Pandor was speaking at the 2018 Siyaphumelela Conference, taking place from 12-14 June at the Wanderers Club in Johannesburg.

“Students who are inadequately funded experience great challenges in regard to food security, suitable accommodation, and ability to obtain textbooks and other resources,” she said.

“These tend to be poor, black, working-class students we need to develop models of funding and support that address their needs. Government has chosen to introduce a full-cost bursary scheme for students whose family income is under R350 000 a year.”

Non-profit organisation Saide said the three-day event would include a number of workshops with presentations and discussions centring on finding solutions to why students do not succeed at institutions of higher learning.

Saide offers a number of services across all educational sectors and works with educators, programmes and institutions, as well as government, to enable successful open learning for all.

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On Tuesday, Pandor opened the conference and highlighted the adverse effect student funding had on South African students.

Saide said the workshops addressed and tackled design thinking, strategies to address national challenges in higher education and development of an academic viability model for institutions of higher learning.

Pandor said she was optimistic about the new bursary scheme, adding that in addition to funding, students also needed academic support.

“Recent research on student expenses in our universities suggests much more work is needed to achieve transformation. While we are on an upward trajectory, we still need to improve throughput rates. We now have a collective responsibility in university education to ensure that most students graduate with a quality degree. To do this means taking responsibility for our students’ success. It means that we have to understand our student’s needs,” Pandor said.

Saide said the annual conference was a central aspect of the Siyaphumelela programme that was aimed at improving capacity at South African universities to use data analytics to improve student success. As such, the annual conference aimed to promote a national discourse on student success initiatives of the Siyaphumelela programme.

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Bill Moses, MD of the Kresge Foundation, the funder of the conference, announced that the foundation would extend support for the initiative for the next few years.

“We need models of funding that fully support students and their needs. With student success, there is no magic bullet. No one consultant, one app, one solution. Student success has to be an approach — not a priority, but the priority,” Moses said.

International guests in attendance included Professor Sara Goldrick-Rab (Temple University, Philadelphia), Chancellor Kim A Wilcox (University of California, Riverside) and Vice-Provos Sukhwant Jhaj (Portland State University, Portland).

Saide said as the only conference focusing on the use of analytics to promote student success in sub Saharan Africa, it provided a platform for international and local experts and practitioners to discuss evidence-based practices and national systemic interventions aimed at student success.

Other key people in attendance will be the VCs and DVCs of the five partner institutions, which include the University of the Witwatersrand, the University of Pretoria, Nelson Mandela University, the University of the Free State and the Durban University of Technology.

– African News Agency