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Pandemic sees spike in private higher education enrolment

Picture: file

Picture: file

Published Apr 11, 2022


Student enrolment at private higher education institutions in South Africa has more than doubled in recent years as demand was further fuelled by the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to statistics on post-school education and training in South Africa, there has been an increase of 102.8% or 105 942 students, from 103 036 in 2011 to 208 978 in 2019.

These figures are based on institutions listed on the Register of Selection of Private Higher Education Institutions (PHEIs). They emphasise the important part that these institutions play in the lives of hundreds of thousands of students.

During the pandemic, student enrolment increased to 219 031 in private higher education institutions. This saw an increase of 10 053 more students enrolled in 2020 as compared with 2019.

According to the research, South Africa has more than one million students in the higher education system, yet the country has a participation rate of below 20%. The participation rate refers to students who are enrolled in higher education institutions as compared with adults in that age group who are not.

From the above statistics it is evident that public higher education does not have the resources or technology to absorb all tertiary students. More than 100 000 students are in private higher education institutions.

However, private higher education institutions are also under constant pressure to enrol and retain students in both the contact and distance modes of instruction. Since the beginning of the pandemic, lack of government funding and an increase in unemployment have challenged private higher education institutions.