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SANRC concerned about low throughput rates among first-year students

Azra Hoosen |
1 March 2024 | 17:00 CAT
2 min read

The South African higher education system continues to face significant hurdles, particularly concerning low throughput rates among first-year students.

Dr. Annsilla Nyar-Ndlovu, Director of the South African National Resource Centre for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition (SANRC), based at the University of Johannesburg, highlights these persistent challenges. SANRC, a center funded by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), advocates for targeted interventions to enhance student retention and success rates.

Dr. Nyar-Ndlovu highlighted, in an interview with Radio Islam, the significant concern regarding what they term ‘low throughput’ within the higher education system. This term refers to situations where students either fail to pass or take an extended period to progress through the system.

“Our data shows that young people who enter the higher education system are not graduating in the minimum time, which is 3 years. This is true of both contact and distant modes of education. On account of the pandemic, evidence indicates that at some of our rural-based universities, the throughput rates have appeared to decline. This is an issue of concern for us for a long time. The center was set up to support this transition and address these issues,” she said.

Dr. Nyar-Ndlovu highlighted that some students harbour unrealistic expectations regarding what is required to succeed in higher education. Often, these decisions are made without adequate information or under pressure, leading to panic. She emphasized the concept of “cultural capital”, which encompasses networks, connections, guidance, and resources necessary for success at the university level. Many students lack access to these vital elements, which impacts their chances of succeeding in their academic endeavours.

Dr. Nyar-Ndlovu said that SANRC focuses on raising awareness of the critical importance of the first year of university education. This period is pivotal as it lays the foundation for students’ study habits and academic behaviour, which significantly influence their chances of success. However, it is also a stage where many students encounter challenges and risk dropping out.

She stated that SANRC also emphasises the need for attention and support to be provided to students during this crucial phase to prevent them from falling through the cracks and ensure their academic progression and retention.

“We want not just the university, but everyone including the parents and employers, and civil society to understand what the first year means for students as well as understand the number of unrecognized hardships they face,” she said.

She believes that this has been an eye-opener to Universities and they are stepping up.

“Over the last few decades, there have been interventions by universities, some spearheaded by the Department of Education. There is also increased attention to academic advising, enhanced counselling, and digital platforms that can consult students. If universities can step up and support students during their first year, it can help in setting them up for success in the following years,” Dr. Nyar-Ndlovu said.

LISTEN to the full interview with Ml Junaid Kharsany and Dr Annsilla Nyar-Ndlovu, Director of the SANRC, here.


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