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Aug 16

Competition in the job market is super tough, and thousands of students graduate in business-related fields every year. So how can you make sure that you stand out when you start interviewing for jobs? 

Obviously you need to work hard and ensure you get good grades. But it is also crucial to ensure that you study at an institution that won't only prepare you academically, but also make you work-ready so that you can prove from day one that you have what it takes.

Dr Felicity Coughlan, Director of The Independent Institute of Education, South Africa's largest private higher education provider, has the following advice which is very helpful if you have not yet decided where you are going to study:

"Students opting to study towards BCom and other business-related degrees at private higher education institutions are consistently and substantially increasing year-on-year," she says.

"This is not only because of the shortage of places in the public sector universities, because we have seen that many more students now elect private higher education institutions as their first choice, given the sector's work-readiness approach and smaller class-sizes.

​​"It is clear that private higher education is becoming the study route of choice for an increasing number of young South Africans, in line with international trends."

Although there are hundreds of qualifications on offer across a myriad of fields, BCom enrolments at The IIE represent almost 30% of the new student intake at The IIE's Varsity College campuses across South Africa. At The IIE's Rosebank College, enrolments continue to increase more than 15% year-on-year.

Additionally, 25% of new students are registered on Higher Certificates with the explicit intention of going on to do a degree in the next year, says Coughlan.

"In the past, many viewed private institutions as geared mainly toward creative courses or offering only diploma programmes. Despite these incorrect perceptions still clinging on in some uninformed circles, it is encouraging to see that there is an increasing recognition of the fact that private institutions are subjected to exactly the same accreditation and registration regulations as public institutions," Coughlan says.

"South Africa has a single quality assurance system and one National Qualifications Framework so any institution offering a registered and accredited qualification – whether public or private – is offering a qualification of comparable standards and equal standing."

Coughlan points out that most of the qualifications offered by reputable private higher education institutions are degrees (including postgraduate qualifications) or pathways to degree studies (such as Higher Certificates), or diplomas directly related to key occupational areas such as IT, public relations or sport development and management.

"These degrees and pathways are available in all key business fields including law and economics, accounting, statistics, marketing, public administration and finance. Additionally, all important information and communication technology fields such as gaming, software and application development, networking, IT management, information systems, security and support and most of the essential human and social sciences including communication, education, psychology and sociology, justice and criminology, theology and languages are offered.

"Obviously the various fields of design and creative sciences and arts are also available at many good institutions, but it is an absolute myth that these qualifications dominate the offerings in the private sector."

Coughlan says that because there is no state subsidy for private institutions, the cost of private higher education is still higher than at public universities, however this cost is often offset because of improved results.

"Private institutions are often far more affordable from a broader perspective than members of the public seem to realise.  And because these campuses are mostly relatively small with class sizes rarely exceeding 100 students, individual focus and therefore higher success rates are the norm.

"As a result, proportionally more students graduate, making the overall educational experience a real value for money opportunity.  Students are encouraged to find out the facts about fees from campuses they are interested in – they may be surprised particularly when considering what they are getting in return."

Coughlan says that of the Class of 2014, 60% of the Independent Institute of Education BCom graduates were employed within four months of graduating with 30% of graduates going on to study further.

"To make the right decision about where, what and how to study, prospective students must start researching and receiving information about all their options, in a context which does not continue to pander to historic misconceptions," she says.

"Choices about tertiary education must be based on a thorough assessment of the fit between personal aspiration, circumstances and the institutional choices available.  And it is incumbent on all roleplayers – parents and guardians, teachers, counsellors and the media – to expose those considering further study to all available options, and to add private higher education to consideration sets as a matter of course taking all the facts in to consideration."​


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