Since the start of its actuarial programme, the University of Cape Town has produced more than 40% of actuaries qualifying in South Africa.
The University of Cape Town, founded in 1829 as the South African College, is South Africa's oldest university and generally regarded as one of the top two universities in the country. It is probably also one of the most beautifully situated universities to be found anywhere.
A degree including actuarial subjects was first offered by UCT in 1968. Initially this degree did not provide exemptions from the professional examinations. In 1970, however, the Actuarial Society of South Africa began negotiations for recognition of the university's courses, and three years later agreement was reached on the awarding of exemptions to students who obtained a satisfactory standard in the relevant university subjects and for the degree as a whole. "Satisfactory" was initially defined as 70% or above, but in 1988 the Institute and Faculty agreed to reduce this requirement to 65%.
The Actuarial Science Section at UCT came into being in the mid-1980s and - unusually for such a unit - is part of the School of Management Studies within the Faculty of Commerce. The Section offers the following degrees and diploma:
Bachelor of Business Science - a four-year first degree (somewhat unusual in South Africa - the usual structure is a three-year bachelor's degree plus a further "honours year").
BCom + BCom(Hons) - a three-year degree with majors in Statistics and Actuarial Science, followed by an honours year.
Postgraduate Diploma in Management (Actuarial Conversion Course) - a one - or two-year course intended specifically for graduates of universities that do not offer actuarial courses, to enable them to complete as many actuarial subjects as they can in a short time.
Postgraduate Diploma in Actuarial Science/MBusSc by coursework and dissertation - designed mainly to prepare students for the ST-series subjects of the professional examinations.
This article concentrates on the BBusSc degree and the performance of BBusSc graduates in the professional examinations.
The BBusSc degree
The standard degree comprises 17 courses including three years of Statistics, two years of Mathematics, two years of Economics, plus courses in Finance, Human Resource Management, Marketing and Business Strategy. Experience has shown this degree to be an extremely solid foundation for entrants to the actuarial profession and our graduates have no difficulty finding employment upon graduation.
Successful students can obtain exemptions from subjects CT1-CT8 and CA1 of the Joint Examinations of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries and Subjects A101-A103, A201-A205 and A301-A302 of the Actuarial Society of South Africa.
In total there are some 425 undergraduate students registered with the Section. Approximately 350 of these are registered for the BBusSc degree. These numbers are as a result of considerable increases in intake in recent years.
We tend to be rather selective in our choice of first-year students: most of our students have seven or more distinctions at Matric. Despite the high quality of this intake, approximately a quarter of our first-year students do not progress to second-year actuarial studies, most of them switching to other special fields in the BBusSc degree, or to other degrees within the university.
Subsequent performance of graduates
From past experience it appears (see Figure 1) that approximately two-thirds of all our BBusSc graduates qualify as actuaries. The comparable figure for all Heriot-Watt graduates appears to be approximately 60%: see David Dickson's article in The Actuary (June 1993).