The effect of selected academic development programmes on the academic performance of academic development students at a South African university : an empirical study.

Doctoral Thesis


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University of Cape Town

The case studies that make up this thesis cover the three largest academic development programmes at the University of Cape Town. A variety of statistical methods are used to estimate the effect of educational interventions in selected first- and second-year academic development courses on the academic performance of academic development students in these courses and through to graduation, relative to mainstream students. In general, research in this area in South Africa and internationally has been characterised by small sample sizes and a lack of statistical rigour. Few studies control for the range of independent variables that can affect students’ academic performance, in addition to the academic development programme or course, and the great majority ignore the sampleselection problem that arises in the selection of students for academic development and mainstream programmes. The theoretical rationale underpinning this thesis is informed by the postpositivist and evidence-based approaches to empirical investigation. Demographic, academic and other data for some 9000 students for the years 1999?2005 was obtained from the university’s data base and academic departments. Statistical techniques including multivariate analysis and propensity score matching are used in an attempt to finesse the problems associated with the use of non-experimental data as students are selected into different courses and programmes.

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Includes bibliographical references.