Thursday, August 2, 11:30-12:00, SUB Room 233, Theme: Students

Historical disparities in education and other social services have continued to marginalise South Africa’s rural communities. Access to higher education for rural students does not guarantee success. In 2014, the University of the Witwatersrand revised its admissions policy for Health Science degrees as part of continuing efforts to achieve a student population that demographically represents South African society. The new policy allows for up to 40% enrollment from rural and other low-resourced schools (QQR). This paper shares insights into the university experiences of QQR students and implications on university efforts to be “student-ready”. This paper is part of a broader transformative participatory research study involving understanding QQR students’ university experiences, and designing interventions that are rooted in transformative learning theory (Dirkx, 1998; Mezirow, 1997, 2000). The data for this paper were collected through semi-structured questionnaires designed to establish QQR students’ baseline information. Because of the difference between home/school circumstances and that of the university (e.g. social, language, finance, learning resources), QQR students experience difficulties transitioning into university. Securing funding, being in university residence and engagement in social activities contribute to quicker settling in. Academic challenges mainly stem from little experience with university teaching methods, language of instruction and use of computers. QQR students make helpful suggestions on the focus areas for academic development interventions.  Providing access is an important first step a university can take in serving students from QQR schools. Student success is enhanced when protective factors of finance, accommodation and appropriate academic development interventions are in place.