Mitigating graduate unemployability through student academic support: the case of the University of Fort Hare

Alfred H Makura, Kuselwa Marala


Graduate unemployability in the South African context is slowly becoming a topical issue. This development puts into
perspective the quality of the graduate churned by the respective institutions as well as the quality of education on offer.
Most South African higher education institutions have in place centres of ‘academic excellence’ or ‘academic development
centres’ or ‘centres of teaching and learning’ whose mandate is to offer academic support to students. The aim is to
improve the quality of particularly, the undergraduate student. Research on practices aimed at empowering the ‘disadvantaged
learner’ in a Higher Education context is scanty. This paper reports on how the University of Fort Hare has
structured and run its academic development or support programmes for the benefit of all students by adopting a developmental
approach. The university has put in place quality assurance measures within these support programmes as well
as other measures aimed at improving graduate quality and possibly employability. Using secondary statistical data
captured from the academic support programmes on offer, the paper shows how such programmes can impact on graduate
output rates, academic excellence and perceived employability. The perceived positive impact of the Fort Hare academic
support project makes a strong case for the adoption of transformational leadership styles if the goals of student
quality and success are to be realised.

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