Projected Decline In Science Graduates Raises Concerns


Every year, thousands of individuals apply at universities, hoping to further their studies and ultimately secure employment and financial stability. However, a recent decline in the uptake of several study fields has raised concerns.



The Department of Higher Education and Training has shined a light on the concerning uptake of several study fields at universities across the country.

According to recent data, universities have been registering less students from the 2021 academic year which ultimately deviates from the departments 2020-2025 Enrolment Plan approved by the Minister of Higher Education and Training.  

The DHET stressed:

During the midterm review for 2023 to 2025, some of the universities which have projected high numbers have reduced them – thereby affecting the number of students graduating.

Fields expected to decrease

It is projected that the number of graduates in three different fields will decrease over the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) period as some of the universities which had projected high numbers have reduced them. 

These study fields are expected to decline:

  • Natural and physical sciences - from 11 516 in 2023/2024 to 10 943 in 2025/2026 
  • Human health sciences - from 10 200 in 2023/2024 to 9 950 in 2025/2026
  • Animal health sciences - from 1 013 in 2023/2024 to 925 in 2025/2026. 

Furthermore, the department has also said that students have been opting for humanities programmes such as politics, international relations, languages, and communications among others. 

Reason for decline

The decline in the uptake of certain study fields can be influenced by several factors, including limited job prospects, low financial prospects, expensive tertiary education, lack of awareness and the perception of difficulty.

More students are not opting for study fields that align more closely with their personal interests, passions, or aptitudes. If there is a perceived lack of alignment between a study field and their personal aspirations, students may be less inclined to pursue it.

Meanwhile, the department notes that many students are reluctant to enter programmes categorised as "scarce" and in "demand skills" which contributes to them not being able to find employment. 

Students tend not to register for subjects such as science, engineering and mathematics which the department says will give them a better chance at entering the labour market once they graduate.


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