How are UCT students funding their studies?

SALDRU’s Dr. Nicola Branson with the Minister of Higher Education and Training, Naldi Pandor

Speaking at the 2018 Siyamphumelela Conference, a three-day event that took place in Johannesburg in June, SALDRU’s Dr. Nicola Branson presented preliminary findings from a study that examines the sources of funding for students at the University of Cape Town (UCT).

The Siyaphumelela program, funded by the Kresge Foundation, “is aimed at enhancing the use of data analytics to improve student retention and success in higher education in South Africa.” The annual Siyamphumelela conference is a platform where experts in the field of higher education come together to discuss challenges facing students. This year, the conference was opened by South Africa’s Minister of Higher Education and Training, Naledi Pandor.

The study forms part of Janneke Dlamini’s PhD thesis, supervised by Branson and Murray Leibbrandt, and is a partnership between SALDRU’s Siyaphambili Project and UCT. It was initiated in response to the wave of students’ protests in 2015 against the high cost of studying at South African universities.

Branson reported that the majority of UCT students use more than one source of funding to get through their studies. The different sources of funding include, scholarships, bank loans, National Student Financial Aid Scheme, (NSFAS), Ikusasa Student Financial Aid Program (ISFAP), UCT’s GAP funding program, family support and self-funding.

The study found that 52% of students used at least one funding source over and above family and self-support. Whilst 14% of students use two funding sources over and above family and self-support.

There are interesting differences between first generation i.e. students who are the first in their family to attempt and hopefully qualify with a university qualification, and students whose parents obtained post-school qualifications.

For first generation students, 61% use one additional source of funding other than family and self-support, such as NSFAS, and a further 18% use two of more additional sources. In contrast, only 55% of students with parents with post-school qualifications rely on external sources.

For those students who are not first generation, 45% depend on family and self-support only. Whilst only 21% of first generation students rely on family and self-support only.

It can be surmised that the vast majority of students that are coming to university for the first time, come from families that are not able to fund their studies entirely.

As this study is not yet concluded, these findings are still preliminary, however, the emerging picture underscores the twin challenges of development and transformation.

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