The 2015/16 #FeesMustFall protests brought the insufficient tertiary-level student funding problem into the national consciousness, with students arguing they are being excluded from higher education as they do not have sufficient funds. But, the relationship between academic success and access to student funding is not clear. Thus, this study sought to contribute clarity to our understanding of the relationship between student bursary funding and academic performance. Methodologically, it involved an analysis of 8099 undergraduates for the 2011 cohort year. This 2011 cohort was tracked over a period of three years, a period considered as minimum time to gradation. Results show that was no relationship between students being awarded a bursary, and their successful graduation (throughput). Nor was there any relationship between the value of bursary awarded and students’ academic performance. Furthermore, the presence of genuine outliers in the dataset is an indication that the allocation of bursary money to individual students must be made more transparent and accountable. In terms of the cohort under study it can be concluded that student academic performance was not a function of bursary funding, although merit bursaries awarded on academic merit yielded the best results. We conclude that student funding is a complex and challenging function, and cannot be viewed as a simple action of funding financially needy students. The limitations of the study should also be noted: it was confined to one large contact institution of higher education and it does not capture those students who take four or more years to complete their qualification.
This article is in part drawn from the thesis by A. Naidoo 2015, student funding at a South
African institution of higher education, Gordon Institute of Business Studies, University of
Pretoria, Masters of Business Administration. (http://hdl.handle.net/2263/52272)
Coetzee, G.P. (Philna); Du Bruyn, Rudrik(Unisa Press, 2003)
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