Only 4% of South Africans who start school get a degree

For every 100 students who start school in South Africa, only 12 go to university, and only four of them get a degree within six years.

This is one of the findings in the academic paper Higher Education Access and Outcomes for the 2008 National Matric Cohort.

[Also read: Important research inputs on #FeesMustFall]

The research used data that combines matric examinations data from 2008 to 2013, with data from all South African universities from 2009 to 2014. It also used data from the EMIS Masterlist and the 2011 national census.

The insights derived from the research included:

  • Approximately one-third of matriculants who obtained Bachelor passes never go to university.
  • When considering matriculants who obtained Bachelor passes, overall university access is not biased against black students or significantly biased against students from poorer schools.
  • A large proportion of matriculants who do go to university do not enter university in the year following matric, but only one or more years later.
  • Matric marks are a good indicator of university access, but are only weakly related to eventual university success.
  • There are extremely large differences across universities in the average matric performance of students who attend these universities.
  • It takes a long time for many students to successfully obtain university qualifications.
  • Dropout rates at university, though high, are not as high as are often reported, because many students who are considered “dropouts” only changed their degree programme, switched from a degree to a diploma or certificate programme, or enrolled in a different university.

The research found that matrics who attend expensive, quality schools are four-times more likely to access university than those from the poorest 60% of schools.

The Qualifications Hierarchy

The research found that of 100 students who start school in South Africa:

  • 12 access university
  • 6 get some kind of qualification within six years
  • 4 get a degree within six years

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Only 4% of South Africans who start school get a degree