Racial profile of graduates changing
Johannesburg - The number of Africans who received university degrees in 2008 increased by 334% since 1991, compared with a 14% increase for white graduates, according to research released by the SA Institute for Race Relations (SAIRR) on Tuesday.
However, the majority of degrees awarded in South Africa were being conferred by formerly white institutions.
"In 1991 some 8 514 Africans had been awarded degrees by South African public universities, going up to 2008, an increase of 334%," said the institute which examined education department degrees conferred in 2008.
This compares with the 2 347 degrees conferred on "coloured" graduates in 1991 and the 5 286 in 2008 - an increase of 125%.
In 1991, 2 333 Indians received degrees and in 2008 this went up to 6 857 - an increase of 194%.
In 1991, 27 619 whites received degrees and this went up to 31 527 by 2008.
Unisa awarded most degrees
"It is clear from this data that the racial profile of graduates is changing," the institute said.
Analysing the sources of the degrees, they found that the University of SA (Unisa) awarded the most degrees in 2008 making up 12.8% of the degrees conferred by 23 public universities and universities of technology.
"Some 13.6% of all South African bachelors and honours degrees were awarded by the university in 2008. At the same time 5.5% of all masters degrees and doctorates were awarded by the university in 2008," a statement said.
"Together they made up 12.8% of all degrees conferred."
The primarily distance learning, international university's proportion of students to other universities is 32.7%. It was founded in 1873 and during apartheid, it accepted black students, but they had to attend separate graduation ceremonies.
The research shows that the University of Pretoria (UP) awards the most masters and doctorate degrees with 15.8% being awarded in 2008.
It was also the second-most prolific regarding the awarding of bachelors and honours degrees, after Unisa at 11.1%.
The University of Stellenbosch (US) awarded 13% of masters and doctorates and Cape Town University (UCT) awarded 11.4%.
Eight universities accounted for nearly two-thirds of all degree awards: UCT 5.9%; the University of Johannesburg 7.6%; the University of KwaZulu-Natal 7.8%; North West University 7.9%; UP 11.6%; Unisa 12.8% US 6.4% and the University of the Witwatersrand 5.8% of the 65.8% of all degrees conferred in 2008.
Researcher Marius Roodt commented in a statement that: "‘Other universities, especially historically-disadvantaged institutions, need to be supported, and become centres of excellence in their own right, but not at the cost of already successful universities."
He told Sapa that these institutions did not have resources that formerly white institutions have and suffer from the perception that formerly white universities are better, and the "black" universities not so good.
This was sometimes evident when employers selected equally qualified job candidates.
Due to apartheid-era education laws, black students had to get a letter of permission from the department of education if they wanted to study at a "white" university.
Roodt said that just because a university was disadvantaged, did not mean it was bad, but there were exceptions.
The University of Fort Hare, once a stage for anti-apartheid resistance and disruptions associated with this, was considered a good university.
Roodt also cautioned against assuming that the number of degrees conferred was an indicator of whether the university was good.
"It's [not] a bad thing if it is not awarding lots of degrees. They might just have a niche area. Like Rhodes, which offers journalism. It all depends on what you are looking for."
The University of Fort Hare conferred 1.8% of all degrees with 1.2% of the total number of students; Rhodes 1.9% and 0.8% of students; Tshwane University of Technology 3.5% and 6.5% of students, University of Venda 2.2% and 1.4% of students, Cape Peninsula of Technology 3.2% and 3.7% of students; Vaal University of Technology 0.7% and 2.1% of students.
The University of Zululand 2.2% and 1.3%; Mangosuthu University of Technology 0.1% and 1.1%; Walter Sisulu University of Technology 1.6% and 3.1%; Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University 3.3% and 2.8%; University of Limpopo 3.6% and 2.1%; University of the Free State 4.7% and 3.3%; Durban Institute of Technology 1.5% and 2.8%; Central University of Technology 1.1% with a 1.4% proportion of total students.
The study forms part of a larger socio-economic study, the results of which will be released by SAIRR next week.