A university qualification is still viewed as one of the most powerful tools to change the economic prospects of students, their families, and communities.
A university qualification is still viewed as one of the most powerful tools to change the economic prospects of students, their families, and communities.

75% of first-year students are the first in family to attend university - Study

By MaryAnne Isaac Time of article published Nov 20, 2020

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About 75% of first-year students are the first in their family to attend university. This is according to Prof Francois Strydom of the University of the Free State (UFS), who believes that this is due to the changes in the South African student profile over the past decade.

Strydom says there has been an the overall increase in first-generation students across racial groups. Although these students come to university with an inspiring motivation to succeed, higher-education research shows that these students are at risk because of a lack of role models in their immediate family.

He adds that another factor is the increased reliance on National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funding, with 55% of UFS students making use of this funding for their studies.

“A university qualification is still viewed as one of the most powerful tools to change the economic prospects of students, their families, and communities. In this sense, universities can be generators of greater equality, social justice, as well as economic prosperity. Improving students’ chances of success is a notoriously difficult goal, especially in one of the most unequal countries in the world,” says Strydom.

More than half (or 51%) of young people in the 18 – 24 age group claimed they did not have the financial means to pay for their tuition. Furthermore, 18% were not attending educational institutions and indicated that their poor academic performance prevented them from participating. This is according to the Higher Education and Skills in South Africa report released by Statistics South Africa.

The report also showed that the trend in participation in all higher learning institutes was upward, with total enrolment in higher education institutions in 2016 amounting to 49.9% of all enrolments within the sector; TVET colleges amounted to 30.8% of all enrolments; CET colleges 11.9% of all enrolments; and private colleges 7.4% of all enrolments within the sector.

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