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South African research output rises

A recent analysis of South Africa’s scientific performance shows that research outputs rose between 2000 and 2010. During this period South Africa also more than doubled its publication numbers, improved its international publications ranking by two positions, and was ranked 33rd in the world.

These results came from a research paper published by Prof Anastassios Pouris, director of the Intsitute for Technological Innovation at the University of Pretoria, in the South African Journal of Science.

The paper, titled, Science in South Africa: the dawn of a new renaissance? shows an increase in paper publications from 3617 in 2000 to 7468 in 2010.

To read more go to Wilma den Hartigh’s article on BIZCommunity.com by clicking here!

To read more go to Charl Blignaut’s article in City Press by Clicking here!

To read Prof Anastassios Pouris’ paper Click Here!

Study show that low quality of schooling to the poor is reinforcing racial and economic inequities

A new study, “Low Quality Education as Poverty Trap”, done by the Social Policy Research Group at Stellenbosch University found that the schooling available to children in poor communities is reinforcing rather than challenging the racial and economic inequities created by South Africa’s apartheid-era policies.

Instead of providing much needed opportunities, South Africa’s ailing education system is keeping children from poor households at the back of the job queue and locking families into poverty for another generation

Using newly available data sets, including those linking information on income with numeracy skills, the report analyzed how low-quality tuition in the post-apartheid education system is perpetuating “exclusion and marginalization”.

To read more go to IRIN’s (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) web site by Clicking Here!

To read the Social Policy Research Group’s report Click Here!

A boom in the number of black graduates in South Africa

The number of blacks who received university degrees in South Africa in 2008 increased by 334 % since 1991, compared with a 14 % increase in white graduates for the same period, according to research released by the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR). Most of these degrees, however were being conferred by formerly white institutions.

It was found that most of the degrees awarded in 2008 were done by the University of South Africa (UNISA), making up 12.8 % of the degrees conferred by 23 public universities and universities of technology. The study showed that University of Pretoria awards the most masters and doctorate degrees with 15.8% awarded in 2008. University of Stellenbosch awarded 13% of masters and doctorates in 2008 and University of Cape Town awarded 11.4%.

Marius Roodt, one of the researchers commented that “other universities, especially historically-advantaged institutions, be supported to become centres of excellence in their own right, but not at the cost of already succcesful universities”

To read more go to the Sapa article on Times Live by Clicking Here!

Pupils from Model C schools doing better

The latest South Africa Survey recently released by the South African Institute for Race Relations have found amongst others that Model C schools (former whites-only schools) were still setting the pace for quality education. Race was found to be less important as a factor of scholastic achievement than the type of school a child attends. The matric rate for blacks in Model C schools in 2009 was 88%, compared to only 55% overall in all government schools. Coloured pupils in Model C schools achieved an 88 % pass rate compared to 76% overall while Indian pupils achieved 98 % compared to 92 % overall.

To read more go to Deon de Lange’s Mercury article on IOL by Clicking Here!

South Africa needs more PhD graduates

Bold intervention is needed to increase the number of PhD graduates in South Africa, a study released recently by the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAF) has found.

The production of doctorates in the country had been stable for several years, ASSAF’s Professor Jonathan Jansen said in Johannesburg at the presentation of a study on demands for high-level skills in an emerging economy.

“In the context of current systems and capacity at South African universities, there is little hope that rapid growth in high-level qualifications at the level of the doctorate will materialise in the foreseeable future.”

The report was produced by an expert study panel, led by Jansen, and showed among other things that South Africa’s production of PhDs per million of the population, 26 PhD graduates yearly per million, compared poorly with other countries such as Portugal (569 per million) and Australia (264 per million) per annum.

To read more go to Phumza Sokana’s article on IOL News by Clicking Here!

To read the report on PhD graduates in South Africa by the Academy of Science of South Africa Click Here!


African universities score poorly in World University rankings

African universities again fared dismally compared to other universities in the Times Higher Education World Universities rankings. The only African universities in the top 200 slots globally are the University of Cape Town in South Africa, and The University of Alexandria in Egypt.

Five elements of higher education were considered:

  • the volume of research undertaken
  • how the institutions were relevant to the job market
  • ratio of the number of students versus academic staff
  • diversity on campus — a sign of how global an institution is in its outlook
  • the impact of the research conducted

“The ability of an institution to attract the very best staff from across the world is key to global success”, lead researcher Ann Mroz said. “The staff-to-student ratio is employed as a proxy for teaching quality”, she added.

The survey also showed that high density of research students are indicative of  more knowledge intensive institutions and that the presence of an active post-graduate community is a marker of a research-led teaching environment.

The teaching category also examined the ratio of PhDs to bachelor’s degrees awarded by each institution.

The University of Cape Town was ranked 107th among the global top 200 institutions.

To read more go to Benjamin Muindi’s article in the Daily Nation by Clicking Here!

or go to David McFarlane’s article in the Mail and Guardian by Clicking Here!

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!