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Our project focuses on determining equitable access to, and improving the quality of, international distance education (IDE) in South Africa.

This is important because the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) introduced in Sept 2015 aim to ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality education, including at the university level (Goal 4.3).

This is particularly crucial in Africa where enrolment in tertiary educations (8%) is the lowest of any continent (UNESCO 2012).

Distance education (DE) is proven to offer access to Higher Education to students facing demographic and socio-economic disadvantages (gender, race, disability, later learners, and learners with caring responsibilities).

South Africa, particularly, The University of South Africa (UNISA), is the primary provider of mass DE for international students in Africa. However, it is not fully known what drivers are influencing IDE’s supply and demand in Africa and how far IDE can meet the SDG aims of equitable access to education. This is what we aim to find out.

Additionally, the SDGs also promise quality education but this requires capacity building to assess what works and how to fine-tune teaching to meet student needs. To aid this process we will be adapting, to the African context, a learning design tool developed by the Open University (OU).

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South African Study growth

(Source: DHET: Statistics on Post-School Education and Training in South Africa 2015)

The South African Higher Education sector is a key player in international education on the African continent.

The number of international students (IS) studying in South Africa has grown from 12,000 in 1994 to over 60,000 in 2009, to 72,959 in 2015 which represents nearly 7.5% of the total 985,000 students in South Africa's 23 public universities.

Distance Education Chart

(Source: DHET: Statistics on Post-School Education and Training in South Africa 2015)

Distance education is becoming increasingly important in the South African context.

The number of students enrolled in distance education in South Africa rose from 316,349 in 2009 to 372,331 in 2015.

Importance of Distance Education

(Source: DHET: Statistics on Post-School Education and Training in South Africa 2015)

The importance of distance education to South African higher education sector.

44% of international students in South Africa are distance learners, distributed across the continent, particularly the SADC countries.