Performance of students in the College of Law and Management Studies, UKZN : an econometric analysis.
South Africa needs more higher education graduates with the capability to adapt to and function in a knowledge-driven and knowledge-dependent economy and society. High dropout and failure rates, as well as the slow progression of students, have revealed themselves as complex, persistent and seemingly intractable crises. These hindrances are fuelling student attrition, poor graduation, or low throughput rates in South African universities, and constitute a wastage of much needed potential skills for the South African economy. While on average less than 15 percent of a cohort of school leavers get into higher educational institutions, less than 50 percent graduate. Moreover, if high dropout and failure rates or the slow progression of students affect students from previously disadvantaged population groups in South African universities, this may result in further racial and socio-economic disparity in future generations. To identify determinants of students’ academic performance in the College of Law and Management Studies at UKZN, this study conducted focus groups, correlations sweep, and fits the students’ records data in two different educational production functions applying two econometric approaches, namely, Ordinary Least Squares and Logistic Regression models. Arising from focus group discussions, a consolidation of results indicated that unpreparedness that lead to exclusion on academic grounds, and financial difficulties were not wholly to blame. Other reasons including feeder high schools, life events, and the youth’s sundry needs were considerable stumbling blocks on the graduation path of students. An amalgam of perceptions on ways to address the quality of teaching and learning, services and support systems to students, academic staff members’ development, curriculum development, admission policy and placement of students in appropriate curricular routes as well as the most effective use of resources across the College of Law and Management Studies was reported. Results of correlations sweep showed some positive correlations between students’ performance at university and their matric scores. Results of Ordinary Least Squares and Logistic Regression analyses confirmed that important predictors of students’ academic performance are total matric points, matric Maths score, English I score, and English as home first language. In some extent, non-designated matric subjects scores that include matric Accounting score and matric Economics score play some role. This study, however, cautions that all the predictors identified play only a minor role since they predict only a very small proportion of the entire variance in students’ academic performance. This is evident from some of the pseudo-R2 and R2, which were low ranging from 2 to 65 percent pointing out low explanatory power. Conclusions emanating from these analyses are that these determinants of students’ academic performance are not straightforward measures of student quality, as they are the sum of complex and multifaceted process. Other personal and student demographic variables such as age and race play some role in predicting university success. Exogenous factors such as the institutional environment, intellectual leadership, a proper learning infrastructure and environment at the university, socio-economic characteristics, and psychological attitudes may also play an important role in predicting students’ performance, demanding further investigation. Some policy implications of the results are that: (1) hypotheses focusing their educational policy-making process and strategic planning for admission, retention and graduation rates based solely on student characteristics are challenged. Instead, an integrated holistic approach run parallel to appropriately targeted educational investments to enhance student success in the College is imperative making the prediction of students’ performance a far more complex and multifaceted process; (2) admission eligibility should consider additional mechanisms in the selection of candidates and their placement into appropriate curricular routes where they are more likely to be successful. This will go a long way in reversing the trends of student attrition and slow progression by keeping them on the graduation path and ultimately increasing the pass rates, graduation, and throughput rates in the College. These implications should be explored and integrated into the educational policy-making process and strategic planning.
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