South African student retention during 2020: Evidence from system wide higher education institutional data

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Show simple item record Branson, Nicola Ranchhod, Vimal Whitelaw, Emma 2023-08-31T16:00:41Z 2023-08-31T16:00:41Z 2023-08
dc.identifier.citation Branson, N., Ranchhod, V., Whitelaw, E. (2023). South African student retention during 2020: Evidence from system wide higher education institutional data. Cape Town: Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town. (SALDRU Working Paper Number 300)
dc.description Classification codes: I24, I22, I23 en_US
dc.description.abstract Using longitudinal, institutional data we document the impact of COVID-19 on undergraduate student retention at public universities in South Africa. We find that student dropout increased in 2020 for students in 3-5th year, with little evidence of a change for those entering their second year of study. These aggregate findings mask significant differences across institutions. Students enrolled in most historically advantaged traditional institutions, and some comprehensive institutions, were not significantly affected, whereas dropout increased significantly at the University of Fort Hare, Walter Sisulu University and the University of Venda, three historically disadvantaged institutions located in rural areas. No difference in retention is found, however, for students enrolled at the University of Zululand (UZ) or the University of Limpopo (UL), equally resource-disadvantaged institutions where a majority (over 90%) of students are funded via the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). Furthermore, at institutions where dropout increased, NSFAS-funded students were less impacted than their unfunded peers. Our overall findings accord with growing evidence that COVID-19-related changes in the sector differentially impacted students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. However, they also illustrate that the NSFAS bursary appears to have provided a social safety net during this time. Finally, the example of UZ and the UL provide suggestive evidence that institutional relational aspects are important too. Together, these results foreground the complex interplay of factors impacting a students decision to drop out of or remain in university, highlighting that institutional responses and/or relational context during a crisis like COVID-19 can positively impact student retention. en_US
dc.description.sponsorship This research was made possible by a grant from the Spencer Foundation (grant number 202100035). The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Spencer Foundation. en_US
dc.language.iso en en_US
dc.relation.ispartofseries Saldru Working Paper;300
dc.subject Student retention en_US
dc.subject Dropout en_US
dc.subject Educational inequalities en_US
dc.subject Higher education en_US
dc.subject South Africa en_US
dc.subject Institutional data en_US
dc.subject COVID-19 en_US
dc.title South African student retention during 2020: Evidence from system wide higher education institutional data en_US
dc.type Working Paper en_US

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