Main Article Content

The effect of factors related to prior schooling on student persistence in higher education

Eli Bitzer
Christel Troskie-De Bruin


One way to generate useful information, for both the schooling sector and higher education institutions, about students who continue their studies after school is to assess students' perceptions of themselves. Once reliable profiles of these students have been established and related to student performance, analyses may assist to predict factors associated with the persistence of first-year students and retention rates in higher education. First-year student perceptions were measured at one South African university, using the Alpha Baseline Questionnaire. Applying Tinto's Student Integration Model, the potential effect of first-year students' perceptions of their academic, general and social competence on their academic persistence potential was then determined. It was found, inter alia, that entry-level university students seem to underestimate time requirements of out-of-class work. Students at a lower level of school performance proved to be over-optimistic about their potential to persist and seemed to be over-confident about their academic self-image compared to school leavers who performed at higher academic levels at school. In areas of general and social self-image this pattern continued. The results of the study are important for school counsellors, teachers in both schooling and higher education, and for academic developers in higher education. Findings indicated the need to prepare school leavers to have more realistic expectations of higher education programmes and to support lower level school achievers more effectively for improved retention rates in higher education.

South African Journal of Education Vol.24(2) 2004: 119-125