Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

Inherent Success Characteristics of Postgraduate Students at Rural-Based Higher Learning Institutions

Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

Inherent Success Characteristics of Postgraduate Students at Rural-Based Higher Learning Institutions

Article excerpt

Introduction

After the era of systematic racial segregation in South Africa, the post-apartheid administration undertook a radical measure of improving and expanding service delivery to ensure a stable and healthy livelihood for the masses (Constitution SA, 1996; Spaull, 2013). To sustain growth, independent and equity education was given much attention. Several reforms were made in the racial departments of education to bridge social exclusions and foster cohesion. It is on this premise that the government provided support in the form of capacity building and scholarships such as National Research Foundation (NRF), Department of Science and Technology (DST), Medical Research Council (MRD), the concept of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) and a host of other opportunities for research students with much focus on Masters and PhD (DST/NRF 2016, SABTT 2016; Department of Basic Education reports, 2017). Despite these numerous external and internal support systems, the rate at which postgraduate students are taking longer to complete their studies at the University of Venda remains a concern.

The University over the years has introduced internal funding such as Work-study which covers 100% tuition fee and accommodation for full -time postgraduate students and 75% for part-time postgraduate students. Internal grants for research and publication which covers all research costs such as data collection and analysis, printing, purchase of research software, hardware and other related materials as well as conferences are made available for all students. These supports were set aside to enhance active research and completion of programmes on record time (UNIVEN Annual report 2015). Despite this support, the majority of the students get stuck, some even fail and eventually drop out. For instance, the South Africa Higher Education Management Information System (HEMIS) report (2015) indicates that only 1.7% PhD and 7% Masters Students graduated on record time in 2013. PhD declined to 0.4% in 2014 and recovered to 3.3% in 2015, while Masters contributed only 7.3% and 14.2% in the same years.

It appears that the failure dilemma is an issue that many higher learning institutions in the country are grappling with. For instance, Naicker (2010) and Iwara et al (2018) noted that only 40% of the total Honours students pursue their degrees to graduate on record time and further to Master's level and only 5% end up graduating with a PhD. This argument was also supported by Dell (2010) who earlier noted that roughly 25-30% PhD candidates graduate on record time in the country. As a result, the government and the general public have expressed high levels of satisfaction dismay not only on the performance but also on the quality of graduates from the universities (Lamprecht, 2008; Naicker, 2010). It was noted that the average annual growth in PhD graduates is approximately 6%, and over 45% of the candidates who enrol never complete the degrees, and 29% of the total students drop out within the first two years (Council on Higher Education, 2009; Nkozi & Nkozi, 2011). Further, this issue has also been noted in the global space as Farka (2014) revealed that over 50% of Doctoral students drop out of their studies in many universities across the world. According to Iwara et al (2018), only 1 out of every 2 Doctoral students in the world stands a chance of completing their programme. It is not clear as to what might be causing the attrition.

Globally, factors deterring success of postgraduate students have been widely discussed. According to Farka (2014), lack of motivation, time management, lack of support from supervisors, procrastination, and poor writing skills were core factors that hamper the success of postgraduate students. Banerijero (2011) avers that two major factors which deter the success of postgraduate students are emotional issues such as depression, desperation and despair as well as intellectual issues such as poor reasoning and assimilation capacity. …

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