The challenges and prospects of access to higher education at UNISA (Moeketsi Letseka and Victor Pitsoe)

In Studies in Higher Education, Letseka and Pitsoe (2014) explore the issues of student access and success at the University of South Africa (UNISA). They sketch the challenges of Open and Distance Learning (ODL), articulation, learner support, Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) and poor throughput rates. Drawing on British philosopher Karl Popper’s The Logic of Scientific Discovery, they argue that theorising ODL should be based on an understanding of theory as a ‘coherent and systematic ordering of ideas, concepts and models for the purpose of constructing meaning in order to explain, interpret and shape practice’. That is, theory should provide a perspective that reduces complexity while suggesting generalisability. They explore whether, over the years, ODL has been able to develop sound articulation praxis to move itself into the twenty-first century. Such theorising should enable distance educators to reflect on the choices for adopting new technologies and new approaches to teaching and learning.

In order to provide adequate support to its diverse student demographics, UNISA has adopted the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in the form of MyUnisa online portal. While the use of modern electronic technologies might be regarded as fait accompli given that we are now presumed to live in a networked society, Letseka and Pitsoe consider whether it is indeed the case that everyone is networked as Immanuel Castells wants us to believe. They question whether this laudable initiative might have the unintended consequence of excluding the vast majority of students who are excluded from the benefits of the digital age by their material conditions of existence and unfavourable geographical locations.

The challenge of RPL might be sweet music to the hardened factory worker who yearns to have his work experience recognised and accredited in order for him to be certificated. The question is, have we cleared the hurdles of processes and procedures for granting RPL? The case in point, most RPL applicants find it difficult to ‘de-constitute’ and ‘re-constitute’ previous unconscious performance into a codified propositional form that accreditation processes and procedures can recognise. Put bluntly, the researchers propose that there is lack of clarity and explicitness with respect to RPL assessment.

Letseka and Pitsoe (2014) are convinced that UNISA will continue to play an important role in national human resource development plans and priorities. It is the researchers view though that UNISA can do better in terms of the issues of access and success were the institution to pay more attention to clarifying and resolving some, if not all the challenges highlighted in the paper.

Citation: Letseka, M., & Pitsoe, V. (2014) “The challenges and prospects of access to higher education at UNISA”, Studies in Higher Education, 39 (10), 1942–1954.

The article is available at: Link:


Moeketsi Letseka is Senior Lecturer in the department of Educational Foundations, College of Education, UNISA. He is also Editor-in-Chief of Africa Education Review, an internationally read and circulated education journal that is jointly published by UNISA Press and Taylor & Francis, in Oxon, UK. Africa Education Review is accredited by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) as well as the International Bibliography of the Social Sciences (IBSS).
Victor Pitsoe is an Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Management, College of Education, UNISA. He is also Deputy Editor of Africa Education Review.



For further information contact Moeketsi Letseka at and Victor Pitsoe at