1. Introduction and purpose

The Centre for Science Access (CSA) which includes the B.Sc4 (Augumented) programme, the B.Sc4 (Foundation) Programme and Science Foundation Programme (SFP) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal on the Pietermaritzburg and Westville campuses has pioneered a successful model of Faculty-based Counselling in a tertiary institution. The Life skills and counselling component is closely integrated with all the other parts of the access programmes to ensure that it is relevant and meets the needs of students in a holistic way. It includes training in life skills, vocational guidance, mediation, academic monitoring and personal Counselling. The CSA employs 3 full time qualified Counselling Psychologists as well as a Careers Advisor. Without this component, it is unlikely that SFP and B.Sc. 4 students would have performed nearly as well academically as they have.

The purpose of the Life skills and Counselling component is to:

  • prepare students better for the world of work including expanding their knowledge about careers in Science and Applied Science.
  • develop students as life-long learners to help students to manage better the transition from school to a tertiary institution.
  • ensure that students' emotional and personal needs are met as well as their academic needs since we know that many students' academic performance and level of motivation are affected by personal issues (such as death in the family, HIV/Aids, trauma, financial hardship etc.) as opposed to purely academic factors.

2. Structure of the Life skills and Counselling component

The Life skills component consists of a double lecture period for each group of about 30 students per week. The Life skills module is not a credit bearing module but 80% attendance is required for students to proceed into the Faculty of Science and Agriculture. In the double lecture period, many life skills workshops are offered e.g. stress and time management, study skills, conflict resolution, examination and test skills, employment skills and financial aid, and career decision making. These workshops help students to cope with the demands of University life, teach them valuable skills in academic literacy and improve their confidence, sense of belonging, and self-esteem. Career counselling, curriculum planning, course choice, and career development are also dealt with.

In addition, students are encouraged to make appointments for individual Counselling (for personal and academic problems). Students have access to regular confidential individual counselling where issues such as family problems, depression, rape, violence, bereavement, anxiety, fatigue, inability to concentrate, study skills, time management and procrastination are dealt with.

The Counsellors monitor students' progress across their subjects, contact students who are not coping in an attempt to address any difficulties they might be having, and liaise closely with staff teaching the foundation and extended modules.

They also facilitate mediation between staff and students. In these sessions students and staff have the opportunity to discuss any matters of concern to them and to talk about their progress. This improves relations between staff and students, and can be useful in dealing with potentially destructive conflicts and misunderstandings which may cause staff and students to become demotivated and demoralized if left unchecked.

The Counsellors also perform a large number of administrative tasks e.g. writing testimonials for students, contacting companies for bursaries, writing letters, attending meetings, monitoring student attendance registers etc. They are also responsible for training the class representatives in leadership, listening, conflict resolution and facilitation skills.

Any queries related to the above may be directed to Shelley Barnsley, Senior Counselling Psychologist, who can be contacted on (033) 260 5697 or via email at the address

Members of the Life Skills Counselling Component

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