SA varsities’ poor graduation rates

2013-06-17 00:00

SOUTH Africa is wasting billions of rands on its poor education system, as can be seen in the average pass rate for undergraduate students in 2011, which was just 15%, say experts.

The economist Dawie Roodt said the extremely low number of undergraduate students who get their degrees in the expected three or four years confirmed that there was chaos at school level.

Roodt said while the state spent about 20% of its total budget on education, the outcomes ranged from poor to among the lowest in the world.

He said the problem was not necessarily at university level, but with primary and tertiary teaching.

Dr Michael Cosser, a researcher with the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), said the situation in which universities found themselves was unacceptable.

He said university pass rates had not improved over the past few years and that schools were not preparing the thousands of students adequately for the demands of tertiary teaching. Because of this, universities increasingly had to develop foundation or other programmes to prepare students academically.

Cosser said the admissions criteria to study at university needed to be reviewed. He said students could not be allowed to take two years to complete their first year, as this “encouraged the idea that it is acceptable to fail”.

Cosser said money constraints often prevented students from finishing in a given time, as many interrupted their studies to work and save up to continue their studies.

Cosser is also of the opinion that the quality of education at many universities is very poor, if the failure to get jobs by their alumni is taken as a measure.

Dr Theuns Eloff, vice chancellor at the North West University, said the average graduating rate of 15% for the sector was way too low.

A report by the Department of Higher Education and Training lists the average pass rate for master’s students as 20% and for doctorates as 12%. Most master’s students come from the universities of Pretoria (1 342) and Stellenbosch (1 296).

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