SA fails to produce enough doctorates
SOUTH Africa produced 1 576 doctoral graduates in 2011, the Department of Higher Education has said, but this is not enough to meet the needs of the country’s economy.
Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande disclosed the figure in response to a parliamentary question by Pieter Groenwald of the Freedom Front Plus.
According to the figures, South Africa produced 973 doctoral graduates in 2000.
While figures for last year have not yet been audited, the 2011 figures show a more than 50 percent increase from 2000.
However, the doctoral figures aren’t enough to sustain South Africa, and don’t measure up against other countries.
South Africa produces around 26 doctoral graduates per one million people, according to the green paper on post school education and training released by the government last year. In comparison, the UK produces 288, the US 201, and Korea 187. Brazil produces 48.
The green paper states: “The number of PhDs being produced is far too low to meet the country’s needs for research and innovation.”
In his budget speech in May, Nzimande said the number of doctoral graduates was “quite insufficient to meet our needs, and it is not really comparable to other leading developing countries, let alone developed ones”.
He added that it needed to be the “norm” that those seeking a career in academia had a doctorate.
About one-third of full-time university lecturers have PhDs.
The green paper lists financial constraints and the quality of incoming students as some of the major barriers to producing higher numbers of postgraduate students.
In 2009, just 1 percent of all students enrolled at South Africa’s 23 universities were doing a PhD. Masters students made up about 5 percent.
Leading the pack in South Africa for doctoral students is the University of Pretoria, which has consistently pro- duced the highest number of doctorates over the past 10 years. In 2011 it produced 206.
The Vaal University of Technology produced two. Walter Sisulu University in the Eastern Cape produced four.
In the Western Cape, the Cape University of Technology had 13 doctorates in 2011, while UCT and Stellenbosch University had 163 and 150, respectively.
The University of the Western Cape is the best performing of the previously disadvantaged universities, producing 80 doctorates, more than the University of Johannesburg, and up from 28 doctorates produced five years ago.
Unisa, South Africa’s biggest university, is one of the only universities which produced fewer doctorates in 2011 (93) than in 2000 (221).
Research published in 2010 by the Academy of Science of South Africa found that South Africa was near “the bottom of the PhD-producing countries worldwide”.
Using 2007 figures, the research found that only Chile had fewer doctoral graduates. Education, economics and management sciences produced the largest number of PhDs, while science, technology and engineering faculties produced just 35 percent of the country’s doctorates.
In addition, that research found that it took an average of 4.8 years for students to complete their PhDs in 2007, longer than the 4.6 years it took in 2000.
The paper lists several possible interventions to increase the number of doctorates, the first of which is improving the school system to increase the number of matrics with highquality university entrance marks.
It also, perhaps controversially, advocates continued investment in the top PhD-producing universities, which are also traditionally the betterresourced ones.
The green paper on education however points to increasing the number of black students enrolling for PhDs at all universities as a possible solution.
‘CAN’T WAIT’: Grade 9 pupil Odwa Sobuza, 18, says he hopes to win a place at the new school so he can boost his education, with a view to studying further and becoming an engineer.