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ERIC Number: EJ993720
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012-Jun-11
Pages: N/A
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0009-5982
South Africa's Vocational Colleges Struggle to Do Their Job
Brown, Ryan
Chronicle of Higher Education, Jun 2012
With youth unemployment in South Africa hovering around 50 percent and close to half the population living in poverty, a university degree has come to be seen by many as the only way out. And universities are straining under the burden: This admissions cycle, the University of Johannesburg alone rejected more than 70,000 applicants in filling an incoming class of about 11,000. But even as South African universities continue to turn back prospective students by the tens of thousands, another set of post-high-school institutions, the country's vocational colleges--known as Further Education and Training (FET) colleges--struggle to fill their classrooms. Seen by many students and analysts as choices of last resort, FET colleges have long been bombarded with criticism for their high attrition and low job-placement rates. The government has pledged to change that. Getting there will be no simple task. In many ways, FET colleges have the same difficult job that American community colleges do: provide students with both the skills to succeed in the workplace and a foundation for future study--and do so for everyone who walks through the door, no matter their qualifications. In South Africa, that challenge is magnified by a dark history. Until only two decades ago, the higher-education system was strictly segregated, and many professions for which vocational colleges trained students were legally reserved for whites. A generation later, those same colleges are faced with the task of not only rescuing themselves from irrelevance but also working to undo their own history. Improving job placement is one of the only ways FET colleges can hope to improve their stature and attract larger enrollments. To do that, the colleges need to build pipelines from their programs to local employers. But while the government's January report urged colleges to create stronger ties with employers, college leaders say the burden falls to them individually to build those connections. And it is a hard sell, especially if industries don't see college graduates coming to them with skills that match up with the businesses' needs.
Chronicle of Higher Education. 1255 23rd Street NW Suite 700, Washington, DC 20037. Tel: 800-728-2803; Tel: 202-466-1000; Fax: 202-452-1033; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: South Africa