n South African Journal of Higher Education - Secondary school factors relating to academic success in first year Health Science students

Volume 28, Issue 4
  • ISSN : 1011-3487



Universities in South Africa, experience challenges related to throughput rates, especially in the first year of study. Student dropout in the School of Health Sciences (SHS) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) negatively affects the enrolment targets with the concomitant loss of student subsidy and fees. It also reduces the number of prospective healthcare professionals who are required to address the shortage of skilled healthcare workers in the country. Thus, this emphasises the need to determine secondary school factors that relate to success and throughput in the first year of study, namely: area and type of schooling; matriculation point scores (also referred to as admission point scores [APS}); and matriculation subject choices. A retrospective design with a quantitative approach was used to collect data from a total of 713 student records over the period 2009-2011. The quantitative data was analysed using descriptive and inferential statistics while Spearman's rank correlation coefficient (rho) and the Mann-Whitney U test were used to determine differences between variables related to academic success. A p-value of ≤ 0.05 was considered statistically significant. The data was analysed and presented as annual composite results as well as stratified by disciplines. Overall the area of secondary schooling did not correlate statistically significantly with academic success. In contrast, the type of secondary schooling (p = .012), matriculation points (p = .000) and all matriculation subjects investigated (p < .005) were statistically significant variables that correlated with academic success. At discipline-level, Physiotherapy was shown to have the most consistent correlations among variables, with a moderate correlation with matriculation subjects as well as the APS. The results of this study yielded evidence-based admissions criteria for students into the SHS at UKZN.

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