DURBAN - Most university students were completing their undergraduate degrees after a shocking seven years - despite government spending R20billion annually on study funds.

Higher Education and Training Minister Naledi Pandor yesterday bemoaned this trend. She raised the question the country’s academia has grappled with for years: are the matrics emerging from the school system prepared for university?

Pandor released a report in Pretoria on trends and statistics of the higher education system.

On student success, the report revealed that less than a quarter of students completed their undergraduate studies on time. About 70% obtained their first degree after seven years. The situation was even worse in distance education, which is dominated by Unisa, as only 18% obtained their degree after seven years.

“The big question I ask myself when I look at these statistics is it correct for us to continue to believe that young people are ready to pursue undergraduate studies immediately upon completion of Grade 12, or should we be looking at a different kind of approach?” Pandor asked.

“South Africa has refused to answer this question for several years. But the low throughput rates, seven years to complete an undergraduate degree, suggest there’s something around the preparedness that we need to pay attention to.”

Pandor also called for gender equality, and encouraged women to fight for their rights in the workplace.

She emphasised that there was a dire need for permanent positions in public institutions, as it was the only way to create job opportunities for young graduates. Staff Reporter