Postgraduate studies at the University of Stellenbosch : an exploration of students' perceptions

Hunter, Maryke (2002-04)

Thesis (MPhil)--University of Stellenbosch,2002.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Changing circumstances and new initiatives have made it necessary for Higher Education institutions to reflect on all aspects of their teaching portfolios. Recent global and national trends have had numerous implications for different aspects of the university as an entity, which in turn have important implications for teaching, and particularly postgraduate teaching. The need for greater transparency and efficiency is forcing universities into discussions around facing these challenges. The overarching aims of this study were twofold: firstly, to identify historical and current tendencies and patterns in postgraduate studies at the University of Stellenbosch and secondly, to determine the enabling and constraining factors relating to postgraduate studies at the University of Stellenbosch. It was decided to focus on both completed postgraduate students (years 1991 - 1999) as well as current postgraduate students (year 2000). Furthermore, "postgraduate" was defined as relating to all Master's and Doctoral students at the University of Stellenbosch. The empirical research for this study included three components. Firstly, two postal surveys were carried out at the University of Stellenbosch in 2000 in order to explore a representative sample of postgraduate students' attitudes and perceptions. Secondly, a secondary data analysis of existing data on the University database for postgraduate students was carried out in order to do an estimate of success- and follow through rates. Finally, interviews were conducted with coordinators of four postgraduate programmes at different departments in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Stellenbosch. Results show that the nature of postgraduate studies at the University follows the same form of dynamics, diversity and complexity that characterizes postgraduate studies worldwide. Although there has been an exceptional increase in the number of postgraduate students over the past decade, completion rates have stayed the same. This increase in numbers places enormous additional administrative, academic and managerial demands on the University. Although postgraduate students (both completed and current students) seem to have a general positive perception of the University, its academic and administrative services as well as the quality of postgraduate supervision, there are certain aspects that can still be improved upon. For example: the University has to realize that although the completion rates of postgraduate students have reasonably stayed the same over the last decade, the number of students who did not complete increased with almost 50%. The University has to put structures in place in order to cope with the increasing demands these students are placing on administration, departments and supervisors. Also, although it seems as if the University are open to the trends in higher education, they are not totally geared for part-time and non-resldentlal students. All four programmes in the Arts Faculty were initiated by individual academics within the departments. In terms of managing postgraduate students within departments, it seems that greater standardization regarding aspects of admission, administrative support, requirements for research proposals, examination and guidelines for the research components are needed. Supervisors and students both need to know what is expected from them. In terms of the supervisory process, supervisors must have guidelines in terms of what their responsibilities are and they have to realize the importance of their task. Students need to be informed about their rights and the whole process of postgraduate studies. Overall, it is the responsibility of the University, together with its postgraduate students and supervisors to ensure that the process of postgraduate studies is characterized by success, effectiveness and efficiency.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Veranderende omstandighede en nuwe beleldsmaatreels maak dit noodsaaklik dat Hoer Onderwysinrigtings deurentyd besin oor aile aspekte van hul missies en funksies. Resente globale en nasionale tendense het verreikende implikasies vir verskeie aspekte van die universiteitswese, waarvan die gevolge vir die onderrigtaak, en in besonder nagraadse onderrig, van besondere belang is. Oproepe tot deursigtigheid, gekoppel aan die imperatief tot doeltreffendheid, is alles faktore wat universiteite tot besinning dwing. Die doel van hierdie studie was om die historiese en huidige tendense en patrone in nagraadse studie aan die Universiteit van Stellenbosch te skets asook om vas te stel wat is die bemiddelende en belemmerende faktore wat nagraadse studie by die Universiteit kenmerk. Daar is besluit om te fokus op beide afgestudeerde studente (vanaf 1991 tot 1999) asook huidige studente (ingeskryf in die jaar 2000). Verder is "nagraads" gedefinieer as verwysende na aile meesters en doktorale studente by die Universiteit van Stellenbosch. Die empiriese navorsing vir hierdie studie bestaan uit drie komponente. Eerstens is twee posopnames in 2000 uitgevoer om "n verteenwoordigende steekproef van nagraadse studente aan die Universiteit se persepsies rakende hul nagraadse studie te toets. Verder is daar "n sekondere analise uitgevoer van bestaande data op die Universiteit se databasis vir nagraadse studente spesifiek met die doel om sukses- en deurvloeikoerse van nagraadse studente te bepaal. Laastens is onderhoude gevoer met koordineerders van vier nagraadse programme aan verskillende departemente binne die Fakulteit Lettere en Wysbegeerte. Die resultate toon dat die aard van nagraadse studie aan die Universiteit van Stellenbosch dieselfde mate van dinamika, toenemende diversiteit en gepaardgaande kompleksiteit weerspleel as wat nagraadse studies wereldwyd kenmerk. Alhoewel daar "n buitengewone toename in nagraadse studentegetalle aan die Universiteit oor die afgelope dekade was, het die voltooiingskoerse van studente dieselfde gebly. Hierdie toename in getalle plaas geweldige ekstra administratiewe, akademiese en bedryfseise aan die Universiteit. Alhoewel nagraadse studente (beide afgestudeerd sowel as huidig) in die algemeen "n positiewe persepsie van die Universiteit, sy akadernlese en administratiewe dienste, sowel as die kwaliteit van nagraadse studieleiding blyk te he, is daar enkele sake waarop verbeter kan word. 50 byvoorbeeld moet die Universiteit besef dat alhoewel voltooiingskoerse konstant gebly het, het die getal van nagraadse studente wat nie voltooi nie, met ongeveer 50% gestyg. Die Universiteit moet strukture in plek stel om te kan voldoen aan die toenemende eise wat sy nagraadse studente aan administrasie, departemente en studieleiers stel. Alhoewel die Universiteit oop blyk te wees vir nuwe tendense in hoer onderwys, blyk dit dat hy nog nie heeltemal gerat is vir deeltydse studente en nle-resldenslele studente nie. AI vier die programme in die Fakulteit Lettere en Wysbegeerte het ontwikkel uit individuele akademici binne departemente. In terme van die bestuur van nagraadse studente binne departemente, is groter standardisasie van aspekte rakende toelating, administratiewe ondersteuning, vereistes rondom navorsingsvoorstelle, eksaminering en riglyne vir die navorsingskomponent van nagraadse studies nodig. Beide studieleiers en studente moet besef wat van hulle verwag word. In terme van die proses van studieleiding, moet studieleiers oor riglyne beskik van hulle verantwoordelikhede en verder moet die belangrikheid van die taak besef word. 5tudente moet ingelig word oor hulle regte en die proses van nagraadse studie. Die Universiteit, tesame met sy nagraadse studente en studieleiers, moet verseker dat die proses van nagraadse studies gekenmerk word deur sukses, effektiwiteit en doeltreffendheid.

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