Quality of Life Survey V (2017/18): The quality of life of students in Gauteng

The GCRO’s biennial Quality of Life (QoL) survey has proven to provide valuable insights into the overall quality of life of residents in Gauteng. The survey data can be applied in many different ways, like understanding the spatial dimensions of certain measures or delving into details about conditions in specific areas or sub-groups. This Data Brief provides an overview of the quality of life of one such sub-group, namely students in Gauteng.

Why do we need to focus on students in Gauteng? One reason is that educational attainment is critically important to enabling social mobility and reducing inequality in our society but that accessing tertiary education is not easy. Personal circumstances also influence how successful students are. The QoL survey data for 2017/18, allowed us to explore the relative privilege and disadvantage within, and between, student and non-student residents in Gauteng.

This Data Brief considers various dimensions of students’ lives, starting with the demographic profile of the student sample. It also considers their living conditions and socio-economic status, access to selected resources and assets, transport choices, satisfaction, sense of well-being and overall quality of life. The analysis represents the lives of students before the COVID-19 pandemic and it is very likely that many of the disparities and challenges that students face (like being a household head or accessing the internet) would be exacerbated during the various phases of lockdown, making it even harder to manage tertiary education demands

The results showed that various dimensions of racial inequality exist within the student sample. On average, African students were from households with lower monthly incomes than white students. However, it is also important to note that the average household income of African students was almost twice as much as that of African non-students. African students were also less likely to report that they have access to various assets that likely assist learning (like laptops or internet at home) than other population groups. It was also clear that the majority of all students in the sample would have qualified for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funding (69%) based on their household income. Only about 26% of students were considered part of the ‘missing middle’, and only about 5% of students could be categorised as upper class. In terms of satisfaction, students were, on average, 6% more likely to be satisfied with a range of services, facilities and spheres of government than non-students. Although the differences remain relatively small, students were more likely to respond positively on various measures of physical well-being and of mental well-being such as physical health and emotional support respectively, than non-students. The quality of life of students was higher than that of non-students.

There were both positive and negative findings, but the analysis highlights that the need for financial support remains significant, especially for students and non-students from poorer households. Students also experience a variety of challenges to completing tertiary education (like access to assets and transport opportunities) which should be considered for interventions. There were also significant social class differences between part-time and full-time students, suggesting that there is value in creating part-time tertiary learning opportunities. Ultimately, our goal should be to provide disadvantaged youth with greater access to tertiary education and opportunities to complete tertiary qualifications.


The GCRO sends out regular news to update subscribers on our research and events.