The predictive value of school performance on the success of students in the accountancy stream at the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg.
Higher education in South Africa is currently undergoing enormous transformation with the traditional matric certificate being replaced by the new school leaving Further Education and Training Certificate (FETC). As a result the use of matric points as an entry requirement for prospective university students will no longer be possible with effect from 2008. The Education Ministry intends setting national admission criteria to which all of the country's universities and technikons would have to adhere. It is therefore an appropriate time to examine existing selection criteria and determine whether they achieve equity in the distribution of opportunities and provide fair chances of success to all those who wish to achieve their potential through higher education. The aim of this research is to find empirical evidence as to the predictive value, if any, of matric points on students' performance at university in the field of accountancy, and to establish whether a good mathematics result is a necessary prerequisite to studying accountancy as a major at university. In order to achieve this a longitudinal study using correlational and linear regression analyses was conducted on the results of two groups of students as they progressed from first year through to fourth year at the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg. The results showed that at the first and second-year levels there was indeed a positive linear relationship between the final marks of the first-year students and both the matric points held by those students and their matric mathematics results. The results of the linear regression analysis indicated that matric points are a stronger predictor of success in the first-year and second-year accounting course than the matric mathematics results. At third and fourth-year levels, the analyses revealed a moderately positive linear relationship between performance in these two courses and the matric mathematics results. Interestingly, at this level matric mathematics became a more important predictor of performance than matric points. While it may no longer be possible to use matric points as an entry requirement for university study due to the phasing out of the current matriculation certificate, it would seem obvious that some measure of high school performance would also benefit the selectors in providing access to those students most likely to succeed. This study has shown that school performance and mathematics ability, which have a significant impact on the performance of students in the accountancy programme at university, are important factors which cannot be ignored in whatever model is devised for selection.