Who We Are


​​The Independent Institute of Education is a private higher education institution operating across 21 sites offering more than 90 registered and accredited higher education programmes from Higher Certificate to Masters level on its Varsity College, Vega, and Rosebank College campuses.

Dr Felicity Coughlan






​Dr Felicity Coughlan was appointed as the Director of The Independent Institute of Education (IIE), a subsidiary of ADvTECH (Ltd), in 2005. Felicity is also the Group Academic Director for ADvTECH. ​

Felicity obtained her Honours degrees in Social Work and Psychology from Rhodes University. She received her Masters in Sociology from the University of London and a Doctorate in Social Work from UNISA. After several years in practice as a social worker, Felicity moved to Rhodes University in 1991 and became Head of Department and then Associate Dean in 2001.  She was appointed a Deputy Registrar at Wits University and Director of Strategic Planning in 2003.

Felicity has published a book, articles and research reports in her academic fields, which include policy and strategic planning.  She is a former member of the Higher Education Quality Committee Board (HEQC) and former chair of the HEQC Accreditation Committee responsible for accreditation of all higher education programmes (public and private) in SA.  She is also an external member of the Open University's Curriculum and Validation Committee and founder member and Chairperson of the South African Private Higher Education- (SAPHE). ​ 

Ms Shirley Ferndale








​Ms Shirley Ferndale is the Registrar for The IIE. She obtained a Master's Degree in Education (MEd), a Bachelor of Education (BEd) and a Bachelor of Science in Education (BScEd) from the University of the Western Cape. After seven years as Head of the Mathematics Department at a senior secondary school in the Western Cape, she moved to Gauteng in 1997, where she taught mathematics at a senior secondary school in Johannesburg. In 1997 she joined the Gauteng Department of Education as a mathematics specialist at district level and worked there for five years. She then moved to the EDTP Seta for six years, first as a Learnerships and Skills Programmes Advisor and then as a Skills Advisor. In 2006 she joined the Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors as a professional manager. Shirley has been with The IIE since February 2011.  


General Manager

​Mr Peter Kriel is the General Manager of The IIE. Peter joined The IIE on 1 April 2013 as the Head of Faculty: Business and took up the position of General Manager on 1 October 2015.

After qualifying with a National Diploma in Hotel Management in 1989, Peter has worked in all the major South African hotel groups in various positions including Rooms Division Manager at The Cascades Hotel at Sun City. He was involved in the pre-opening training of reception staff of the Palace Hotel.

Peter joined higher education in 1995 and since completed a Bachelor's Degree in Post School Education at the Technikon Witwatersrand (TWR) and a Masters degree in Post School Education at the University of Johannesburg (UJ).

Peter was previously the Academic Head: Department of Hospitality Management at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and Acting Director: UJ School of Tourism and Hospitality from January – November 2011.    

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Dean of Academic Development and Support

​ Dr Gill Mooney is the Dean of Academic Development and Support of The IIE. Gill joined The IIE in January 2016 as the Teaching and Learning Manager. Before that, she lectured in the Department of Psychology at the University of the Witwatersrand.

In 2008 she attained her doctorate, and has since published several papers, in the area of teaching and learning in tertiary education, particularly concerning the use of Vygotsky's theory to understand the transition from school to university and the development of higher-order skills. 


Ms Michele Du Rand






​Ms Michele Du Rand is the Systems Innovation Manager at The IIE, appointed in 2006.

Michele has worked in higher education for the past 14 years. She first joined the ADvTECH group as a student administrator at College Campus Parktown in 1998 and was promoted to Vice Principal of the campus. She left to take up the position of Student Services Manager at Monash South Africa where she spent six years, including a period as a project manager at Monash University in Australia. Michele returned to the ADvTECH group in July 2006, where she joined The IIE as Senior Projects and Innovations Manager. Her main focus is to collaborate with the brands to ensure the provision of platforms which make technologically enhanced administrative services and learning opportunities available to students. The IIE and Group IT support approximately 25 000 full-time students online via student portals. She is also responsible for the general operations management of The IIE and operations delivery to the brands via The IIE’s and ADvTECH internal Sharepoint platform, Intralink.    

Dr Franzél du Plooy-Cilliers






Dean of Postgraduate Studies

​Dr Franzél du Plooy-Cilliers is the Dean: Postgraduate Studies. Franzel joined The IIE as Head of Faculty: Humanities in November 2011. Before that Franzél was a full-time lecturer at Rand Afrikaans University (now University of Johannesburg) from 1995 to 2002 when she left to join Monash University. There she was the head of department of Communication and Media Studies. During her academic career she has lectured part time for several public and private providers. Franzél has published several books and articles in her academic field and presented papers at both national and international conferences. She has received numerous awards including teaching excellence and for being the most outstanding female academic. She is an external examiner for other tertiary institutions, and continues to supervise Masters and Doctoral students. She obtained her PhD in Interpersonal Communication from UNISA in 2010. 


Ms Nola Payne





​Ms Nola Payne is Head of the Faculty of Information and Communications Technology at The IIE. She has 30 years’ experience as an academic in IT, specialising in computer programming and has a Masters degree in Education with the focus on E-Learning from the University of Johannesburg (UJ). Following years as a Senior Lecturer at UJ and lecturing at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Nola joined The IIE as a Head of Programme in 2011. She was promoted to Senior Head of Programme in 2012 and in 2013 appointed to her current position as Head of Faculty IT.

Nola has published articles in her academic fields which include higher education and IT. She has a particular interest in student employability and the development of curricula to meet the needs of the IT industry. 

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Acting Head of Faculty of Humanities

Gerald holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree and a Bachelor of Arts Honours Degree from Monash South Africa, and a Masters in Communication from the University of South Africa. Gerald has since published his research in an academic journal, supervised honours students at Vega, and co-authored textbooks in the fields of Business Communication and Research Methodology. Gerald joined The Independent Institute of Education in 2011 as a Head of Programme and was appointed as Deputy Head of Faculty: Humanities in June of 2017.


Head of Faculty of Commerce

Erna has been with The Independent Institute of Education (The IIE) Central Academic team since September 2010. Erna holds a Master’s degree in Education from the University of Stellenbosch and has a good academic publication background. Erna has taught, researched, and consulted in the fields of human resource management, general management, psychology, and education. She is also a co-author of several books in her field of interest that focusses around her passion for Life-long Learning.

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Learn Manager

Hermien joined The Independent Institute of Education (The IIE) in June 2014 as the Senior Instructional Designer.  In her current position as Learn Manager, she manages the development of online modules within programmes and qualifications supporting both a blended and distance mode of delivery.  Hermien is also involved in the training, development and support of academic staff and students in utilising their online learning materials, as well as supporting our brands with online marking of formative assessments.


Operations Manager

Denver is The IIE’s Central Academic Team’s Operations Manager. He has experience within higher education at a provider level working as a Faculty Officer, Assistant Registrar and Registrar. In 2015, he joined the Council on Higher Education as a Manager and then Acting Senior Manager responsible for re-accreditation, site visits and requests related to the HEQSF. He has an MPhil specializing in Programme Evaluation.

Brenda van Wyk






​Dr Brenda van Wyk has been in the library and information science environment since the 80’s. She has received her Doctorate in Information and Knowledge Management and is experienced in library management and the management of library systems in both public and academic libraries. She was previously also involved in literacy training (ABET) in the work environment. She obtained her Master’s degree in Information Management at the then Rand Afrikaans University. She holds a PhD from the University of Pretoria  in Information Science from the EBIT Faculty. Her research topic was on the sustainability of digital scholarship curation in private and public HEIs in Southern Africa. She has been a part time lecturer for many years and lectured at Unisa as well as The University of Zululand in user studies, collection development and school library management. Her research interests are knowledge management, information management, digital libraries, institutional repositories and school library management. She has presented at a number of local and international conferences and published in proceedings and accredited journals. She has a passion for the library and information world and would like to see digital librarianship reach new heights and increase access to information. 


Willy.jpgDr Willy Engelbrecht is the Head of Faculty: Commerce. Willy joined The IIE in January 2014 as Head of Programme was promoted to Head of Faculty in November 2016. Willy commenced his studies at the North-West University where he completed a Bachelor's degree in Marketing and Tourism Management in 2009 and went on to obtain his PhD in Tourism Management in 2015. Before joining The IIE Willy was a lecturer at the University of South Africa (UNISA) where he also acted as College Tutor Coordinator in the School of Economic Sciences where he managed the implementation of the Unisa E-tutor project. Willy actively participates in research, publishing articles and writing chapters for textbooks with other authors, and has presented a number of papers at both national and international conferences related to Tourism.  He is an external examiner for other tertiary institutions as well as supervising Master's students.