PPS Student Confidence Index 2021 survey highlights:
- 48% would want a hybrid learning approach.
- 39% intend to head overseas after obtaining a degree.
- One in three students has a side hustle, with 31% planning to grow their side hustles once employed.
The majority of tertiary students are concerned about South Africa’s future over the next five years due to prevalent corruption, soaring unemployment and the economic devastation caused by COVID-19.
“However, many students choose to see the silver lining and are determined to grab the opportunities presented by these challenges,” says Motshabi Nomvethe, Head of Technical Marketing at PPS, during the announcement of the 2021 Student Confidence Index (SCI) survey.
The survey has been conducted annually since 2015, except in 2020 due to COVID-19. The 2021 survey involved 3 304 participants and was conducted by the Professional Provident Society (PPS), the financial services company focused solely on providing intelligent financial solutions for graduate professionals.
The students who participated are undergraduates and postgraduates studying at a public university or university of technology and studying towards a profession-specific degree such as engineering, medicine, law or accounting. They responded to the survey through online questionnaires and virtual focus groups.
“Of the respondents, 51% are more anxious when compared to 2020 about the future impact of COVID-19. Regarding their feelings about the country’s future over the next five years, 39% are not positive, while 41% say they are uncertain. This is because of a confluence of problems such as comparatively low standards of education, crime and a lack of political will to solve them. For 88% of the students, the debilitating unemployment, and for 77% the rampant corruption, sit aloft their worry list,” Nomvethe explains.
As a consequence, 55% of respondents are somewhat or completely not confident that they will get a job after obtaining their qualification. A growing number of students are therefore pursuing entrepreneurship. One in three students has a side hustle, with 31% intending to grow these once employed. More than a third (39%) of all respondents say they are planning to pursue greener pastures outside the country.
The students are taking full advantage of the rise in the freelance and side-hustle economy where people have multiple income streams. “I have three side hustles. I am a ‘fitness bunny’ that sells supplement products and clothes that I buy in Pretoria and sell in my community. I also knit and sell scarfs,” explained one student.
The students felt that broadening their horizons by working overseas gives them a better chance of success in their careers. “I am exposing myself to work that I can do, not just in South Africa. I am trying not to limit myself so that – should anything happen here in South Africa – I can still be an asset elsewhere,” said one student during a focus-group session. The 30% who indicated they want to stay behind said they want to assist in growing the economy as they believe the country requires critical skills.
Like many aspects of our lives, COVID-19 has changed learning. The impact was moderate, with 41% feeling that they battled with no contact during the hard lockdown, 30% felt more anxious, and 34% found the shift to e-learning challenging.
“Generally, the transition to e-learning was a challenge for many students, especially those from historically challenged backgrounds. While 26% of the students said mobile data was expensive, things are improving, and 48% say they prefer a hybrid learning approach,” Nomvethe explains. Cognisant of these challenges, the PPS Foundation provided several higher learning institutions with funds to buy digital devices and internet data for students during the crossover to e-learning.
“For employers, the survey implies that human resources policies must be adjusted to allow for globally mobile and entrepreneurial graduates. Also, future job seekers will be better prepared for the hybrid world of work where some work online and others physically in the office,” concludes Nomvethe.