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Decline in South African PhD graduates a major problem

South Africa’s inability to produce enough doctoral graduates to build the ‘knowledge economy’ it aspires to, or simply to replace the existing cohort of academics in the higher education system, is a challenge widely acknowledged by government departments, their agencies and universities. But fixing the problem is a lot harder.

According to Professor Johann Mouton, director of the University of Stellenbosch’s Centre for Research on Science and Technology (CREST) which has conducted a five-part study on the PhD, part of the solution lies in making more money available to doctoral students to enable them to pursue their studies full-time.

Currently about 80% of South African doctoral students are part-time and generally take far longer to complete their degrees than their European or American counterparts.

Mouton identified a string of blockages to postgraduate study:  

  • The low number of matric [school leaving examination] exemptions, and too few good passes in maths and science
  • The problem of student poverty and debt. SA produces about 100,000 bachelor graduates a year, but the majority of those need to start working immediately to pay off debt

The number of potential researchers is whittled down at each level of the system. Out of about 22,000 honours students, those pursuing masters and doctorate degrees amount to only 10,000, of which just under 1,200 (1,182 in 2008) end up graduating with a PhD.

To read more go to Sharon Dell’s article in University World News Africa Edition by Clicking Here!

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