Chair: Prof Thandi Mgwebi, University of the Western Cape, South Africa
Panellist: Ms Lullu Kruger, KPMG, South Africa
Panellist: Dr Satsope Maoto, University of Limpopo, South Africa
Panellist: Dr Maupi Letsoalo, Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa

Session summary

Dropout rate of SA student universities has become one of the most controversial issues in SA, which has somehow laid the foundation to what is today called “fees must fall” statement. Mainly because students believe that increasing fees is the reason why students drop out from the university before completing their studies, especially those who have financial constraints. The dropout rate range from both undergraduate level to postgraduate level. As such, the dropout rate has a negative impact on the number of university graduates every year. In 2013 when the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) release its first annual graduate statistical report, it was reported that the number of university’s  undergraduate students who graduated constitute to 15 percent, for postgraduate was 20 percent for Master’s students and 12 percent for doctoral students. Again this year, the DHET reported that 47.9 percent of university students in SA do not complete their degrees.

However, the root cause for students to dropout differ according to student’s background, which include financial constraints or lack of funding, lack of academic preparedness and students not getting enough support from the universities, students who enrolled for wrong qualifications and students who are living with extreme poverty or lack of food and accommodation. While the issue of students dropping out from the universities has received more attention from students themselves, hence students protest on “fees must fall”, the reality is that the dropout percentage does not affect students only rather it also have negative impact on labour market as well. Therefore, the issue of students dropping out from the universities is a serious challenge that needs to be discussed by researchers, policy makers’ expertise, experience and judgment to ensure that it is well addressed. In this regard the DST is organising a parallel session during the Science Forum to look at how 60 percent dropout rate of South African student universities can reduced.

Objective of the Seminar

The main aim of this seminar is to share knowledge, experience and research methodologies used in analysing the 60 percent dropout rate of South African student universities. The presentation will comprise case studies to demonstrate and highlight some of the key issues involved in the percent of students who dropped out from universities.

This seminar will bring together the public at large to discuss the root cause and the challenges contributing to high percentage of dropout rate of student from universities and how the matter can be addressed.

Expected outcomes

  • Understanding the main causes that contributing to high percentage rate dropout of university students;
  • Identify the challenges faced by students;
  • Introduction of new measures that can be employed to reduce the percent of dropout rate.

Structure of the seminar

The structure of the seminar will include one keynote speaker who will introduce the topic, four panel members whom will respond to the some of the issues raised by the keynote speaker and question and answer session.


mgwebiProf Thandi Mgwebi
University of the Western Cape, South Africa

Thandi Mgwebi is a Research and Innovation leader with a PhD in Medical Sciences, specifically, Cell and Developmental Biology from the University of Cape Town (UCT). For the past 10 years – since 2006, she has worked within the South African NSI from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) and the later as Executive Director for DST-NRF Research Chairs Initiative at the National Research Foundation (NRF). During this period she was responsible for designing and implementing numerous policies, organisational and development systems and strategies involving the management and mentoring of multicultural teams, and establishing and guiding multi-sectoral partnerships and networks. Her science diplomacy skills and insightful knowledge of the SA National System of Innovation (NSI) have seen her being nominated and invited to represent the country at many international forums such as the World Science Forum; the American Association for the Advancement of Science; the European Open Science Forum and others. Her insightful knowledge of the Science and Education landscape and experience in Education, has seen her being appointed by the Minister of Higher Education and Training (DHET) as a Ministerial task team member in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of a National Mathematical Sciences Programme. Thandi is an advocate of science engagement and communication, and has concluded significant international partnerships that have leveraged financial and in-kind support to the national science agenda. Thandi is a co-Chair of the 2017 World Sustainability Forum. She currently serves as Director of Research at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), South Africa.

krugelMs Lullu Krugel
KPMG, South Africa

Lullu Krugel is a Partner in Financial Risk Management and the Chief Economist of KPMG South Africa. She is a frequent presenter at conferences and a regular commentator in the media, where she shares her insights about developments in the South African economy. Over the past 9 years, she has worked with national and multinational clients, assisting them to understand their strategic positioning in light of current and expected future economic developments. If you don’t find her looking at graphs, she might be out running or if the weather does not play along, you might find her with a paintbrush or a book of poetry in her hand.

maotoDr Satsope Maoto
University of Limpopo, South Africa

Dr Satsope Maoto is currently the Director in the School of Education, University of Limpopo. She has been involved in a teaching profession since 1983 as a mathematics educator at secondary schools, teacher college (1987) and university (2000). She is thus best described as a mathematics teacher to the last. She holds a Doctorate degree in Mathematics Education from CURTIN University of Technology in Perth, Australia. In addition to performing teaching, authoring, lecturing and publishing roles, she coordinated PRESET/INSET activities for the Limpopo and Mpumalanga Departments of Education.

letsoaloDr Maupi Letsoalo
Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa

Dr Maupi Letsoalo, with varied experience in education and biomedical sciences, is the Head of Department: Statistical Support Services at the Tshwane University of Technology, TUT. He is in charge of capacity building (Statistics and Research Methodology) at TUT. Before joining TUT he worked as a high school educator (Mathematics and Physical Science), Mathematics Lecturer (University of the North Foundation Year (UNIFY) programme), Biostatistician (Medical Research Council), Senior Biostatistician (National Institute for Communicable Diseases, NICD), and Statistics Lecturer (University of Limpopo). Dr Letsoalo has M.Sc. (Mathematical Statistics) from the University of Pretoria and a Ph.D. (Mathematics Education) from the University of Limpopo. He is currently a member of Clinical Trials Committee of the Medicines Control Council of South Africa and a member of TUT Ethics Committee serving as a Biostatistician and statistician, respectively. He has published extensively in peer reviewed journals.