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UJ students benefit from INSETA bursaries

14 October 2014 Sandra Dunn, INSETA
Sandra Dunn, INSETA’s CEO.

Sandra Dunn, INSETA’s CEO.

Top UJ students delighted to be selected for INSETA’s bursary programme.

Top UJ students delighted to be selected for INSETA’s bursary programme.

In South Africa, the majority of black students come from low-income families who do not have the necessary finances to provide for and maintain students through higher education studies. Thus, many students either do not enrol in higher education, or drop out without completing their studies. This leads to a high proportion of those students affected by a lack of finance, also being disadvantaged academically. These conclusions are contained in a report released in August 2013, by the Council of Higher Education (CHE) called, “A proposal for undergraduate curriculum reform in South Africa: The case for a flexible curriculum structure.”

The report stresses that students’ access to, and achievement in higher education, is greatly affected by their socio-economic circumstances.

According to the report only 42% of African students and 43% of Coloured students, in contact universities, graduate within five years. African and Coloured students’ five-year completion rates are under 50% in most programmes.

“INSETA is therefore very pleased that we could contribute over R1,7 million in bursaries to students studying at the University of Johannesburg (UJ),” says INSETA’s CEO, Sandra Dunn.

“If you think it’s easy money, think again,” remarks Carl Anschutz, a Head of Department at UJ.

“There is a very rigorous vetting process wherein students have to demonstrate that they’re studying for the right qualifications as well as performing academically.”

“We had about 350 applications for the INSETA bursaries, but only 61 qualified – that’s less than 20% of those whom applied.”

The courses that the INSETA bursary programme covers are Hons BCOM Financial Planning; Hons BCOM Financial Management; Hons BCOM Investment Management and BCOM Finance.

The total value of the bursaries was R 1 728 710.00 and was given to 61 students. The bursary covers registration and tuition or class fees, which means that students still have to ensure that they source the balance of funds to cover things like books, accommodation, travel, and the like.

Anschutz says they work very well with INSETA and has experienced a seamless process over the past two years.

The CHE report referred to above highlight other challenges for BCom students, including students who study Financial Management; Financial Planning and Investment Management.

Among others these include:

o Underprepared students: The existing schooling system does not prepare students adequately for subject choices in commerce or for the business environment in general.

o Limited prior knowledge of commerce-related issues, terminology and context result in students struggling to make sense of business and financial concepts.

o This is more apparent in cases where students are from disadvantaged schools, or have not had prior experience of a commercial environment.

o A lack of prior knowledge is partly due to the limited range of commercial subjects offered at school level (accounting, economics and business studies), and the fact that these subjects are often not offered at all due to limited numbers of teaching staff qualified in these subjects. Therefore students enrolling for BCom studies at university seldom make this decision based on past experience in these subjects at school, or on effective career guidance.

o Further, most students are lacking in core mathematics abilities and are thus mathematically underprepared to deal with economics, mathematics, statistics and financial mathematics.

o Academic literacy levels are also low. Overall, this suggests the urgent need for better articulation between school and university to be taken into consideration in curriculum design.

o Increasing content volumes and complexity: The increased complexity of the global financial world has resulted in the development of new forms of knowledge, together with more legislation to regulate the business world, both in South Africa and internationally. The growth in financial products and markets, corporate governance requirements, commercial and tax legislation, accounting standards, and information systems, has resulted in a substantial increase in volumes of knowledge in the field of commerce. The response has often been curriculum overload with students taking as many as twelve or even fourteen courses within one year.

o Graduates’ lack of appropriate preparation for employment : Given that South Africa is a developing economy, it is increasingly recognised that the BCom curriculum should include the acquisition of general business acumen including entrepreneurship, job creation and leadership skills. In addition, the dynamic and crisis-ridden nature of international global business in the early 21st century suggests that all business graduates need skills in critical thinking and in ethical awareness. These requirements can be encompassed under the umbrella notion of ‘pervasive professional skills’ or ‘graduate attributes’. Employers in fact expect to have to initiate employees into specific job requirements. It was this reality that has often informed major employers’ preferences for recruiting top executives with politics, philosophy and economics degrees which proved their ability to think and operate at a high level rather than those with high levels of industry-specific knowledge.

“While INSETA’s bursary programmes make a world of difference to the students benefitting from them, they still face enormous challenges to ensure that they will successfully add more value to business and the industry as a whole,” concludes Dunn.

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