It’s a common belief in South Africa that a degree gives you the best chance of getting a job after your studies. However, with the never-ending changes in the technology industry, the course content of institutions offering traditional degrees often lacks the agility to remain up to date.  An often-overlooked option for tertiary education is obtaining a qualification offered by smaller, more dynamic institutions which come at lower cost and time requirements. 
 
Here are five myths around tertiary education in South Africa:

Myth 1: All tertiary education institutions keep up to date with trends and new information

Many institutions only assess their syllabi every three to five years, leaving scholars with out-dated skills that prevent them from gaining employment once they enter the job market. “A lot of what is learned at traditional institutions is out-dated at best and, obsolete at worst, while online training providers are constantly shifting and transforming to meet the learning needs of the future,” explains Riaz Moola, founder and CEO of tech education providers HyperionDev.

There are a number of universities around the world, including Lynn University in Florida and California’s Dominican University, that are partnering with coding bootcamps to update their curriculum. These universities have seen the urgent need to adapt their syllabi in order to keep up with the demand from the workforce, specifically in the technology industry.

Myth 2: You must live in a major city to get a good education.

“Studying a course online is not only more affordable than going to university, but also more accessible, as a student need not factor in other concerns such as transport or university residence costs,” notes Moola. Online courses can help bridge the gap between those able to invest in tertiary education and those that aren’t. Smartphones are also a significant tool for online learning enabling students, in even the most rural of locations, to access the information, as are limited-access education models that cut down on the need to download large files or video tutorials.

Myth 3: You need a degree to get a job in South Africa

A survey conducted by the Institute of Race Relations in 2016, states that nearly half a million South Africans with a tertiary qualification from a college or university are currently unemployed. Similarly, a 2017 survey conducted by jobs website Indeed found that the vast majority (72%) of employers consider bootcamp graduates to be “just as prepared to be high performers” as graduates with degrees. “This proves that traditional education is neither the most effective nor, the only manner in which to penetrate South Africa’s modern job market,” states Moola.

The IT and technology industry accounts for the highest levels of employment in South Africa and the access to entry is relatively low with an abundance of short, quality courses available in easily accessible formats.

Myth 4: Most students that undertake a degree or diploma complete their studies

This year, a report published by the Department of Education and Training revealed that 47.9% of university students do not go on to complete their degrees. The financial burden to complete a three- to four-year degree makes it very difficult for many students to finish their studies.  “The commitment of a three- or four-year gap in earnings, added to the substantial cost of traditional education - it’s not surprising that the drop-out rate is so high,” says Moola.

Myth 5: A degree will pay for itself

Recent data says students can expect to pay R64 200 on average for the first year of university in 2019, and that cost is predicted to rise to R107 600 by 2025.  In South Africa, the burden often falls on the student to cover their costs of tuition, and so many take out student loans to cover their fees. Students are required to start paying off their study loans from as soon as three months after completing their degree and, if not employed, this can become a major challenge at a very sensitive time in a young adult’s life.