TO WIL OR NOT TO WIL
Tshwane University of Technology (SOUTH AFRICA)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN14 Proceedings
Publication year: 2014
Conference name: 6th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 7-9 July, 2014
Location: Barcelona, Spain
The Higher Education Management Information System (HEMIS) of the Department of Education (DoE) only recently matured to such an extent that broad undergraduate cohort studies, starting with the 2000 first time entering intake, became possible. Scott, Yeld and Henry (2007) in a research report commissioned by the Council for Higher Education (CHE) of South Africa reported that despite significant improvements in access that there are substantial shortcomings in performance in terms of completion rates. They performed a basic analysis of current student performance patterns using a disaggregation of student data provided by the DoE and argued that systemic responses, such as the reform of core curriculum frameworks, building educational expertise in the sector and strengthening structures to enforce accountability, are essential for improving outcomes.
Scott, Yeld and Henry (2007) reported that the 2000 cohort study conducted by the DoE showed that after five years after of entering (i.e. in 2004) only 30% of the total first time entering student intake graduated, that 14% were still in the system and that 56% left without graduating. Only 54% of the students who enrolled for a four year professional bachelor degree in 2000 in Engineering graduated within a five year period and 19% were still in the system. Although this is a disturbing overall picture, the picture for engineering students at Universities of Technology (UoTs) is much worse. Only 17% of students who enrolled for a three year diploma in Engineering in 2000 at non-distance education institutions graduated within a five year period and 14% were still in the system. An independent study done by Van Wyk and De Beer (2009) on the 2004 cohort at TUT confirmed this trend. It is obvious that some serious targeted interventions are long overdue.
The purpose of this study is to determine to what extend Work Integrated Learning (WIL), which forms an integral part of any National Diploma in Engineering at South African UoTs, is responsible for the meagre 17% of National Diploma engineering students who graduated within a five year period and the 14% still remaining in the system.
An ex post facto case study was done on the first time entering National Diploma engineering cohorts from 2004 to 2009 at the Tshwane University of Technology to determine how completion rates were affected by Work Integrated Learning. A questionnaire was also completed by approximately 300 Bachelor of Technology students to explore their experiences in terms of the time elapsed between completion of all subject requirements and WIL placement, value added by WIL, and difficulties to find WIL placement during their National Diploma studies.
It was found that although many students experienced difficulties to find placement, that the effect of WIL on completion rates at the Tshwane University of Technology is relatively small. The main reasons for the poor throughput experienced in UoT engineering programmes should be sought elsewhere.
Keywords: WIL, Work Integrated Learning, completion rate, WIL placement, throughput, targeted interventions, improving outcomes.