Big varsity shut-out
Tens of thousands of matriculants will be turned away from tertiary education institutions because the number of applicants far exceeds available places.
And almost 45% of the pupils who passed the matric examination last year will not qualify for admission because their grades were not high enough.
Reports from universities in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape suggest that up to 200000 prospective students will be denied admission because of enrolment constraints.
Though the government announced last week that the 23 universities and 50 further education and training colleges would accommodate 180000 and 100000 new students respectively, universities are already reporting that the number of applicants far exceeds their capacity.
With desperation for a better education intensifying as knowledge of the universities' and colleges' lack of capacity spreads, fears are mounting of a repeat of last year's University of Johannesburg stampede, which claimed the life of Gloria Sekwena, the mother of a would-be student. Sekwena was killed outside the university's Bunting Road campus when nearly 90000 prospective students rushed the gates to apply for a place.
The university has said it will not allow walk-in applications. It can accommodate only 10500 first-year students this year.
Wits University has said it will allow walk-in applications only "in cases where students have excelled". The university can take on only 5500 undergraduates but has received 34000 applications.
The University of Pretoria has already received 36439 applications for its 10000 first-year spots.
The University of KwaZulu-Natal faces a similar situation - it has been inundated with applications, with nearly 75000 matriculants applying for the 9500 vacancies.
Walk-in applications are being allowed at the university this week but its courses in medicine, nursing, communications, pathology, dental therapy, oral health, medical science, occupational therapy, optometry, pharmacy, physiotherapy, sport science, education, social work and architecture are full. There are no places for new degree or diploma music students.
University of Cape Town spokesman Kemantha Govender said more than 25000 applications had been received for 4200 first-year spaces.
Applications for first-year studies closed in September. The deadline for enrolment for postgraduate studies was October 31. Govender said UCT would not allow last-minute walk-in applications.
The situation at the University of the Western Cape is similar. About 34000 people have applied for 3800 first-year places.
Professor Shireen Motala of the University of Johannesburg's postgraduate centre for research and innovation, said that, despite the improvement in the matric pass rate, thousands of matriculants would be denied tertiary education because their marks were simply not good enough.
''They will not be accepted at university and they will not be accepted by technikons . [they] can get into further education and training colleges, or an internship, but it is going to be a struggle for those children to get into any sort of meaningful employment or further their education," said Motala.
Acting CEO of Higher Education SA Jeffery Mabelebele said the demand for university education could be decreased by expanding further education and training college opportunities and making them more attractive.