma in public administration is a one-year, level 8 qualification that paves the way to masters’ studies, and covers the knowledge needed to join the senior echelons of the public service.  

REFERENCES:

  • South African Qualifications Authority. (2020). Qualification equivalence
  • Government of South Africa. (2007). The Higher Education Qualifications Framework.

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Donald Block
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MPM; PDP; BEd; FETC Facilitator | Regenesys School of Public Management

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MPM; PDP; BEd; FETC Facilitator | Regenesys School of Public Management

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