Only 1 In Every 10 South African Students Will Get A Place At University


Education markets have changed significantly over the past decade. Gone are the days when all you need to do is read hard to gain admission into a higher institution. These days, it no longer matters how hard you read or how dedicated you are, you may not be able to gain admission into a higher institution without the intervention of a higher power. Every year, more and more people are competing in the bid to be accepted into an institution, so as you read, bear it in mind that you are not just trying to get accepted, you are engaging in a competition against thousands of other devoted young adults who are just as determined as you are to make it.

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Across the many universities in South Africa, as the jubilant and successful first year students rejoice about their acceptance, many more are battling rejection and disillusionment, not because they were not good enough, but because the institutions are filled to the brim and have accepted only the much they can handle.

According to a statement released last week by researchers at the Institute of Race Relations in the 2014-15 South Africa Survey, “First-year university applications tend to far outnumber vacancies.” Considering the fact that with each year that passes, institutions are making reasonable efforts to accommodate more students than they did the previous year, the problem seems to be increasing rather than reducing. The researchers went on to say that in 2004, higher institutions only had the capacity to take in 145238 whereas by 2012, that number had increased to 169765. This shows that even these various institutions are trying to reduce the number of rejections but obviously, their methods are not really achieving the desired results.


Statistics have shown that some universities are in high demand and as such, have a higher rejection rate than others. This applies mostly to KwaZulu-Natal. In places like Zululand where there are only 6,500 places for first years, you will find over 82, 000 candidates competing tirelessly go be accepted. This means that for every one place, there are about 13 people competing to take it. Some other statistics include;

  • At Durban University of Technology, one out of every 11 candidates is taken.
  • At University of KwaZulu-Natal, one out of every 10 is taken.
  • At Rhodes University, one out of every 5 is taken.
  • At University of the Witwatersrand, one out of every 8 is taken.
  • At University of the Western Cape, one out of every 6 is taken.
  • At the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, one out of every 5 is taken.
  • At Stellenbosch University, one out of every 5 is taken.

Despite some of the discouraging statistics above, Walter Sisulu University in Mthatha Eastern Cape, the success rate was considerably higher as 1 person was taken out of every 2 applicants. Also, at the University of Pretoria, 10500 of the 42000 applications were successful.

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The director of admissions at the University of Cape Town, Carl Herman, remarked that in South Africa and internationally, there has been a steep increase in the number of applicants in universities. In his words, “Until about 10 years ago, students could apply through walk-ins. This has changed because so many prospective students meet admission criteria. It has become much more difficult .” This means that even if you meet all the required criteria, you are still likely to be rejected as there will be other who may be more qualified than you are.

In the light of the above, the Registrar of the university of Johannesburg, Professor Kinta Burger said that it is very important for applicants who were rejected to get all the support they can as this will help them regain a sense of perspective and give them the morale to consider going for the alternative options provided by both private and public institutions.

Nevertheless, Wits website has rightly observed that the issue of the number of places available as opposed to the number of applications is a national issue, even though Khaye Nkwanyana, a spokesman for the Department of Higher Education believes that the lack of space is not the only reason why there a great number of rejections. This is because in 2015, the number of first year places has increased to a significant 200,000. Now with this increase, he said that not all of the applicants fulfill the minimum entry requirements for the particular fields that they have applied for.

So as much as you feel you have read hard enough and are ready for the entrance exams, you might want to consider other options in case if you end up not being good enough for the field you have applied for or if there are 10 of you competing for one place and it ends up not being you even though you are good enough. Of a truth, the Education market is so much more complicated and competitive than the labor market these days.

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