Are online degrees as established as they should be in South Africa?

Here’s the thing about online education ……….

Are online degrees as established as they should be in South Africa?

In South Africa, most school leavers apply to university as their preferred study option, whether this is good, bad, or neither is a question in itself. Public Universities in SA only have the capacity to accept about 10% of student applicants each year. The University of Johannesburg (UJ) for example receives well over 100 000 applications a year but can only accept about 11 000 students. This scenario is similar to all public universities. The question then is, what happens to the 90% of applicants who don’t get accepted?

Well, a percentage will enter the TVET college system whilst those who can afford private higher education will apply to a private institution. Ok ……. so problem solved? Well not quite!

Public colleges have similar capacity constraints as universities and many school leavers are not interested nor suited to programmes offered at these colleges. Also, most South African school leavers cannot afford private higher education. This leaves a significant number of school leavers with no route into post-school education. The solution ……. Online Education  ..….. or is it?

So, here’s the thing about online education.

1) There are a small number of institutions globally that offer full bachelor’s degree programmes (360-480 credits) online.

2) The cost of online education is surprisingly, not significantly cheaper than on-campus education.

3) Online education by its nature is considered to be an international education leading to an international qualification (unless of course, you are in the country of the education provider).

4) International qualifications are not automatically recognised by the Qualifications Authorities in other countries. There is still room to streamline the transnational articulation process of online education.

5) Overwhelmingly so, most online education is skills-based, short courses. With the exception of digital skills and postgraduate courses, short courses are not necessarily considered to be entry-level employable qualifications. Albeit in developing economies online skills courses are especially useful for entering the informal sector as an entrepreneur, ----- not everyone however is entrepreneurial.

So, what’s the ideal? The ideal is to have online universities and colleges that:

a)     Offer fully online bachelor programmes that,

b)    Are affordable and,

c)   Recognised by their local qualification authorities. 

In such a scenario, a school leaver's chance of studying towards an employable qualification is exponentially increased!

There is an increasing need for full online qualifications to be offered. There is a movement in that direction. So far, Gostudy has identified two online education institutions (The IU International University of Applied Sciences and UNICAF) that meet all three criteria above, and that are particularly suitable for developing economies. We continue to keep our eyes open for others and welcome contributions in this regard. 

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