Tertiary insitutions are closing - don't panic

Some recent matriculants are entering an anxious period as they watch their friends head off to universities and private higher education institutions around the country, without them having committed to their own further study plans for this year. But although there are still some options available to them, two education experts have warned them to guard against panicking, as it may cause hasty decisions that may be later regretted.

“Unfortunately there are still many recent school leavers who have not secured a place for the 2014 academic year, or worse, are still uncertain about what they want to do,” notes Dr Felicity Coughlan, Director of the Independent Institute of Education (IIE), South Africa’s largest private higher education provider.

“Stress and pressure may be mounting, leading to a real risk of settling for the wrong course of action, because of the time pressure,” she says. Coughlan says that students must now, even though time is of the essence, be especially cautious.

“While there are in fact still several options open – ranging from Higher Certificates to prepare you for degree study next year or a range of vocational options in the design fields, to traditional degrees and diplomas; ensuring that you sign up for a respected course remains crucial.”

Coughlan says that because students are feeling the pressure, they may neglect to ask the questions they should be asking. However, any information they require should be even more readily available at this stage, she says.

“When investigating your options at private institutions where the registration period may still be open for another week or two, ask to see the lecture rooms or prescribed texts and to meet lecturers,” she suggests.

Coughlan says although many institutions will be of a high quality, others need to be treated with caution. And when visiting a campus, it will be reasonably easy to assess the reasons for its accepting late applications.

“Sometimes, significant enrolment numbers mean that additional classes will have been provided for. In other instances, a class may not yet be full, or a programme may be new. Any of these could be a good reason for accepting late enrolments.

“The key is to see for yourself whether the reasons provided by the institution for accepting applications this late are credible, and match what you see when you visit the campus.”

Erika Steinhobel, Assistant Head of Programme: Information Technology at the IIE, says an informal survey among Gauteng school leavers who have not yet secured a space at a higher education institution, indicates that these prospective students experience confusion and feel trapped by their lack of a plan of action for 2014.

“While it is time to begin to turn our focus to this year’s matriculants, there are still a few of last year’s school leavers who need our support,” she says.

“Too many of our school children are unaware of the options available to them once they receive their matric results. And it is clear from our discussions that most of the learners were given very narrow, if any, information and guidance.

“Rarely are they given any strong information about alternatives to the traditional public institutions, and even within those institutions, to the less than conventional career paths.” Steinhobel says that inadequate information inevitably leads to uninformed decision making.

“While there is a great deal of information available on the internet, students will only access it if they have some idea of what to look for. Therefore, perhaps the focus in 2014 needs to be on offering students more regular and comprehensive glimpses into the post schooling world they do not already know about.

“A wider knowledge about the diplomas, programmes and degrees in specialised vocational areas, as well as information about the various higher education options in both the public and private sector, will better equip the matriculants of 2014 to make the right decisions – timeously – about their study opportunities in 2015.”