Government has published a review of the last 25 years of democracy, highlighting some of its successes and failures in tertiary education.
The document shows that the number of students graduating has steadily increased over the last two decades, with a total of 58,560 students graduating in 1994 compared to 210,931 students in 2017.
While throughput has improved at universities, only 22% of students completed their three-year degree within three years using the 2010 cohort, the review showed.
By comparison, only 39% had completed their degrees by the fourth year. By year six, only 56% of the students who registered in 2010, had completed their three-year degree.
“This implies spaces in the university sector can be increased further if more students complete their degrees within the expected time. The low throughput is costly in terms of time and resources,” government said.
The below graph shows the current drop-out rates for diplomas and degrees.
While this data is slightly out of date, it should be noted that government measures on a 4-year interval as it includes students who completed their 4-year degrees within the allotted time.
The review showed that universities need to put more effort into supporting students to complete their qualifications within the required time. The inequality is clearly shown when considering the dropout rate by race, government said.
“The first-year dropout rate has decreased from the high of 42% in 2000, to 25% for African students enrolled in diploma studies. For African students registered for a three-year degree, 22% of them dropped out in the first year compared to 15% for whites in 2011.
“The determination which has seen these students battle all odds to make it to the first year, shows a hidden talent and resilience, which the country can ill afford to lose. Thus measures are required to ensure they succeed when they reach university.”
White students as a percentage of the race group make up the highest percentage of students who obtain a Bachelors Degree, with around 25% of white students obtaining a Bachelors Degree after matric, the data showed.
By comparison, Indian/ Asians are around 15%, and Coloureds and Black Africans at around 5% of students obtaining a Bachelors Degree after matric.
“Notably the proportion of Africans matric graduates who go on to earn a bachelors has been in decline since 1990, and since 1983 for coloureds, whereas Indians/ Asians and Whites have been on the rise since about 1983.”