Student retention & graduate destination: higher education & labour market access & success
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Student attrition has been a perennial theme in South African higher education throughout the past decade. In its National Plan for Higher Education (2001), the Department of Education attributed high dropout rates primarily to financial and/or academic exclusions. Four years later, it reported that 30% of students dropped out in their first year of study and a further 20% during their second and third years.
Against this backdrop, the erstwhile research programme on Human Resources Development initiated a research project to investigate more thoroughly why students dropped out, what led them to persist in higher education to graduation, and what made for a successful transition to the labour market. The chapters in this volume variously address these issues in relation to one or more of seven institutional case studies conducted in 2005.
Although the data analysed pertain to the 2002 cohort of graduating/non-completing students and to institutional data for 2004/5, their currency is confirmed by the recent interest expressed by the new Ministry of Higher Education and Training in exploring ways for 'continuously improving the access and success, particularly of black students, at all levels of the system' (Budget Speech, Minister of Higher Education and Training, June 2009).
The HSRC research programme on Education, Science and Skills Development spans three major social domains: education; science and innovation studies; and the world of work. The education domain focuses on issues of access, quality, relevance and equity at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels. Science and innovation studies explores the link between technology, innovation, and economic development. The world of work researches labour markets, skills, and human resources development. The strength of the programme resides, however, in its unique ability to harness research work at the interface of these three domains.