First-year student survey provides valuable insights into how SPU student body is changing

The results of the 2023 First-Year Student Biographical Survey conducted among students at SPU confirm that SPU is growing its footprint across South Africa and is increasingly becoming the first-choice university among its students.

The survey – conducted annually by the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Programme Development (CTLPD) during the academic orientation week – “provides the University with a better understanding of who our students are, how we can use analytics to identify students in need of support, and helps us create opportunities to communicate actionable insights from the data with the broader University community,” said Dr Moeketsi Mosia, Director of the CTLPD.

Some of the key findings are summarised below:

Geo-mapping of students across South Africa In 2022, 32% of SPU students hailed from the Northern Cape, and in 2023 it was a stable 31%. The second-biggest portion of students came from the neighbouring North West (26% in 2022, 25% in 2023). The biggest increase came from KwaZulu-Natal, with the proportion of KZN-hailing students growing from 5% to 7%. Gauteng also grew – from 11% to 12%.

Several implications can be drawn from these insights, which include:

Diverse student population

The growth in student representation from different regions highlights the University’s increasingly diverse student population growth. This diversity can foster a richer learning environment, as students from various backgrounds bring unique perspectives and experiences to classrooms.

Enhanced reputation for a young university

The University’s ability to attract students from various regions, including those provinces with significant growth, like KwaZulu- Natal and Gauteng, indicates that its reputation is expanding. This enhanced reputation can contribute to increased enrolment and visibility in the future.

Wider outreach

The steady enrolment from neighbouring regions such as the Northern Cape and North West suggests that the University’s outreach efforts in these areas have been successful. This positive trend should encourage the University to continue to expand its recruitment initiatives in other regions as well.

Strengthened alumni network

As the University attracts students from various regions, its alumni network will grow more robust and geographically diverse. A strong alumni network can contribute to the University’s visibility by promoting its achievements, providing valuable networking opportunities for current students, and supporting the institution’s future development.

Admission Point Score (APS) in grade 12 final results

In 2022, the biggest proportion of first-years (33%) fell in the 28-30 APS range. That range remained the biggest proportion in 2023, but decreased to 27% of first-years. The second-largest proportion in both years fell in the 31-33 APS range (23% in 2022, increasing to 27% in 2023). The 2023 figures showed growth in the higher APS proportions – first-years scoring 40+ points grew from 4% to 5%, and those scoring 37-39 points grew from 6% to 7%. The biggest growth was in the aforementioned 31- 33 APS range (23% to 27%).

First person in the family to register at university

The number of first-year students who indicated they were the first person in their family to register at a university decreased between 2022 and 2023 – 64% answered Yes in 2022, versus 59% in 2023.

SPU choice when applying for university admission

A greater proportion of first-year students indicated that SPU was their first choice when filling in their university applications. In 2022, 50% indicated a first-choice preference for SPU, and in 2023 this number increased to 59.63%.

Concerns students have about their ability to finance their university education

The proportion of first-years who indicated they had “Major” concerns about how to fund their studies decreased year-on-year – from 33% in 2022 to 24% in 2023. The proportion of those who said they had “No concerns” increased from 21% in 2022 to 25% in 2023. At the same time, the portion of students who indicated their studies would be funded by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) grew from 72% in 2022 to nearly 79% in 2023.

Where students reside

The proportion of first-years who indicated they were living in a campus residence grew – from 75% in 2022 to 85.5% in 2023. The proportion of students staying in private residences decreased from 9% to 3.8%.

“These results are encouraging, in that they show the ways in which our student body is changing, how SPU’s reputation is growing, as more students name SPU their first-choice institution, and the data helps us achieve a key strategic goal – that of using data to help meet the needs of our students, especially those who need more academic or sociological support,” Dr Mosia said. “We look forward to a closer study of the data and implementing any changes that the data might be telling us are necessary.”

To read the full report click here.

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