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Graduates from Higher Education

One of the key purposes of higher education is to produce qualified graduates. Here we look at the number and type of graduates produced.

The number and level of graduates

There has been an increase in total graduates produced from 2000 to 2010, although the growth has not been consistent from year to year for undergraduate and postgraduate studies.
The charts below stands in support of the above statement showing the trends of graduates produced at undergraduate and postgraduate level from 2000 to 2010.

Figure 1 Graduates produced at system level per qualification level, 2000 to 2010

Source: HEMIS

Figure 2 Graduates produced at system level per qualification type (grouped), 2000 to 2010

Source: HEMIS

As can be seen, public higher education has been producing an increasing number of graduates, but the increase is mostly at the undergraduate levels. The increases at postgraduate level below Masters were not consistent, but have been showing an upward curve from 2007. At Master’s and Doctoral level the increases were small, yet from 2000 to 2010 Doctoral graduates increased by 72% percent. The graduates in the undergraduate dip/cert rapidly increased (90%) from 2000 to 2009, however from 2009 to 2010 the trend seems to change where there was a very small increase in graduates.

South African higher education produces mostly undergraduate degrees, with postgraduates making up only 27% of graduates. The overall proportions of undergraduates to postgraduates remained fairly unchanged from 2000 to 2010. The breakdown by level of study is shown below for 2000 and 2010.

Figure 3 Graduates by level of study, 2000 and 2010

Source: HEMIS

The fields of knowledge in which people graduate

In order to understand the range of knowledge and skills that higher education is producing, graduates are classified in terms of the content of their programmes. The classification of education subject matter (CESM) classifies courses at a high level as well as in more detail. The three high level classifications are business, commerce and management (B&C), humanities and social sciences (Hum) and science, engineering and technology (SET).

The National Plan for Higher Education (2001) set overall targets for the proportion of graduates from each of these three high-level categories. The graph below shows how the higher education system has moved towards those targets since 2000.

Figure 5 System level graduates by broad field of study for 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010

Source: HEMIS

The proportional change in the graduate produced for the three major CESM categories show minimum changes in graduates produced in science, engineering and technology. The change is mostly between business and commerce. There has been a decline in graduates produced in humanities.

When we examine the graduates by broad CESM category and the level of study, we find differences at each level of study. At the undergraduate up to postgraduate below masters level, the highest proportion of graduates is in humanities and social sciences, but at doctoral and masters level, the highest proportion of graduates is in science, engineering and technology. There are very few graduates with research degrees in business, commerce and management, consistent with their historical lack of research focus.

Figure 6 System level graduates per field of study by qualification level for 2010

Source: HEMIS

Graduates in science, engineering and technology

The table below shows the graduates produced in specific categories within the science, engineering and technology field. Engineering and Health Professions and Related Clinical Sciences show to be the most popular category, producing the highest number of graduates.

Engineering has produced 28% of the undergraduates and 24% in total. Health Professions and Related Clinical Sciences produced 24% of the undergraduates and 38% of the postgraduates degrees below masters, 31% of the masters graduates and 27% in total. Of the doctoral graduates 29% graduated in Life Sciences and 23% in Physical Sciences.

Table 1 Graduates in Science, Engineering and Technology, 2010

Source: HEMIS

Graduates in Engineering
The table below shows the engineering graduates produced in 2010. Electrical, electronics and communication engineering produced the most graduates (25%), and about 91 percent of these graduates are at undergraduate level.

Table 2 Graduates in Engineering, 2010

Source: HEMIS

Graduates in Humanities and Social Sciences

The table below shows that more than half of the humanities and social science graduates are in education (55%). Social sciences, law, public management and services and psychology graduates a number of students after education.

Table 3 Graduates in Humanities and Social Sciences, 2010
 
Source: HEMIS

Graduates for the Teaching Profession

A very important task of higher education is training teachers for schools. In 2010, higher education produced more than 38 000 education graduates. Many of these would have been teachers upgrading their qualifications, rather than new teachers entering the profession. This table summarizes the number of graduates in education, showing their areas of specialisation.

Table 4 Graduates in Education, 2010

Source: HEMIS

Graduates in Business, Commerce and Management

The table below shows that most business, commerce and management graduates in the public higher education system in 2010 are in accounting followed by business administration and management. These make up about 58% of the BCM graduates.

Table 5 Graduates in business, commerce and Management, 2010

Source: HEMIS

Further resources on graduates

CHE, 2009. Higher Education Monitor No. 8: The State of Higher Education in South Africa
CHE, 2009. Higher Education Monitor No. 7: Postgraduate studies in South Africa – a statistical profile
Department of Basic Edu, 2010. Edu Stats in South Africa, 2009.

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