The beginning of the academic year has once again seen large queues at universities of students applying late for admission to study. It is clear that the central application system proposed by the Minister of Higher Education and Training is not adequately addressing the issue.
Comments made by some of the queuing matriculants, such as "I didn't know whether I wanted to study or work" and "I didn't expect to get university exemption" reveal that the problem of late application is not necessarily rooted in the application processes at universities. Universities have done much to make the application processes as accessible as possible.
In order to resolve the problem, the lack of proper career guidance in our school system needs to be addressed. The campaign by the Department of Higher Education and Training to promote early application is not sufficient to provide proper guidance and counselling. It is only through extensive career guidance that matriculants will be made aware of where the skills shortages are, what their employment prospects are and what and where to study to make themselves employable. This cannot be achieved through a campaign or statements issued by the Minister and his Department at the beginning of the academic year.
Career guidance should also focus on making Further Education and Training (FET) colleges a more attractive alternative to prospective students. Despite the call by the Department of Higher Education and Training that matriculants should also consider FET colleges, the reality is that FET colleges are not the first choice of students. The question has to be asked why this is the case despite the substantial financial injection the sector has received recently.
The DA therefore proposes that more emphasis be placed on career guidance at schools. This should be provided early on to ensure that matriculants are properly advised before applying to further their studies. It is also vital that the FET college sector be restructured and properly regulated to make it an attractive and meaningful option for school leavers in order to alleviate the burden on universities.
Annelie Lotriet, DA Spokesperson on Higher Education and Training