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Title: Diversity and first-year student integration in an engineering faculty
Authors: Mkonto, Nosisana 
Kakaza, Luvuyo 
Esambe, Emmanuel 
Keywords: Higher education in South Africa;Engineering professions;Bourdieu’s concepts of habitus;First-year university students
Issue Date: 2017
Publisher: South African Society for Engineering Education
Abstract: Within the backdrop of widening access to higher education in South Africa, shortage of skilled engineers, and a lack of ethnic representation in engineering professions, South Africa’s universities are increasingly having a more diverse student profiles. However, government funded subsidies directed at reducing student attrition and poor throughput rates do not often yield the desired results. Most of the students who struggle to cope with first-year university studies come from a poor background with inadequate schooling and poor preparation for tertiary studies. These students are often perceived in the same frame as their counterparts who come from more resourced backgrounds. This paper employs Bourdieu’s concepts of habitus and capital in order to explore the influence of socio-economic factors in the retention of first-year university students in an engineering discipline. Using a case study approach whereby data was collected through surveys and focus group discussions, rich data from first-year engineering students at a university of technology in South Africa was extracted. The findings highlight some of the often ignored factors that account for poor retention and throughputs in engineering education within the context of unequal access to resources. The paper argues that these universities need to shift their gaze to the structural conditions such as poverty, poor schooling, first generation students, and lack of world view dispositions, as factors that constrain the integration and persistence of diverse students into the engineering profession.
Description: Proceedings of the Fourth Biennial Conference of the South African Society for Engineering Education Cape Town 14-15 June, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-620-76309-7
Appears in Collections:Edu - Conference Proceedings

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