As our Matrics approach their very important Trial Exams, the focus for assembly on Monday was: What is required to be successful at tertiary level?

Recent student research by Cheryl Foxcroft Dean: Teaching and Learning at NMMU, reveals interesting and relevant data, some of which is alarming to say the least:

For example:

  • National dropout in 1st year of university sits at 29% (internationally at between 10 & 15%)
  • Recent success rates were 78% overall (best faculty was Education with 94%)
  • Only 50% of students passed a degree after 5 years and only 32% a diploma after the same period
  • A significant number of students change their courses 2 or 3 times

Ideally students should be well rounded and responsible i.e. HOLISTICALLY developed

Factors that impact on success:
1. Inadequate preparation
2. Lack of education
3. Lack of motivation
4. Lack of commitment
5. Finances
6. Curriculum issues
7. ICT and student support
8. Institution fit
9. Social Environment

Research conducted with students themselves on what were the barriers to success:
1. Failed a module 77%
2. Didn't ask questions 75%
3. Poor Time Management 72%
4. Don't stick to a study plan 70%
5. Don't read ahead 70%
6. Exam anxiety 69%
7. No study Groups 69%

Most students did not enjoy double lecture periods and felt that a 45 min period was more than long enough
There was a need to develop HABITS OF LEARNING

There needs to be a balance between challenge and support:
1. Scaffold their learning process
2. Need for appreciation
3. Need for attention ( feeling that one is noticed)
4. Need for importance ( you are cared about)
5. Need for dependence ( feeling of being needed by others)
6. Need for ego-extension ( feeling that someone else feels proud of one's success)
7. Most importantly there is a need for a SENSE OF BELONGING

Students will succeed in settings that:
1. Are committed to their success
2. Hold high expectations
3. Provide much needed academic and social support
4. Provide frequent feedback
5. Actively involve them in the learning process ( collaborative learning)

There is a significant jump from high school to university and an adjustment is required and therefore they require assistance in the transition. 

Developmental needs of first time entering students :
1. Language support and development 24%
2. Numeracy development 42% ( Maths )
3. Academic success strategies (time management , note taking) 43%
4. Supplementary instruction (tutors) 35%

What is required to be successful at tertiary level:
1. Need for informed study choices
2. Academic ability ( good writing skills, understanding, reading comprehension, numeracy skills )
3. Admission selection criteria ; school background and level of preparation ; key subjects done at school
4. Attended orientation
5. No financial worries (bursaries )
6. Support of family and friends
7. Suitable accommodation

What do the students themselves say what needs to be done for success:
1. Mind-set change ( need to work independently)
2. Need to be positive , passionate, goal orientated
3. Need for time management
4. Lecture attendance ( form study groups as well at school)
5. Work consistently
6. Take responsibility for their studies
7. Prepare for lectures and do what is expected
8. Consult lecturers
9. Understand that knowledge builds year on year
10. Need all the tools e.g. textbooks , stationery, study guides
11. Academic honesty

LIFELONG + LIFEWIDE LEARNING = HOLISTIC (recommend that students do co-curricular activities as well to ensure this)

" It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given that separates one person from another." Nelson Mandela

The F6 start their very important Trial Exams in earnest now. It is important that they are also focussed on their internal test process and strive to do their best.

I wish oour matric boys every success.


Chris Luman