The Value of Designated Subjects in Terms of Likely Student Success in Higher Education

30-06-14 USAf 0 comment

This study was a continuation of an investigation started in 2011, into the claim that a certain set of subjects offered at high school (the ‘designated’ or ‘gateway’ subjects) were the best predictors for student success at higher education.  In 2011, when the first study was commissioned, it was still too early to make any kind of assessment in this regard, as the class of 2008 needed between 1 and 4 years to conclude their under-graduate programmes.  In 2014, the National Senior Certificate (NSC) was in its sixth year of implementation. It was therefore now possible to investigate the 2008 cohort who had entered higher education for the first time in 2009.

The purpose of the study was to assist the then Higher Education South Africa (HESA) in making a decision either (a) to reduce the current designated subject list to the original ‘narrow’ list proposed by the South African Universities Vice-Chancellors’ Association-Committee of Technikon Principals (SAUVCA-CTP), or (b) to broaden the list to include vocational subjects with higher pass requirements across the board, or (c) to abandon the list and introduce a compulsory national/regional entry examination as the sole determinant for entry into higher education studies, or (d) to abandon the list and introduce a compulsory national/regional entry examination combined with school aggregates, or (e) to maintain the status quo.

Contrary to the assumption made prior to this study, that there would be a clear relationship between designated subjects and success in higher education – particularly success in a Bachelor’s Degree – this assumption turned out to be contestable. It was therefore recommended that the status quo be maintained until further investigations could be made.

In 2017, signals from the Departments of Higher Education and Training (DHET) and Basic Education (DBE) indicate that the “designated list” of NSC subjects which forms part of the gazetted minimum requirements for higher education admission is being reviewed and is likely to be abolished.  At the request of the DHET, USAf’s Admissions Committee was doing preparatory work for a project to determine appropriate minimum requirements for entry into certificate, diploma and degree study in public and private HEIs. As at August 2017, the Admissions Committee was preparing to invite proposals from qualifying entities to conduct this inquiry. It is envisaged that studies will get underway early in 2018, yielding findings towards mid-year. Read more in Projects

Click here for the detailed report from the 2014 study.

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