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Title: The factors associated with student recruitment and student profiles in Dental Technology at a University of Technology
Authors: Dlamini, Philiswa Charity, 
Issue Date: 2017
With the transformation in Higher Education (HE), the number of Black African students entering South African universities increased significantly (72%). Black African students accounted for 77.38% of the total student population at Durban University of Technology (DUT). It has been noted that the majority Black African students in HE are first-generation students, many are under-prepared, and come from low-socioeconomic backgrounds. Students from this racial group tend to make incorrect career choices due to a lack of knowledge, experience, and adequate vocational guidance and career counselling. To add to this, many University of Technology programmes, such as Dental Technology, are vocational in nature and prepare students for unfamiliar industries. The aim of this study is to determine the factors associated with student recruitment practices and student profiles in the Dental Technology programme at the DUT.

This cross-sectional study employed a mixed method approach. An online survey recruited Dental Technology students who entered the programme from 2008 to 2012. The students’ demographic information was retrieved from the Management Information System (MIS) Department. The survey generated categorical data, which was analysed using the SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences) which included frequencies, cross-tabulation, Chi-Square test, and Spearman's Rank Order Correlation. Semi-structured interviews with Dental Technology lecturers and the staff involved in student recruitment practices generated qualitative data which was analysed using QSR NVIVO 10. Common themes were classified and discussed.

The findings showed that 75% of Dental Technology students were Black African. Only 28% came from urban areas and 81.4% of students attended government schools. Furthermore, 60% relied on financial aid for the payment of their tuition fees.

Two categories of necessary attributes emerged i.e. general attributes for an HE student (intrinsic qualities e.g. passion, positive attitude) and the practice specific attributes for Dental Technology (e.g. good eye-hand coordination, manual dexterity). However, the academic staff indicated that the programme is not attracting its desired students. Added to this, is the fact that from the 2008 – 2012 initial intake of 157 students, 41% dropped out of the programme.

According to Dental Technology staff, there are no programme-specific student recruitment practices, and they rely on the institutional recruitment practices. However, qualitative findings showed that the DUT employs a generic approach which includes branding and direct promotion with academic departments only minimally involved, reducing the likelihood of effectively recruiting desired students for specific academic programmes such as Dental Technology. About 83% of students indicated that they had not been exposed to any of the DUT’s recruitment practices while they were still in high school.

With these findings, it can be concluded that the association between the profiles of the student participants and the current student recruitment practices in the Dental Technology programme is incongruent and weak. In essence when students are recruited to enrol in academic programmes in an institution there needs to be a strong relationship between academic departments and the staff members responsible for recruiting students as the academic staff members are better able to clearly explain the intricacies of their respective programmes and they have an accurate understanding of their desired students. The student recruitment personnel are equipped to sell or market the institution and its offerings to prospective students, but there is clearly a need for the Dental Technology programme to pay more attention to the manner in which their students are recruited and retained. This will help to improve the programme's pass rates and dropout rates while addressing the issues of access, equity, diversity.
Submitted in full compliance with the requirements for the Master of Health Sciences in Dental Technology, Durban University of Technology, Durban, South Africa, 2017.
Appears in Collections:Theses and dissertations (Health Sciences)

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