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The motives behind students pursuing postgraduate studies in the Humanities: a case study of the postgraduate students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

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Through the development process, higher education provides the necessary tools and skills for individuals to access employment opportunities and improve human development. Global statistical evidence shows that those with higher education qualifications are more likely to be employed than those with lower-level education or no education at all. This has subsequently led to the growth in the enrollment of postgraduate students as a permanent feature in institutions of higher education across the globe. South Africa is not an exception to this trend because its National Development Plan views education as an essential element to the country’s developmental needs and foundation to alleviate poverty, unemployment, and inequalities. With the increasing enrollment of students into postgraduate studies, it becomes crucial to understand the main drivers of this phenomenon. This study is geared towards exploring the motives connected to pursuing postgraduate studies in the South African context. The study was conducted at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (Howard College Campus in the School of Humanities). Methodologically, the study employed a qualitative approach that involved semi-structured interviews with ten participants that were selected within the institution. The study showed that many participants attach several motives to pursuing higher education, with the need to access further employment and financial opportunities to better their livelihoods being the main drivers. Other participants were found to be driven by the need for self-development, their role models, and the need to improve their communities. While there has been a rapid increase in postgraduate intake, the lack of funding for postgraduate studies was a leading barrier and contributed to excessive financial exclusion. The study recommends that the government finds other proactive measures of developing a funding model that is explicitly targeting postgraduate students.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.