Student enrolment planning in public higher education : a South African case study
Pillay, Thirumurthie Shunmugham
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In South Africa, the transformation of public higher education has placed much emphasis on the accountability and performance of individual institutions. Various indicators are used to assess institutional performance, as is the case internationally. Examples of such indicators include teaching and learning, research outputs, graduate employability, financial sustainability and productivity and the use of resources. This case study which is predominantly qualitative, examined: i) Performance by a selected South African University of Technology, the Durban University of Technology (DUT), in specific performance indicators as determined by policy on student enrolment planning. Student enrolment planning is an important strategy adopted by government to address a number of distortions in the higher education system which had been developed over a number of years within the ideology of apartheid. ii) The measures taken by the institution to give effect to the policy. The case study utilised multiple methods of data collection within three units of analysis. The three units of analysis of the case are: Unit of analysis One: The practices used at the DUT for marketing, student recruitment, student selection and admission to achieve the input indicators of the student enrolment plan. Unit of analysis Two: implementation strategies for meeting the output (success) indicators of the plan. Unit of analysis Three: The problem of low student retention. The original contribution made by this research study is that it provides detailed insight into the implementation of policy of student enrolment planning, using the Durban University of Technology as an example. In so doing, the researcher has identified critical areas that impact on student enrolment planning in South Africa, as well as specific weaknesses in the implementation of the policy at the DUT. A part of the study’s findings is that the DUT is well–placed to meet the performance indicators of the enrolment plan. However, the addressing of weaknesses in the areas of student selection, marketing and recruitment could improve the DUT’s ability to exert more influence over its enrolments. The study determined that the problem of low student retention is a factor that threatens the DUT’s throughput and graduation rates. Broad and specific recommendations are made for implementation, including the adoption of the organisational framework of enrolment management supported by institutional research.