A Bachelor's Degree Isn't Enough In 2024

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Education is crucial for both individual and societal progress. The amount of individuals pursuing bachelor's degrees in South Africa has increased since the dawn of democracy, however, questions are being raised about whether undergraduate degrees are enough for people.


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Statistics South Africa (STATS SA) recently published a profile of educational enrolment, attainment and progression in South Africa based on the 2022 census data. 

South Africa's education system has undergone a major transformation since democracy arrived in 1994.

The focus has shifted towards integrating previously excluded groups. Initiatives like non-fee schools, the school nutrition programme, transport assistance, child support grants, and student financial aid from NSFAS have significantly boosted enrolment, especially among disadvantaged communities.

School completion has also led to an increase in tertiary education enrolments. This has also led to an increase in qualifications obtained by individuals living in the country. 

While there is a higher percentage of people obtaining Certificates, Bachelor’s degrees, Master’s degrees and Doctorate degrees, the sharpest increase was seen in the obtaining of honours degrees. 

The report says this indicates a growing emphasis on specialised education and skills development as bachelor’s degrees provide broader and theoretical knowledge.

Adults Over 25 Years Old And Post School Qualification

Post-school qualification

1996

2022

Certificate

16.5

21.3

Diploma

41.6

30.8

Bachelor’s degree

21.7

25.3

Honours degree

2.5

10.6

Master’s degree

2.9

5.2

Doctorate degree

1.4

1.8

Other

13.4

5.0

Is A Bachelor's Degree Enough In 2024? 

Phethiwe Matutu CEO of Universities South Africa says there has been a growing emphasis on research. This has resulted in more people choosing to further their studies beyond obtaining a Bachelor's degree. 

The knowledge-based economists are quite intense on the higher level qualifications of Honours, Masters and PhD's because research becomes quite a core competency in the work environment. 

Matutu believes the statistics released by Stats SA are positive as they indicate that more people are capable of pursuing Master's and Doctorates as they have already obtained an Honours qualification. 

That is a positive thing when there is an increase in graduate percentages within their honours qualifications. That's a positive move because it indicates that more people can do Masters and more people can do Doctorates. 

An important consideration taken by many people when choosing to study further is the cost of tertiary education. Before 2024, NSFAS funding exclusively assisted individuals in obtaining their first teary education qualification. 

In 2024 following the launch of the Comprehensive Student Funding Model, NSFAS made funding available in the form of student loans for postgraduate studies. 

Matutu says higher level qualifications should be considered by individuals as they become more and more sought after in the job market. 

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