UNISA Advice

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by Matt Cave, Jun 15, 2019.

  1. Matt Cave

    Matt Cave New Member

    Hi everyone,

    I haven't posted here for many years but wanted advice from anyone who has real experience with UNISA. I've completed a BTheol through University of Chester, & just completing a Graduate Diploma in Christian Thought & History from University of Otago, in NZ where I'm based. I'm now wanting to move into ancient history / archaeology in postgrad and considering UNISA for honours in Biblical Archaeology & / or Ancient Near East, then onto Masters.

    I'm wanting to know what people's recent experiences have been in postgrad with UNISA, particularly if you've done the Honours / Masters route. Also how people's experiences were with gaining access to journals, books etc from their library, support from Supervisors, and anyone's experience who gained a Masters from UNISA then went onto PhD at another university.

    Any current feedback & advice would be appreciated. The most recent threads I could find were 2015, so wondering if there's been any changes since...

    Thanks for your help
  2. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator Staff Member

    I'm sorry to say that it's unlikely you'll find someone here who has experience with that/those specific programs. We have a few members who have earned doctoral degrees from UNISA but it's not clear how helpful they might be. My own experience is that if you do everything precisely the way they dictate then it works moderately well. As with many other systems, it sometimes comes down to making a connection with the right person. I have found that developing good relationships with Assistants and secretaries is key because they are frequently the ones who place the work in front of the bosses. Personally I love Librarians and have discovered that often they feel under appreciated. Assuming that you have a student registration number I suggest that you contact them directly with your questions. If you do not have a student registration number yet then you should make it your very first step. At UNISA, you do not exist without one and you will be ignored by everyone.
  3. Matt Cave

    Matt Cave New Member

    Thanks Kizmet for your feedback. I'll have a go at contacting the administrators & librarians. I do have a student number, I did try a couple of honours papers but didn't really get any teaching so I just lost confidence the course / tutor. I have had sporadic contact with the tutors - promises of providing information and not following through, promises of assistance and then complete email silence. So I'm finding it hard to ascertain whether I would get the tutor support I'd need to ensure success through the research stages. Having only done limited research in undergrad with essay writing and still lacking confidence in my capabilities, I'm just unsure if the UNISA module would be right for me.

    If there's anyone else who's had actual experience in any field with UNISA & might have some comments to add that would be great.
  4. Ree09

    Ree09 New Member

    Hi Matt

    Before I go on, I need to put a disclaimer that I was a former Unisa student and completed my studies up to the masters level at the university. The advice given by Kizmet is excellent. My advice is as follows: If you want program specific information, the best way to do this is to contact the school directly. You will find all the contact information on the website relating to your program of interest. I would start with the department secretary to get general information about the school and the programs offered. If they cannot help then ask them to put you in contact with a faculty member who can assist. If this is not fruitful, then just pick any faculty member on the website, give them a call and ask them to assist you or direct you to a person who can. This is a rather long winded process but considering that Unisa is a mega university with over 300 000 students, you have to go directly to the source for information as opposed to using the general routes for information which in all honesty can be unpleasant (see comments by Kizmet). This route will also be beneficial for you if you don't have a student number, as I have used it many times during my study days and cannot recall a single incident where I was asked for it.

    My entire experience at Unisa was pleasant. I was fortunate enough to have a supervisor/chair during my masters study who was extremely efficient with giving feedback and very helpful with comments to improve my study. I think that this is more a reflection of my supervisor as opposed to the university, as I have heard many unfortunate stories from students at other universities regarding poor supervision. I think that this point will hold true for all universities, therefore if you are in the fortunate position to select your supervisor, make sure that your personalities, worldview etc. align if you want a smooth process. If you are the type that prefers challenges, then ignore the previous advice.

    The library at Unisa is well resourced. I have been there on many occasions and most of the time I have felt lost as it is very big. They make the claim that it is the largest academic library in Africa and from personal experience with other "elite" South African universities, the Unisa library is really impressive. From my understanding, I believe that they also subscribe to the most databases that house journals. I did not have any issue with locating any literature that I needed for my studies.

    Unisa is a university that does not do hand holding. You need to take responsibility for your own process. If you are the type that is self-motivated and can study on your own, Unisa can be a good fit but if you are not, then I would suggest that you align yourself with a university that can meet your needs. The faculty is there to assist you if you have trouble grasping concepts etc. but by and large you take responsibility for how you manage your time and the amount of study you put in.
  5. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator Staff Member

    I had an engineering prof who would say (in response to the statement, "But that goes without saying.")

    Nothing goes without saying!

    With that in mind I would also add that you need to be mindful of the time differential. You might get frustrated trying to reach them in the middle of the night (their time). If I remember correctly, I had to stay up late a few times in order to make a call during regular business hours.
  6. Tireman 44444

    Tireman 44444 Well-Known Member

    Ok, my take...( Mine is not the ordinary..by far. I am now in year 10..by the time I am defending, December 2019, it will be 10 and 1/2 years. MOST UNISA DOCTORATES DO NOT TAKE THIS LONG!!..lol. The record in the history department is 12 years...more lol)...

    1. I used Dr. Esselen and his group at IACI to get into UNISA. They are very picky as to whom they let in, so it took awhile to get in ( I applied in 2007, got in in July 2009)
    2. You have 7 years to finish, but I was given yet another extension by my co-chair at UNISA to finish. July 2019 makes year 10. I am hoping for December 2019 to defend, but I have until February 2020 to finish.
    3. IT IS HARD. If you need hand holding, UNISA is not your school. If you need constant supervision, UNISA is not your school.
    4. Yes, it is inexpensive. The most I have paid is $2200 dollars a year. This past March I paid $1600.00
    5. I can only speak for the history department. I have no idea about the other departments.

    This is the process:

    1. You have to get selected. Someone in the department ( history) has to have an interest in your research
    2. Then you are selected. That person who wanted to work with you ( and that is a very loose term, he has not ever) will ask you to pick a co-chair. That person has to be an expert in your field.
    3. Then you and the co-chair "do the dissertation" as it were. When it is up to his/her liking, the two pick a committee of three experts in your field
    4. That committee revises and works it over until they are satisfied
    5. You defend. No I do not have to go to Pretoria. Yes, I am doing by Google Hangouts
    6. Corrections are to be made afterward ( if there are any)
    7. You cannot call yourself ( not that I want to ...ever..after all this) doctor until you get your degree
    8. No, I am not going to Pretoria to walk. 2K a ticket is too rich for my blood

    Lastly, invest in a dissertation coach. She has helped a ton with scheduling ( although I do most of it)

    This is on the doctoral side of UNISA..specifically for the history department.
    Jonathan Whatley likes this.
  7. Ree09

    Ree09 New Member

    @Tireman 4444, what's important is that you complete, at least you can tell cool war stories about your ten year battle which I find more interesting than the standard, 'oh I completed in the minimum time possible'. It's says a lot about a person. All the best with your final push.
    RoscoeB and Tireman 44444 like this.
  8. Tireman 44444

    Tireman 44444 Well-Known Member

    Oh and yeah, it has been a hassle every time I try to pay tuition. EVERY year. Now, UNISA is a mega university and yes, you can get lost in the shuffle. In the 10 years I have been there ( the first three, Dr. Esselen had to help me..a third party as it were, to pay), I have never been able to pay the first time I went through registration. There has always been a problem. Now, they get it fixed ( this last time, it was really quick, by UNISA standards)..and they get the registration through, but....LOL
  9. Matt Cave

    Matt Cave New Member

    Thanks for all your comments they are very encouraging. I’ll take the step to make some calls too. Having completed my under grad and graduate diploma via distance learning I’m well versed with self motivation and drive. However the change from under grad into post grad research is a leap so knowing what avenues there are for assistance, guidance and coaching if needed until that transition is made is just my attempt at being realistic... hope that makes sense. However I think with what I’ve discovered so far it may work for me so thanks for your all your comments / feedback.
  10. GregWatts

    GregWatts Active Member

    Years ago I considered UNISA for humanities based on cost, reputation, flexibility... but much has changed... are there reasonable alternatives now?
  11. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator Staff Member

    It's true that much has changed in the world of distance learning and there are indeed many more choices available than even 10-15 years ago. Still, UNISA provides a range of disciplines on all levels that few other schools can match and their price tag continues to be lower than the vast majority of those alternatives. At the same time it should be remembered that with over 400,000 students UNISA has a need to handle it's processes differently than your average state university. Also, UNISA remains primarily an African university designed for Africans. While many people might like to attend American universities, the prevalence of poverty couple with an unfavorable exchange rate make American alternatives unrealistic for most people on that continent. I'm guessing that if 100% of the Americans enrolled at UNISA were to withdraw it would hardly cause a ripple in their enrollment numbers.
    RoscoeB likes this.
  12. Vonnegut

    Vonnegut Well-Known Member

    Cheers on your perseverance, it's an absolute testament to one's character. By chance, could you elaborate on what some of the challenges that you've faced with doctoral studies at UNISA?

    Has anyone else on degreeinfo gone through UNISA? Would love to chat about the experience. Thanks.
  13. Helpful2013

    Helpful2013 Active Member

    Hello Tireman,

    That sounds like more than enough challenge for two people, and good on you for seeing this through. Your experience there does cause me to think about something. A number of people inquire about UNISA on this board, some of whom aren’t necessarily experienced in their fields, just coming off an MA. If I recall rightly, you had already been teaching history after receiving your MA and with an MLS obviously understand research resources and how to track them down. How do you think students would fare coming into UNISA’s minimalist supervision/maximum admin challenge scenario without your background and with only their BA/MA academic learning under their belt?
  14. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    Brad Sweet did. He's not active here anymore but you can learn more about him here: https://frbrad.ca/about-me/ If you want to reach out to him, he's friendly.
  15. Tireman 44444

    Tireman 44444 Well-Known Member

    If they are self starters, they are ok. If they need hand holding, they are in trouble. I am not sure my background had anything to do with it. The MLS might have worked a little, but I did a lot of research for my MA, so I think that is a wash.
  16. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator Staff Member

    Based on what I've been told, determination might be the most important quality to possess.
  17. Vonnegut

    Vonnegut Well-Known Member

    Thank you. Just emailed him, had to dig around to find a contact address, most of his social media accounts had messaging turned off.
    SteveFoerster likes this.

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