home
the team
newsletters
about
cape town
stnews
downloads
links
 
   

This article is taken from the March 2002 Phatlalatsa newsletter

 

S&T & Higher Education

A number of partners at S&T are involved in a wide range of projects in the higher education sector, which Matthew Smith reviews here.

Student attitudes to higher education reform


Over the years Matthew has been involved in studies focusing primarily on the issue of access and admission to institutions of higher education, but this is changing as S&T rapidly expands into other topics of importance in the higher education field. Matthew and Jowie recently completed two studies in the Eastern Cape. These were part of a study commissioned by the Eastern Cape Higher Education Association (made up of all the heads of higher education institutions in that province) to explore the key components of the Minister of Education's proposed plans for higher education in that region.

Readers will be familiar with the Minister's desire to merge various institutions in the Eastern Cape and close others. S&T was asked to gauge student opinion towards the mergers, and also to develop an understanding as to why students had chosen to study at the institution they are currently enrolled at. The findings from these studies raise several important points.

  • Firstly, the cost of higher education influences not only the decision to continue with post matric studies but also where one would pursue further studies. For example, students at Fort Hare (where tuition fees are lower than at Rhodes University) listed cost as an important factor for choosing to study there whilst for Rhodes students the thing they least liked about their institution was cost. Again, most students were more likely to have applied to institutions within the province based on proximity to their homes and attendant lower accommodation and travel costs, especially for African students.
  • Secondly, the academic reputation of an institution featured mostly in the decisions of university students as opposed to technical skills and therefore "better" employability, which featured highly in the choice of an institution by technikon students. Both cost and academic standing were given as reasons why students who terminated their studies at tertiary institutions did so.
  • Lastly, with regards to student opinions on mergers, it was clear that more needed to be done to make students aware of the rationale behind them and engage them in the processes around possible mergers. In the main students were not averse to mergers provided these did not result in steep increases in tuition fees and/or a drop in academic standards. University students were more likely to be wary of a merger with a technikon, equally true of students from historically advantaged institutions regarding a merger with a less-resourced institution (university or technikon).

Effective governance of higher education

S&T recently completed an evaluation of the CHET/ Department of Education's Effective Governance Project and an evaluation of the University of Cape Town's Equity Development Project (EDP) in the Micro and Cell Biology Department. The latter study is part of a much wider study that S&T has been commissioned to perform by The Atlantic Philanthropies (TAP).

For the next 3 years S&T will be tracking EDP students/staff at the University of the Witwatersrand, the University of Cape Town, the University of Natal and Free State University in order to establish how successful these programmes are in producing academics from historically disadvantaged backgrounds.

5-continent comparative study for SA Vice Chancellors

The South African Vice Chancellors Association (SAUVCA) has asked Matthew to do a comparative study of admissions systems on five different continents. The countries Matthew will be exploring include New Zealand, China, Ghana, Tanzania, Egypt, Slovenia, Norway, the UK, Brazil, Chile and Canada.

Matthew has also been asked to organise a series of focus groups across South Africa for the American Council of Education, who wish to gauge the public's perception of higher education in South Africa. Finally,
in conjunction with UCT, Matthew recently visited Norway to explore developing a series of comparative studies on higher education in the two countries.

 

[top] [to ] [Previous page]
     
home
the team
newsletters
about
contact
stnews
downloads
links