One-stop shop will take pain out of applying to varsity and college
Students might soon use a central system to apply to a number of universities and colleges - for one fee
Students applying to study at colleges or university might soon apply to a single central application system paying only one fee, instead of sending documents, matric marks and payments to a number of institutions.
Higher education minister Naledi Pandor advertised the draft bill in the Government Gazette last week. If passed, the Central Application Service Bill will allow for a single central application system for all universities, TVET colleges and other post-school education training facilities.
This will also mean prospective students will pay a single application fee while their application can be sent to a number of institutions.
The draft law states the single Central Application Service (CAS) won’t interfere with institutions’ own admission criteria and extra tests given to filter applicants.
The draft bill is open for comment until the end of May.
Some university staff said the one-stop application service had been in the making for years and universities are currently discussing how it will be piloted, and how many different institutions an applicant will be able to apply to.
The draft bill aims to ensure that each institution will be broadly representative of the country. It said the central admission authority will try to ensure every public college or university “provides equal opportunities for all prospective entrants ... to ensure that public institutions broadly reflect the demographic of the country”.
The registrar at the University of Johannesburg, Prof Kinta Burger, said: “The aim of CAS is to provide the service as a one-stop information and application hub for programmes offered across the sector, not only at universities, but also regarding the many exciting programmes offered at TVET colleges. It could also assist applicants with alternative placement if not successful with placement at their preferred choice of institution/programme.”
University spokespeople have insisted the government will not change the admission criteria for particular courses.
Burger said: “The important issue is that CAS is about providing an application service, not a selection/admission service.”
Wits University registrar Carol Crosley said: “Universities’ institutional autonomy to determine their own admission criteria will remain.
“Universities look at more than just matric marks when considering students. The department will not be able to ‘place’ students since universities themselves have to accept students, but a centralised application clearinghouse that is integrated across the 20+ universities and TVET colleges is a very good idea.”
Nic Spaull, an education researcher in the department of economics at the Stellenbosch University, said: “I think it's a very good proposal to have a single centralised application system. It’s ridiculous that students have to apply to six or more universities using as many application forms – most of which are asking for the same thing. The universities also remain in the dark as to which students have already accepted offers at other universities.”
But he warned that the project was very hi-tech and could fail, adding that it was not the first time the department of higher education was trying this.
“It tried to implement a centralised applications system in 2012, but that failed. Hopefully, the department pilots this extensively before rolling it out and invests in IT capacity. There are serious technical requirements for such a system to work.”
The department “needs to provide quite a lot of detail about how the system will work, including how it will incorporate things like the National Benchmarking Tests (NBTs) and the differing documents required by universities in applications (motivation letters, extra-curricular activities, etc)”.
Crosley said if a degree had additional requirements, such as a music audition or writing an NBT for health sciences, these would remain in place.
The system “will make it less confusing for matriculants and hopefully will require them to submit documentation to one service, which will be used by multiple institutions instead of an applicant having to submit the same information to various institutions”.She said matric marks may appear on the system automatically.The draft bill does not give a time frame for the new system. A spokesperson for the University of Cape Town said they would respond formally to the department.“UCT understands that what is proposed is a central application service and not a central admissions service. Therefore, universities will continue to have full control over their criteria for admission.”