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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

Over the years there has been an overall growth in graduate output in the South African public higher education system. In examining the period from 2001 to 2011 and the qualification levels, it is evident that the growth has not been sequential at undergraduate as well as postgraduate levels. Graduates produced at undergraduate level show annual increase, whereas the patterns observed at postgraduate level shows increases and decreases over the years.

The charts below stands in support of the above statement showing the trends of graduates produced at undergraduate and postgraduate level from 2001 to 2011.

Figure 1 Graduates produced at system level per qualification level, 2002 to 2012

 

Source: HEMIS

 

The South African higher education system is primarily undergraduate, hence it is expected that the bulk of the graduates produced would be at undergraduate level. The graph below shows graduates clustered by qualification type. As can be seen, public higher education has been producing an increasing number of graduates. The increase is mostly in the undergraduate degrees (68% increase) followed by undergraduate diplomas (57% increase).

 

Figure 2 Graduates produced at system level per qualification type (grouped), 2001 to 2011



Source: HEMIS

Although at postgraduate below masters level there has been an overall increase in the graduates produced, this increase was not consistent over the years. The overall growth was 81% from 2001 to 2011, despite the fact that between 2004 and 2007 the graduate numbers decreased and only started increasing again from 2007 onwards.

At master’s and doctoral level the increases were numerically small, yet from 2001 to 2011 doctoral graduates increased by 98 percent to almost double in a period of 11 years.

The graduates at postgraduate level constitute about 25% of the total graduates produced in South African public higher education per year. As can be seen from the graph below, the overall proportions of undergraduates to postgraduates basically remained unchanged from 2001 to 2011.


Figure 3 Graduates by level of study, 2001 and 2011

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 2001.


Figure 5 System level graduates by broad field of study for 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2011

Source: HEMIS

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 level, the highest proportion of graduates is in humanities and social sciences, but at doctoral level, the highest proportion of graduates is in science, engineering and technology. At masters level the HSS graduates are basically equal to the SET graduates. 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 2011

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 engineering technology shows to be a popular category, only second to the health care and health sciences. More doctoral graduates are produced in the health care and health sciences. Although life sciences and physical sciences produced the third most graduates, proportionally this category produces the highest percentage of doctoral and masters graduates.

Table 1 Graduates in Science, Engineering and Technology, 2012

Source: HEMIS

Graduates in Engineering

The table below shows the engineering graduates produced in 2011. Over 80% of the engineering graduates are at undergraduate level and 43% have completed their first degrees, while 42% completed diplomas and certificates.

Electrical, Electronics and Communications Engineering produced the most graduates, closely followed by civil engineering. About 57% percent of these have completed certification and diploma qualifications, while 34% graduated at first degree level.

Table 2 Graduates in Engineering, 2011




Source: HEMIS

Graduates in Humanities and Social Sciences

The table below shows that almost half of the humanities and social science graduates are in Edu, followed by social sciences, public Admin and law.

Table 3 Graduates in Humanities and Social Sciences, 2011
Table 3 Graduates in Humanities and Social Sciences, 2011
Source: HEMIS

Graduates for the Teaching Profession

A very important task of higher Education is training teachers for schools. In 2008, higher Education produced almost 30 000 Education graduates. Many of these would have been teachers upgrading their qualifications, rather than new teachers entering the profession. According to the Department of Basic Education, there were 413 067 teachers in South Africa in 2009. This table summarizes the number of graduates in Education, showing their areas of specialisation.

Table 4 Graduates in Education, 2011

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 2008 are in accounting followed by Management. These make up about 70 percent of the BCM graduates.

Table 5 Graduates in Business, Commerce and Management, 2011

Source: HEMIS

 

The table below shows the graduates by qualification type in Business Administration, Management and Operations and Accounting and Related Services for 2011. The bulk of the graduates did first degree and certificate and diplomas programmes. A significant proportion of these graduates are at postgraduate up to honours level. More than 10 percent of the graduates are at masters level.

Table 6 Graduates in Business Administration, Management and Operations and Accounting and Related Services, 2011

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: Postgraduate studies in South Africa - a statistical profile

Department of Basic Education, 2010. Education Stats in South Africa, 2009.

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