Insufficient post-school academic study opportunities are resulting in many students looking to study abroad.

This article 1 in the series on studying abroad.

There is an emerging trend that sees more and more South Africans looking to study abroad. As career guidance specialists we are amongst the first to notice such trends.

There are so many ways to address the question as to why so many South African students are looking to study abroad. I suppose this is because there is no one single reason. Some of the reasons may include gaining access to public universities, falling academic rankings at these institutions, perceptions surrounding research output at Private Institutions, and some others.

This article will deal with gaining access.

South Africa currently has 26 Public Higher education Institutions catering for a population of around 55 million people. Prior to 1994 there were a similar number of institutions but catering only for a population of around 4 million. In essence what this means is that there are not enough public higher education institutions in the country to cater for all the applicants. This results in only the top scholastic achievers gaining access whilst solid, above average scholars cannot get a place, despite their scholastic performance being good enough to cope with higher education. In other words a solid 60% average student who prior to 1994 would have got access into almost any university programme is now unlikely to get access at all.

So where do these students go. Well there has been a huge increase in demand for private education. There are currently around 95 accredited private colleges in South Africa and the numbers are growing.

The education industry however is by its very nature quite elitist. Students want to graduate from the best universities. They want the opportunity to move from one university to another to do a post-graduate programme. Students who are thinking ahead are looking to enter universities that allow them the best opportunity for advancing their qualification. Private education institutions bar a few (and only in selected fields) do not cater for this student who in the past was catered for with their 60% average.

This student if affordability allows will be looking to study abroad not necessarily as their first choice but rather because the other available options are not suitable.

Affordability is an issue however. Only around 5% of the population will be able to afford to study abroad without a bursary, scholarship or some other form of financial aid. Perhaps the funding of overseas study is an article for another time.

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