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An implementation analysis of the Immigration Act 13 0F 2002 (Study permit): A case study of foreign African postgraduate PhD students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal Pietermaritzburg campus.

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Post-apartheid South Africa has experienced a sharp increase in all categories of migration. South Africa has become the destination for migrants such as asylum seekers, traders, entrepreneur as well as students. Migrants moving from one country to the other to pursue a career have become a worldwide phenomenon. There has been an increase in the number of foreign (the term “international” is also used in the literature and in this study the terms are used interchangeably) students crossing borders to study in higher education institutions. Even though foreign students could choose the more developed countries to pursue their studies, developing countries such as India and South Africa are attracting these students. The majority of foreign students who choose South Africa as their destination country are usually students from neighboring African countries such as Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Congo, Kenya, Swaziland and Lesotho. There is also a small contingent from Europe and North America. This study aimed to investigate the experiences of foreign African postgraduate (PhD) students coming to study in South Africa particularly at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), Pietermaritzburg (PMB) Campus. It also sought to analyse the policies which enable foreign students to study in South Africa, the challenges they face when applying for, and renewing, their study permits as well as the experiences of government and university administrators in administering foreign students’ applications. The study sought to answer the following questions: 1. What are the reasons for foreign African postgraduate (PhD) students coming to study in South Africa? 2. What are the application processes and policies for foreign African postgraduate students to study in South Africa? 3. What are the systems and structures at UKZN PMB for foreign African postgraduate students to facilitate their studies? 4. What are the challenges that UKZN PMB foreign African postgraduate students face in accessing study permits? 5. What are the experiences of UKZN administrators in dealing with foreign African postgraduate student applications? The study used a qualitative research approach, namely, a case study. In-depth interviews were used to collect primary data from key informants comprising two assistant directors from the Department of Home Affairs, two UKZN administrators (with one being from the International Office), and 14 foreign African postgraduate (PhD) students. The latter were interviewed via two focus groups, with seven students per group. The study used thematic analysis to analyse the data. The themes were derived from the literature review and theoretical framework and were as follows: Conceptions of the Immigration Act 13 of 2002, policy implementation and programme delivery; managers and administrators’ experiences in relation to assisting foreign African postgraduate students; and, thirdly, the experiences of foreign African postgraduate students themselves. The study found that when the Department of Home Affairs implemented the above legislation it encountered various challenges including the submission of fraudulent documentation by foreign students. It also revealed that the street level bureaucrats, as policy actors, clearly understood the roles that they have to play in providing services to the beneficiaries of this legislation. Findings showed that foreign African students choose to study in South Africa as it is one of the countries closer to their country of origin and is well-known to have the best higher education institutions on the African continent. It was also found that foreign students are attracted by academic programmes available in South Africa which they do not have access to in their country of origin. This study revealed that most foreign African students experience numerous difficulties when applying for a study permit in their home country and also renewing them in South Africa. These challenges include standing for long hours in queues at the different embassies. Foreign African students also faced challenges of being denied a visa because they did not produce all the documents required as well as the experience of xenophobic attacks in the host country.


Master of Social Science in Policy and Development Studies. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg 2019.