SA's first low-cost tertiary education institution, Johannesburg's Cida City Campus, has suspended its year-long foundation programme for next year, registrar Mburu Gitonga confirmed last week.

About 60% of those who graduate with Cida's accredited Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree have been through the foundation year, into which school- leavers who have good marks but might not have achieved a university pass, are accepted.

The institution was suspending the foundation course to rebuild it into a formal qualification so those who did not get marks good enough to move into the first year of the BBA programme, for which a 60% pass was needed, would still have a qualification that they could use, said Cida's senior marketing manager Nesan Chetty.

Each year about 40% of Cida's foundation programme class - averaging 250 students - do not get marks high enough to get into the BBA course. "We are exploring with (several of) the Setas (sectoral education and training authorities) the development of some kind of learnership yea r," Chetty said.

The institution is also looking at improving the infrastructure at its Lyndhurst campus , said Gitonga. But the decision has been criticised by some of the foundation year teachers, who say it is a pity to see it go as so many benefit from it. They have also not had their 12- month contracts renewed, although Chetty said that when the new programme was launched in 2011 they would be welcome to apply again for teaching posts.

"We (teachers) say, good luck to them if they want to take all their students straight from school, (because) this year we took in a lot of very weak students and we've been quite blown away by their progress," said a tutor, who asked to remain anonymous. Even SA's traditional universities have struggled this year with students who are not as well-prepared for tertiary study as their seniors.

Higher Education SA, the umbrella body for SA's 23 public higher education institutions, warned Parliament in August that there would be a higher than usual failure and dropout rate among this year's first-year intake.

They were the first to have written the outcomes-based curriculum after studying it throughout their 12 years at school. Cida has graduated 1040 students with a BBA since 2004.

blaines@bdfm.co.za