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Every year in January, there are extensive reports on thousands matriculants, having qualified for entry into a degree programme, finding themselves in a desperate situation of not being able to enrol at a public university due to lack of space.

The situation is unlikely to change any time soon, and universities will for the foreseeable future continue to accept only a fraction of applications. However, that does not mean affected matriculants have to give up on the dreams they had for their futures, and settle for a different line of work completely, an education expert says.

“There are many thousands of learners with exceptional results who did not land a space at a public university,” says Dr Felicity Coughlan, director of The Independent Institute of Education, SA’s largest private higher education provider.

“Telling such a person, who has qualified for degree entry but not gained access to the public sector that they should consider a technical and vocational training college, is a very confusing message and does not reflect all the options available which may in fact still make degree study possible,” she says.

She adds while there is no doubt that South Africa needs more vocationally skilled people and that there should be growth in this sector, telling someone who wanted to pursue a degree in commerce or law to rather pursue a technical qualification is not the best or most helpful advice.

Coughlan says current advice provided to young people ignores the fact that their degree dreams can still become reality at the close to 120 registered private higher education institutions across the country – institutions which are subject to the same oversight as public universities, and whose qualifications are highly respected in the workplace.

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