Minister of Higher Education Naledi Pandor Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)
Pretoria - Most university students were completing their undergraduate degrees after seven years despite government spending R20 billion annually on study funds.

Higher Education and Training Minister Naledi Pandor yesterday bemoaned this trend.

Pandor 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 detailing trends and statistics of the higher education system in Pretoria yesterday.

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 of studying. The situation was even worse in distance education, which is dominated by Unisa, as only 18% obtained their degree after seven years.

Roughly 20% of the students drop out without attaining their undergraduate degrees.

Pandor described the data as worrying. “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?.

“South Africa has refused to answer this question for several years. But the low throughput rates, eight years to complete an undergraduate degree, suggests 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.

Announcing the performance of the Post-School Education and Training system in Pretoria, she said males were earning roughly R2052 more than their female colleagues in institutional workplaces.

“I think it is an unfair practice and it is something that should be brought to the attention of the appropriate authorities.

“People should fight for their rights in institutions they work in because our Constitution does not allow that kind of unfair discrimination.”

Another disturbing issue, Pandor said, was of young black graduates not being able to secure better-paying jobs with their degrees.

“Students with good networks are the ones from white and Indian communities, who tend to find it easier to secure employment in contrast to young black and coloured students.

“I think these are areas that we must give more attention to. Again, one of the things that I must emphasise is entrepreneurship support, having an interest in forming your own business as a young person using your creative abilities to create an enterprise that will establish jobs for others,” Pandor said.

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

Pretoria News