Credentials and mobility: an analysis of the profile of students studying at registered private higher education institutions in South Africa
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Analysing the private higher education sector in relation to the public sector is not helpful, nor is aggregating student data to explain trends in private provision across a national system. This claim is illustrated by analysing the student target group identified by institutions, the profile of students enrolled and the perceptions of students of their motivation for studying at private institutions in South Africa. In South Africa, there are two distinct private sub-sectors, which target and attract a specific student base. Providers that claim to meet a demand for 'mobility' cater primarily for an historically privileged and newly privileged constituency, while
those that claim to meet a demand for specialised 'credentials' cater primarily for non-traditional students. A superficial reading of race and gender, of historical advantage and disadvantage, can obfuscate more than it illuminates, because age, socio-economic status, education background and citizenship interact in complex ways. Understanding the patterns of enrolment in distinct forms of provision provides a useful way of understanding what private providers promise to offer, and why students are attracted to them.