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Five Economics Phds graduate in March

Cobus Burger 

 “A structural approach to modelling South African labour market decisions.”

This study applies sophisticated econometric models to the labour market. High employment mobility amongst black youths is found to be the result of misclassification error or unobserved individual heterogeneity. Instead of accepting self-reported reservation wages, a job search model recovers reservation wages consistent with observed behaviour. The role of education in labour market outcomes is then investigated through a dynamic programming model that mimics schooling decisions for forward-looking optimising agents.

Jeanne Cilliers 

“A demographic history of Settler South Africa.”

In her dissertation, Jeanne Cilliers uses a novel and large genealogical dataset of settler families in South Africa to investigate the fertility transition, birth spacing and intergenerational mobility of South Africans before unification. Her pioneering results contribute to important debates within the fields of economic history, population studies and development economics.

Anja  Smith 

“Healthcare reform priorities for South Africa: four essays on the financing, delivery and user acceptability of healthcare.”

Anja’s dissertation examined why the South African health system is producing disappointing health outcomes despite relatively high levels of expenditure. She considered how the system is financed, how services are delivered and also how clients experience the services. More specifically, she looked at these questions in the context of the medical schemes market, access to tuberculosis (TB) care services and access to antenatal care services. Her thesis provides insights for health reform on both health financing and service delivery in South Africa.

Hendrik van Broekhuizen 

“Graduate employability, returns to higher education,and tertiary enrolment decisions in South Africa.”

This thesis examines the nexus between schools, universities and the labour market. Graduate unemployment is low, and inter-racial variation is explained by types of institution attended. University access, success and dropout are largely explained by matric performance. Universities would only begin to produce enough teacher graduates to satisfy demand within the next decade if current enrolment growth and throughput rates could be maintained.

G Wills 

“An economic perspective on school leadership and teachers’ unions in South Africa.”

School leadership and teacher unions are critical factors in the culture of inefficiency in South African education. Unique administrative and payroll data allow a quantitative profile of the labour market for school principals. A growing number of school principals is retiring, with implications for school performance and appointments. Finally, the author investigates how much student learning is lost because of teacher participation in strikes.

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Stellenbosch participates in 2016 World Economic Games

Stellenbosch University has been selected as one of thirty teams to participate in the 2016 World Econometric Game hosted by the VSAE of the University of Amsterdam from the 6th to the 8th of April. This is the third time that the university has been invited to these prestigious games and will be competing against teams from Harvard University, Oxford University, the University of Maastricht (winner of the 2015 game) and many more. The participants are challenged to apply the latest econometric techniques on real world problems presented by the case maker and are adjudicated by a jury of experts in the field. Our econometric team consists of Lewis McLean, Ingrid de Waal, Nwabisa Makaluza, and Christoph Garbers. The team is looking forward to tackling tough issues in an innovative way by using data and the latest econometric techniques. 

For more details about the game visit:

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Edward Kerby new postdoc

I’ve joined LEAP as a postdoctoral research fellow from the London School of Economics. My research is focused on African economic geography, business history and development economics. I aim to finalise three papers from my PhD which examine trade, foreign investment and business networks between South Africa and Asia, using apartheid isolation as a natural experiment. My previous work on colonial railroads and urban path dependence was published in the Economics Journal. My wife Tessa is also at Stellenbosch University; a doctor in the Department of Psychiatry. Prior to academia I worked in healthcare and management consulting spending 6 years in Australasia, and the Middle East where I was a managing director. In my spare time I’m an amateur garagiste and recently bottled my maiden vintage, a Cape red blend. Tessa and I enjoy the outdoors, traveling and spending time with our family.

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The historically high cost of tertiary education in South Africa

Following the government announcement that university tuition fees will not increase in 2016, Johan Fourie and Estian Calitz investigated tuition fee trends in the last century. We calculated the cost of a BA degree in 1911, 1946, 1961, 1977, 1995, 2006 and 2015 and compared it to adult income trends. At the start of the twentieth century, higher education required more than 65% of average adult income. Over the next fifty years, due to rising incomes and steady real tuition fees, fees as a percentage of income fell dramatically to reach 22% by 1961.

By the 1970s and 1980s, real tuition fees had begun to increase. Combined with stagnating incomes and higher inflation, a larger share of adult income was necessary to attend Stellenbosch University. But even in 1995, one year after South Africa’s democratic transition, tuition fees comprised a similar share of adult income as in 1946. 

By 2015, however, tuition fees were 2.7 times higher than in 1961. The rise in fees relative to the cost of living was thus a post-1994 phenomenon. Between 2006 and 2015 the cost of a BA degree at Stellenbosch University increased by 30%, requiring 44% of average adult income, reminiscent of the time when higher education was a luxury good reserved for the elite.

Without substantial additional government support South African universities are unlikely to return to the low tuition fee regime of the mid-twentieth century, whilst simultaneously ensuring high quality tuition.

The working paper is available here:

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