Raising the bar

May 2010 News, Mining (Industry)

UNISA is the only academic institution in South Africa, and indeed in Africa, to offer diplomas and degrees in Police Practice, Forensic Investigation, Criminology, Penology, Security Risk Management and Correctional Service Management.

Hi-Tech Security Solutions spoke to Professor Kris Pillay, director of the School of Criminal Justice and to Professor Anthony Minnaar, programme head: Security Science (incorporating the former Department of Security Risk Management) in the Department of Criminology & Security Science at UNISA to find out what courses the school offers and how UNISA is successfully forging the way both locally and internationally in professionalising the security industry with recognised certifications.

We further examine what measures the School of Criminal Justice has put in place to ensure its content shapes managers who will truly make a difference to the country’s unique, challenging and ever progressive criminal environment.

The School of Criminal Justice

UNISA’s School of Criminal Justice resides under the College of Law and its sister school the School of Law. The School offers a niche curriculum in specialist security sectors such as Police Practice, Forensic Investigation, Criminology and Security Science (Security Risk Management), Penology (Correctional Service Management). Being the only school of its kind in Africa to offer this unique composition of subjects, UNISA has become a role model for other institutions around the globe.

The school’s student profile is made up largely of adult learners – many of them distance learners – employed in the field of policing, criminal justice and investigative work. According to Pillay, students who enrol generally do so to improve their understanding of the areas they are currently working in, in the criminal justice field.

How it began

UNISA’s Programme: Security Science (the former Department of Security Risk Management) in the School of Criminal Justice was established in response to a need by the security industry, and those operating in it, to professionalise their industry. For years, all that was offered to those in the industry were basic diplomas, based on little more than three, six or 12 month certificate courses, offering no more than basic concepts, with little depth and limited course material. The industry was hungry for a more professional offering. Something specialised with formal academic recognition and accreditation at a tertiary level for the private security industry in South Africa.

According to Professors Pillay and Minnaar, Security Officer training had its roots in two streams, namely the 1980 National Key Points (strategic installations) Act and in-house security training, which were primarily of an operational nature. In the early 1980s the then Institute for Criminological Sciences at UNISA initiated an informal one-year certificate course in security management (modular non-degree programme) under the leadership of the late Prof. J. van der Westhuizen.

In the early 1990s, the call to action a tertiary level qualification for the security industry finally came from the mining sector. The country’s mining houses had for years been running their own in-house security management courses, but had reached a point where a more specialised and professional security education was required for their staff.

The broad (gold, diamond, coal, platinum) mining industry approached and mandated the then TechnikonSA (TSA), to develop a specific degree for security managers. In response, the TSA Faculty of Public Safety and Criminal Justice established the Programme Group: Security Management under the management of the late Fanie Bosch, who pioneered the first security management study guides at the TSA. The new three-year Diploma: Security Management was rolled out in 1995 with 150 students.

In 1997, Charles Rogers, who had been running the Institute for Criminological Sciences’ informal learning programme: Certificate in Security Management and the Advanced Certificate in Security Management since 1990 was appointed senior lecturer. He immediately set about establishing the fourth year of study for the then BTech degree in Security Risk Management which was formally rolled out in 1999. The TSA had now expanded its security management portfolio by offering its first ever degree in security management, to a student body of more than 200 security management undergraduate students.

The continuation of this development occurred with the rollout of a Masters programme (MTech in Security Management) in 2003 with the very first masters’ graduate, under the supervision of the current programme head, Prof. Anthony Minnaar, being awarded in 2005. In 2009, a new expanded curriculum for the Diploma in Security Management was rolled out, with a BA degree path also being envisaged for implementation in 2011.

By 2009 UNISA’s School of Criminal Justice had grown to close on 4500 students. In 2004, the TSA merged with UNISA with the Faculty for Public Safety & Criminal Justice becoming the School of Criminal Justice in the new UNISA School of Criminal Justice.

Course material

“Course material is developed in conjunction with those operating in the field,” explains Pillay. “We assess outcomes as well as invite students who have completed the programme to give their feedback on material. All academic practitioners have to have industry experience and the departments (in the School of Criminal Justice) also consult with their respective industries in order to perfect the role of its practitioners.”

Minnaar stresses the difference between UNISA’s academic material and those of other post matric academies and colleges offering ‘diplomas’ in security management. “Unfortunately these diploma courses are too basic to count as an entry level for UNISA – often to the disappointment of individuals expecting to use these credits as a means of getting into UNISA’s School of Criminal Justice. This is where the confusion comes in,” he argues. “But these diplomas are just too basic.”

Pillay concurs: “When you are operating at a diploma and degree level your students are required to work to a far more sophisticated academic (tertiary) level. Add to this the use of sophisticated technology which UNISA has incorporated into its programs, the outcomes are vastly different.”

Minnaar explains that the security management courses offered by institutions such as Oxbridge, Intec, Lyceum and Damelin are nowhere near as in depth or academic in profile as those offered by UNISA. “Our School requires 10 modules to be completed in the first year of our security management diploma – five of which are purely on security. In contrast, for instance Damelin offers only four modules in their diploma to be completed in a year. For the full three-year Diploma in Security Management at UNISA the student would be required to complete a total of 16 security-related modules. The difference speaks for itself.” Other South African universities have also tried – without success – to offer similar courses, leaving UNISA as the sole provider and leader of tertiary qualifications in security management.

With the implementation of a parallel (to the diploma) BA degree in security management as from 2011, which will lead to an Honours and Masters degree programme, the current fourth year of study, the BTech in Security Risk Management, will be phased out in 2012 (last registrations will occur in 2011). The Honours will consist of five modules, namely Research Methodology; Research Project; Security Risk Management; Advanced Corporate Investigation; Security Risk Control Measures.

Given the nature of SA’s sophisticated criminal environment, the school has had to continuously adapt its training programmes accordingly. Pillay says departments have a three-year review cycle of all course material. “This is a mandatory policy decision taken by the by Department of Higher Education and Training,” he says. In his personal capacity, Pillay has made a point of becoming a member of all relevant security associations in order to keep abreast of industry matters.

Qualifying for entry

To get into UNISA’s School of Criminal Justice as an undergraduate for a three-year degree, learners must have a Matric university exemption. For a diploma course, learners need only have a Matric pass. The school also accepts learners who have a minimum of five years’ work experience in the industry (these learners also need to be 23 years or older with relevant industry work experience). “It must not be forgotten that the tertiary qualification in security management was originally designed by UNISA to professionalise the security industry at management level. As a result most of our students are working adults, registered with PSIRA,” says Pillay.

A major attraction for students of UNISA’s School of Criminal Justice is its distance learning profile – an option attractive to both local and foreign students. This option also allows learners to spread their degree or diploma over a six-year period as opposed to completing it in the normal three-year period. “We have 10 modules in each year of the diploma,” explains Minnaar, “however, due to the fact that most students have jobs, we recommend they do not take more than five or six modules in a year (which would mean their degree would take six years to complete as opposed to three years). We encourage students to only take on what they can manage – in this way we discourage learners losing interest due to over commitment.”

In addition, Minnaar says with the implementation of the new semester (six months) system implemented at the beginning of 2009 students can now register for two to three modules per semester and write (exams) at the end of each semester system as opposed to previous year long registration cycles whereby say all six modules registered would have to be written in the exam period at the end of the year registration period. In other words, a further spreading of the study workload has occurred.

Need for professionalism

The security industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in South Africa and as a result, the concept of professionalism is coming to the fore because people operating in this sector want their profession recognised in the same vein as other skilled professions. Security is no longer the playground of guards and police officers. It now embraces a rapidly growing world of technology, problem solving, legalities and business management models that requires national accreditation and professional influence. And both Pillay and Minnaar are strong advocates of professionalising the industry.

So strong an advocate of professional security education is Pillay, that he is currently advocating the establishment of a Board of Professional Security Practitioners. “But,” he says, “the process requires patience as it is highly bureaucratic. I started seven years ago and only see it materialising in the next two years.”

UNISA is the only academic institution in Africa offering this specialised array of subjects and one of a handful in the world to do so. “There are about four or five other universities and colleges based in America, Australia and the UK – all offering something similar to what we offer,” explains Minnaar. “We are finding, however, that UNISA is expanding the discipline of security management way ahead of some of these universities; without a doubt UNISA definitely offers the most detailed security management education at present.”

Minnaar adds that UNISA’s School of Criminal Justice is the only department at UNISA to have grown by an average of 22% over the last five years. “Our growth from around 1300 students in 2002, to close on 5000 students this year is remarkable,” states Minnaar. “With approximately 365 000 security officers registered with PSIRA and active in our country at present, it is no wonder companies are looking to more sophisticated educational qualifications. There is a huge demand for security managers. To professionalise these managers is vital to the sustainment of a sound industry.”


Courses are accredited to national and international standards. “Being a public institution our mandate comes from the Department of Higher Education and Training and is accredited by the Council for Higher Education and Training,” explains Pillay. “We had to submit an application to present our qualifications of policing, forensic investigation, penology/correction management, security management and criminology before they were approved. Our BA, Masters and PhD degrees are all internationally recognised.”

Pillay says that UNISA is recognised globally for its security technology and management offering and people outside look to the university as a leader in this field.

He further believes strongly that any person who has a degree or diploma in any field of criminal justice, will have an edge. “These people will certainly make a difference,” he adds.

Minnaar agrees: “Our focus is educating the private security industry, offering courses such as business and risk management and corporate investigation – skills previously untaught in the private sector. We have also added a security technology and information security module and a security risk control measures module at all three-year levels of our diploma, enabling our students to integrate different security measures via technology-based outcomes. Now, these individuals, many of whom are security managers in government departments, are able to use their management skills to levels previously untapped.”

How well is UNISA’s Department of Criminal Justice known?

Although the university has not yet done a trends analysis, Pillay says the courses are well marketed. “We train security professionals from a vast cross section of security arenas,” explains Minnaar. “The aviation industry, government departments, mines, shipping, retail and banking sectors, CCTV surveillance control rooms, even the casino industry, are just a few examples of the sectors that choose to study with our department.”

As far as marketing UNISA’s School of Criminal Justice goes, Pillay explains that twice a year the department invites the security industry to a breakfast to ensure the sector is well informed about what course material the institution is offering. “UNISA is a prominent presence in the academic market, and added to this is its affordability. Furthermore, we are gradually moving to an online delivery system which will further enhance our accessibility,” concludes Pillay.

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