APM – Academic Preparation Modules

For a number of years now the higher education sector has been struggling with a serious challenge: School leavers (even with Matric Exemption) most often do not actually have what is needed for the first year of tertiary studies. This is, of course, an over-generalized statement and yet it describes the reality in many universities and private institutions.

The problem doesn’t seem to be specialized knowledge or higher order skills but simple reading, writing and comprehension skills as well as other fairly basic competencies. The problem is termed an “articulation gap” rather than underpreparedness of students although the later term is acknowledged as key factor.

The solution proposed by CHE is to add a year to the regular duration of programmes, i.e. a three-year Bachelor’s degree would require four years of studies. However the first year (“year zero”) would NOT add content to the BTh curriculum but would rather enable the student to catch up on the skills that are required for the regular BTh. (for more details see “A proposal for undergraduate curriculum reform in South Africa”, CHE Discussion Document, August 2013)

This proposal was submitted in 2013 and has been going nowhere slowly since then. The underlying problem however remains and protests for free education have added pressure to the problem.

ESSA is aware of the challenge. ESSA has traditionally not appealed to young school leavers but has aimed for more mature students. The proposed block release mode further is intended for those who are already involved in ministry and who are more mature.

Whether school leavers never had these skills or whether high school is so far in the past that these skills may have been forgotten, the challenge exists and ESSA is aiming to assist in overcoming it through APM modules.

These Academic Preparation Modules will not be beneficial only to prospective students of ESSA alone but also to any student who may be considering academic studies or even just a more competent interaction with printed materials and other methods of learning and studying.

At the moment ESSA is planning four of these modules which can be taken at various times or stages. Prospective students of ESSA’s BTh programme will be strongly encouraged to participate in the APM’s and participation will be considered within the application process.

The APM’s themselves will focus on four key areas:

Exact times and dates will change on an annual basis and above APM’s might even be offered more than once a year. Please feel free to enquire at info@essa.ac.za

Overview of Technicalities:


The structure will be flexible and focus more on the practical needs of the student group than on any set system. The APM modules are not recognized by any official body or structure and hence do not follow any set formats regarding time or outcomes. The initial format will schedule 4 mornings (Tue-Fri) of 4 hours each (08.00 – 12.30). Each day will include a given set of readings and/or assignments which students are expected to complete for their own benefit and with class discussions in mind.


The APM’s in general are offered without asking for fees. This is mainly due to the fact that the modules carry no credits and offer no formal recognition. Should interest grow beyond the anticipated capacity ESSA remains the right to set fees for each APM in order to regulate admission. Registered ESSA students can expect discounts and/or preferential treatment.


The APM modules carry no credits and students will not receive transcripts or documents beyond the usual “Certificates of Attendance”. Other institutions may or may not pay them any attention at their own discretion.

The APM’s may, some day, be developed into a form of “short course(s)” which may in turn affect credits and fees. That step requires CHE legislation to be implemented, which is still being developed. Whether that transition will result in bridging courses or some other form of compatibility will depend on too many factors to mention them here.


APM’s carry no specific admission requirements. However we would like to encourage you to consider carefully if you will make full use of the opportunity. If not then you are possibly blocking someone else from taking advantage of this offer.

ESSA reserves the right to not admit participants without explanation. We do not condone discrimination and are committed to not discriminate between participants. Yet the Seminary reserves the right to act on various factors that may affect admission with the aim of securing a smooth and fruitful running of the APM’s. Aggressive, conflict-oriented, or other disruptive behaviour will not be tolerated and participants in question will be asked to vacate the Module.


As an extra-curricular element offered by the Seminary we ask participants to commit to the sessions. This will be expressed in punctuality, full participation in sessions, completion of assignments in time for sessions, respect toward each other, and in general a healthy, Christ-minded learning community. Other students are sacrificing valuable time to take part in this Module. Please show your respect by honouring their commitment to their ongoing education.