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Since the dawn of democracy, South African universities have seen increased access to higher education from African students, the majority being first-generation students (FGS). This increase to access came with challenges of retention and throughput amongst first-year first-generation African students (FYFGAS). Despite these challenges, there have also been FYFGAS who have successfully passed
their first year and completed their qualifications. This article used a mixed method approach with a sample of 311 FYFGAS who were registered in a standard first-year course in three faculties at a university in Gauteng. Quantitative data were collected through a questionnaire and qualitative data were collected from individual semi-structured interviews. Analyses included the use of Structural
Equation Modelling which provided interesting insights into the inter-relations between various factors. Findings from the data analyses were used to create a framework of persistence for FYFGAS in higher education. The framework focuses on the resilience factors of first-year students and the role of the institution in ensuring that these students are successful. It also provides a guide for institutional interventions aimed at improving the persistence of FYFGAS.
Keywords: first year; first-generation African students; first-generation students; higher education; persistence; resilience; social support