Study shows inequality in graduates

2012-01-21 17:10

South Africa’s universities are producing about as many black graduates as they do white, although there is still a long way to go before the numbers of graduates are broadly representative of the racial make-up of the country.

These were some of the findings contained in the South African Institute of Race Relations’ South Africa Survey for 2011, which compared the number of university graduates in different fields across the racial groups in South Africa.

Comparing the number of graduates in 1991 to those in 2009, the study found:
» The number of African graduates had grown from 8 514 to 44 125 over this period, while the number of white graduates had grown from 27 619 to 34 540;

» There were only 36 Africans who graduated with degrees in the fields of engineering and engineering technology in 1991, a figure which grew to 2?483 in 2009. There were 2?228 white graduates in 2009;

» A total of 9 655 Africans graduated in the fields of business, commerce and management, up from 303 a decade ago. This was compared to 8 285 white graduates;

» A total of 2 349 Africans graduated in the fields of life and physical sciences, an increase from just 267 in 1991. There was a total of 1?937 white graduates in 2009;

» The study also found that the number of African matriculants had grown from just 595 in 1955 to 446 693 in 2010; and

» The proportion of African candidates who achieved university entrance had actually declined from 35.5% in 1976 to 13.4% in 2008.

Frans Cronje, deputy chief executive of the SA Institute of Race Relations, said the study showed that South Africa was beginning to move in the right direction in terms of racial representation.

But he asked: “Have we lived up to our potential? Probably not, if you consider that Africans make up 75% to 80% of the population. There’s still a lot further to go, but the data should suggest to us what our potential really is.”

Cronje said that South Africa needed “a revolution” in terms of quality of education and not just access to it.

Dr Andre Kraak, an independent education analyst, agreed there was a level of racial parity emerging in graduates but said it was “not easy stuff to make happen”.

However, he cautioned that the higher education system was taking up as many students as it could and that concrete measures would be needed to expand enrolment.

Sipho Madonsela, president of the National Society for Black Engineers, said parity could not be equated with transformation.

He said it had taken 30 years for a one-to-one ratio to be reached since black people were allowed to start studying engineering in the 1980s.

“When will we reach a point when it will be proportional?– 150 or 200 years down
the line?”

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