An evaluation of the University of KwaZulu-Natal Intensive Tution for Engineers (UNITE).
Ndlovu, Kevin Ayanda.
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This qualitative study is an evaluation of the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Intensive Tuition for Engineers (UNITE) program. It is based on the high attrition rate phenomenon prevalent within Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) degrees in many countries, including South Africa. A number of South African universities such as the University of KwaZulu-Natal, have sought to address this by establishing foundation programs like UNITE, designed specifically to assist students from disadvantaged backgrounds, who otherwise might not have the chance to study engineering at university level. These programs however experience challenges which limit their success and consequently result in a shortage of engineers in the country. This study therefore using purposive sampling, interviews and questionnaires collected data from seventeen students who had been through the UNITE program before and after 2005 as well as one lecturer and administrator in the program. This was done to efficiently and effectively investigate significant challenges faced by the University of KwaZulu-Natal Intensive Tuition for Engineers (UNITE) program and examines how these challenges influence the program performance with regards to achieving its targets and goals. To overcome the problem of biasness and validation, this research used multiple methods and measures of an empirical phenomenon called triangulation. This study concluded that the program falls short of its targets and is underperforming. The following have been cited as contributing challenges which have preserved the status quo: (a) curriculum structure upon time table, (b) lack of competent secondary educational background, (c) exclusion policy, (d) students personal problems and non-use of support program, (e) lack of funding (f) language barrier, and (h) class sizes. Interventions to address these challenges have either been insufficient, wrongly conceived or non-existent. Within the framework of evidence based theory, the data collected from the evaluation process and relevant literature was methodically analyzed to make recommendations that will address these challenges and maximize the program’s performance.