The case of a student support initiative by a student success programme at the University of Witwatersrand

Danie De Klerk , Mxolisi Masango , Tshepiso Maleswena, Fezile Mdluli, Ali Denewade, Linda Spark

The South African higher education sector has experienced turmoil in recent years. The reasons are many and varied, ranging from a national funding crisis, subsequent protests against exorbitant university fees, and underprepared students entering the system after high school, to calls for curriculum reform and decolonisation, accessibility issues, and a higher education system that seems to be perpetuating student marginalisation. As a result, the University of the Witwatersrand has committed through its Learning and Teaching Plan (2015/2019) to broaden the participation of rural, black, female, disabled, and mature students, and to provide them with appropriate support for achieving greater success with access.

This case study serves to determine the effectiveness of a non-academic student support and success programme in one of the faculties at the university, by linking 2015/2016 programme attendance data with student biographical information (collected with a biographical questionnaire) for the same period. The integrated data was also linked to the academic performance of both participants and non-participants, and disaggregated based on gender, school quintile and financial aid status.

The analysis shows that the average academic performance of participants was higher than that of non-participants in the same categories. Additionally, the data reflects a gradual increase in the average academic performance of participants when comparing the 2015 and 2016 cohorts. Consequently, this preliminary evaluation of the programme’s impact on student performance shows it has the potential of improving student success. Read the full article here.