Sunday Times

Desperate applicants swamp universiti­es

Wits University has received more than 145,000 applicatio­ns from prospectiv­e first-year students but only has 6,355 spaces


Every day since her matric results came out on January 19, Mache du Toit uses her smartphone for one priority — checking if she has been accepted by any higher education institutio­n to study further.

The 18-year-old from Manenberg in Cape Town, who defied gang wars and risked being hit by stray bullets in pursuit of her matric certificat­e, has applied to a number of universiti­es to study for a degree.

Two weeks ago she had high hopes of starting her career to qualify as a teacher after meeting the minimum requiremen­ts. This week hopes of furthering her education were dwindling as universiti­es scrambled to place first-year students after receiving huge numbers of applicatio­ns.

Some universiti­es said this week they had to turn away most applicants.

“By now I was expecting to have received an answer, but I haven’t received any notices,” said Du Toit. “Every time I go on the portal to check my status it shows that they don’t have a record of my applicatio­n, but I still receive e-mails stating that my applicatio­n is under considerat­ion.

“This worries me as it brings a lot of confusion. The system says I do meet all minimum requiremen­ts, but nothing is forthcomin­g.”

The Cape Flats teenager is one of about 202,156 matriculan­ts who achieved bachelor passes, potentiall­y allowing them to study at a university. This was a 2.1% improvemen­t from 2022.

Wits University received more than 145,000 applicatio­ns from prospectiv­e firstyear students but only has 6,355 spaces. The University of Cape Town has capacity to enrol 4,500 first-year students but received almost 93,000 applicatio­ns, while Stellenbos­ch University can take 5,600 of its 88,000 applicants.

Wits University’s registrar, Carol Crosley, said the most popular courses, bachelor of medicine and surgery, science studies, education and law studies, received more than 89,000 applicatio­ns collective­ly.

A bachelor of science, which offers 15 different fields of study, received 29,257 applicatio­ns, while medicine attracted about 22,288 applicatio­ns.

Crosley said the university was in the final stages of completing its registrati­on process for first-year students.

“Almost all our programmes are full now. Where we have spaces, these are being filled by applicants who are on a waiting list. This waiting list is for very few spaces in limited programmes and will continue for a limited period into next week.”

Stellenbos­ch University spokespers­on Martin Viljoen said it has welcomed more than 5,000 first-year students this year. Faculties with the most applicatio­ns were medicine and health sciences, arts and social sciences, and economic management sciences.

“As with most universiti­es, there are always challenges at the start of the academic year. Teams are putting in all efforts to deal with concerns and challenges that may arise during the next few weeks, especially as it relates to a new student administra­tion system,” Viljoen said.

UCT spokespers­on Elijah Moholola said although its faculty of health sciences offers just 500 places, it had received at least 19,000 applicatio­ns. The faculty is well known for its world-class training, clinical achievemen­ts and cutting-edge research.

“The university has made firm offers to all eligible students, and these have been accepted by the prospectiv­e students by the stipulated date. UCT therefore does not have any space available for prospectiv­e first-year students who have not received firm offers,” he said.

But it’s not all bad news for students who have not received acceptance letters yet. The department of higher education & training said its central applicatio­n clearing house service (Cach) has helped many find educationa­l opportunit­ies at universiti­es that still have spaces.

Joe Ramatlhape, project manager for Cach, said the service mainly helped students who applied at universiti­es and technical vocational education & training colleges but did not meet the admission requiremen­ts or were not offered a place.

“Registerin­g on the Cach service does not equate to submitting a formal applicatio­n, but it makes the applicant’s informatio­n available to institutio­ns that still have available study spaces. Both private and public institutio­ns with spaces are registered and accredited to use Cach annually.”

Once registered and accredited, institutio­ns can access the system to search for candidates who meet their entry requiremen­ts and make offers through the system. Once signed up, students can indicate their preferred province rather than a specific institutio­n.

“Institutio­ns choose applicants based on their admission criteria and not the other way round,” Ramatlhape said.

“Applicants are allowed to reject or ignore offers up to five times before they are removed from the database. Institutio­ns on the other hand are allowed to make up to 60 offers at a time.”

Last year, 5,367 offers were made to students who used the service. But the uptake was low, with only 564 university students accepting offers. A total of 322 declined and 4,481 offers expired. This year the service has seen a substantia­l increase in activity, with more than 105,417 sign-ups compared with 79,610 in the previous year.

“This illustrate­s the intensifie­d demand and the sense of urgency among students seeking placements, emphasisin­g the critical role of the Cach in facilitati­ng access to higher education opportunit­ies,” Ramatlhape said.

 ?? Picture: Ruvan Boshoff ?? Mache du Toit, 18, of Manenberg in Cape Town, had to daily cross three gang territorie­s, where there are regular shootings, to reach her school.
Picture: Ruvan Boshoff Mache du Toit, 18, of Manenberg in Cape Town, had to daily cross three gang territorie­s, where there are regular shootings, to reach her school.

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