Varsities bursting at seams
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Durban - Universities are bursting at the seams and in KwaZulu-Natal school-leavers have only a one-in-eight chance of winning a place to study. In other parts of the country the demand for places is higher.
The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), the University of Zululand (Unizulu), Durban University of Technology (DUT) and the Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) have sifted through thousands of undergraduate applications for this year’s intake, some of which failed to meet the admission requirements.
More than 90 000 prospective students jostled for 8 400 undergraduate places at UKZN, while Unizulu whittled down a list of 68 228 undergraduate applications, all vying for just 6 500 spots.
MUT, which can accommodate only 3 100 first-year students, received 40 000 undergraduate applications.
Figures released by the centralised office which processes applications to all four of KZN’s universities revealed that the most popular fields of study were social work, education, nursing and psychology.
Of the 2014 crop of South African matriculants, 150 752 qualified for admission to study towards a degree (Bachelor’s pass), and 166 689 for admission to study towards a diploma.
However, not all applicants to KZN’s universities meet the admission requirements.
In 2013, less than half of all applicants met the admission requirements. Many applied for courses where maths was a requirement, but had not passed the subject well enough.
Many KZN pupils are also choosing to leave home and study in other provinces, at institutions including the University of Cape Town (UCT), Stellenbosch University, the University of the Witwatersrand, and Pretoria University.
The number of KZN school-leavers enrolled at Stellenbosch University had increased by at least 37% since 2010, as was previously reported.
An estimated 10% of undergraduates enrolled at UCT in 2013 were from public schools in KZN.
While many universities do not accept late applications, UKZN is considering those from pupils who performed exceptionally in matric, to courses where there are still places available. A penalty fee of R400 would have to be paid.
Unizulu and MUT were not accepting walk-in applications during the registration period.
Only about 10% of applicants to Joburg’s two universities, Wits and the University of Johannesburg, have been accepted for this year.
University figures showed there were 51 000 applications to Wits with only 6 500 available places, and 111 200 applications to UJ with only 10 500 places.
The Higher Education Department has again urged school-leavers to enrol at Technical and Vocational Education and Training colleges (formerly known as Further Education and Training colleges).
In an effort to inspire confidence in these colleges, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande has taken steps that include developing a policy stipulating the qualifications of lecturers, and appointing external financial and human resources specialists to assist with management.
Asked how the Higher Education Department sought to alleviate the pressure on universities of ever-increasing volumes of applications, department spokesman Khaye Nkwanyana said it was important that universities collaborated and referred prospective students elsewhere when they were full.
Over the past two decades, the enrolment figures at universities have doubled, and Adam Habib, vice-chancellor of Wits, and Cheryl de la Rey, vice-chancellor of the University of Pretoria, have both previously told The Mercury that the imbalance between demand and supply is the single greatest failure in higher education since 1994.
The government’s development blueprint, the National Development Plan, acknowledges the “considerable strain” that universities have been under because government funding has not kept up with the increase in enrolments.
The consequences of that have been the slow growth in the number of university lecturers, and “creaking” university infrastructure.