Inyathelo in the Headlines

Balance needed between teaching and research - 22 May 2014 - Cape Argus

The Quality and status of teaching at South African universities are two of the key issues affecting student success at tertiary level, according to a new report. The report, titled "Student Access and Success: Issues and Interventions in South African Universities", was released by Inyathelo: The South African Institute for Advancement yesterday and suggests that universities should look at a more equitable balance between teaching and research.

Inyathelo programme director Gabrielle Ritchie said low participation and dismal student graduation rates were undoubtedly the biggest challenges facing the higher education sector. According to an Inyathelo statement, recent research shows that only 27 percent of South African undergraduates complete their studies in the minimum time and only about half of those entering university ever graduate. "Moreover, the legacy of apartheid in education appears to persist with only 10 percent of black students gaining access to university and less than 5 percent completing degrees." According to the report "academic cultures" continue to show a greater interest in research production than the improvement of teaching.

Lead researcher Thandi Lewin said that addressing poor student success rates had to include systemic rather than individual responses. "Many approaches still try to fix the weak academic literacy of students entering universities rather than also looking at systemic change to university curricula and teaching. "The research shows that multidimensional approaches are necessary to bring about change, and on the positive side, there are finally some signs that shifts may be taking place in recognising the role of institutions in adapting their structures and approaches to respond to poor success rates. At the centre of this is recognising the importance of teaching in higher education."

In-depth interviews with heads of academic development units at 18 of the country's 23 universities were conducted for the study, funded by the US based Kresge Foundation

(Cape Argus, AM Edition. 2014/05/22 12:00:00 AM, Page: p.18)