Graduate unemployment, Higher Education access and success, and teacher production in South Africa

Author(s): Servaas van der Berg , Hendrik van Broekhuizen (Candidate)

Candidate: Hendrik van Broekhuizen
Supervisor: Professor Servaas van der Berg
Co-supervisor: Doctor Rulof Burger
Institution: Stellenbosch University, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, Department of Economics

Abstract:

In the context of South Africa’s socio-economic challenges, Higher Education (HE) has a key role to play, not just in terms of producing sufficient numbers of graduates and the scarce skills that are required for economic development and growth, but also in terms of providing opportunities for social mobility and restitution. This dissertation examines the extent to which the public HE system fulls these roles by investigating three topics within the nexus between the secondary schooling system, HE, and the labour market in South Africa.

Chapter 2 of the dissertation investigates graduate unemployment by focussing on the associations between HE institutions and the expected employment and unemployment outcomes for graduates from different race groups. Using a probabilistic approach to link labour force and HE data, the chapter estimates the associations between the probability of having graduated from a particular type of HE institution and the likelihood of being unemployed or employed. The results indicate that graduate unemployment in South Africa is neither high, nor rising rapidly over time and that much of the observed inter-racial variation in graduate unemployment rates may be explained by differences in the types of HE institutions that different race groups have historically been likely to attend.

Chapter 3 investigates HE access and success in the Western Cape, with specific emphasis on the roles that demographics, academic performance, and school-level factors play in explaining the extent of, and the differentials in, HE participation and throughput among matric learners in the province. By explicitly linking learner records from matric examination data with student records from HE data, the chapter estimates the marginal contributions and relative importance of various pre-entry correlates and HE-level factors for observed HE outcomes among learners in the Western Cape and illustrates the respective roles that HE access rate and HE throughput rate differentials play in explaining observed racial differentials in HE graduations. The findings reveal that HE access, throughput, and dropout rates are strongly correlated with matric performance and that much of the observed racial differentials in HE access and dropout in the Western Cape can be explained by differences in matric performance levels between race groups. It is argued that the persistent HE completion rate premiums for White students may partly be driven by differential conditional selection into HE.

Lastly, Chapter 4 focusses on the production of Initial Teacher Education (ITE) graduates by the public HE system between 2004 and 2013 and its implications for teacher supply in South Africa. Using aggregate Higher Education Management Information System (HEMIS) data, the chapter provides a comprehensive descriptive analysis of the trends and underlying correlates of first-time enrolments and graduations in ITE programmes. Despite the fact that enrolments and graduations in ITE programmes have risen significantly since 2004, the findings suggest that South Africa is currently not producing sufficient numbers of teacher graduates. Projections indicate that the system could begin to produce sufficient numbers of graduates to satisfy projected teacher demand within the next decade, conditional on current enrolment growth and programme throughput rates. The chapter concludes that, in order to address South Africa’s teacher supply shortfall, greater emphasis is needed on ensuring that ITE students complete their programmes, specialise in high-demand subject areas and phases, and transition into the teaching profession with minimal delay.

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