Matric headache for universities

Staff working in university student admissions offices will have to remain on tenter-hooks until the end of September when the Department of Basic Education will inform them whether it will release the 2009 matric exam results to them confidentially by late December.

The staff are concerned about the announcement that the results would be released only on January 7 next year leaving them little time to process applications from matriculants for admission into first year.

The vice-chancellor’s association, Higher Education South Africa, said the department informed it last week that it had agreed to a request from the university registrars’ forum for the results to be given to universities in late December, but the approval had to have the nod of the provincial heads of departments committee.

But, deputy director general of further education and training Penny Vinjevold told higher learning: ‘There is no official decision yet. We will respond to the request by the end of September. We are consulting the provinces to see if they will be ready. There is no confirmation.”

To date the Education Department has released the results publicly and to universities by the end of December, allowing universities time to process applications from matriculants for admission into first year.

About 600 000 learners write the national senior certificate exam and roughly 140 000 are admitted into the first year of tertiary studies.

The department has announced, however, that it would release the results only on January 7 2010 following a request from Umalusi, the independent statutory body responsible for the monitoring, moderation and standardisation of the exam, because it needed more time to do its own checks on the results.

University admissions staff were unhappy about the January 7 date. Universities are already starting their 2010 student registration processes and academic year earlier than usual; their June-July holidays will be longer to accommodate the Fifa 2010 activities. University residences are being hired out to tourists and sports fields will be used as training bases.

A letter representing 23 university registrars was sent to Umalusi and the education department opposing the January release date. The letter recommends that the results be released before Christmas but not later than December 31 and that this be a permanent arrangement with effect from 2009.

According to Carol Crosley, deputy registrar at Wits University, getting the results in December would give the university time to work through public holidays, matching applications with the database of results. ‘We receive about 28 000 applications for about 5 000 places and about 18 000 applications come from learners in matric. It’s hectic for us.”

Once the applications have been sorted, applicants are sent letters informing them of the degree options for which they qualify or notifying them if they are unsuccessful. ‘Applicants then have the opportunity to look for something else. If we get the results only on January 7 it will affect our ability to do a professional job of managing the process for the start of the academic year,”

Crosley says. In the meantime the University of Johannesburg is amending its academic calendar to swap the dates for first year and seniors’ registration and the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University will put in additional resources to assist with processing admissions.

Neels Fourie, a deputy registrar at Stellenbosch University, said the institution would be concerned if it received the results after January 7. ‘The biggest problems will be for the candidates. They cannot start packing for Stellenbosch until January 7.”

Vinjevold said: ‘We have taken note of their concerns and are working on it. We are looking at their concerns sympathetically.”

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