SA fails to pro­duce enough doc­tor­ates

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - BIANCA CAPAZORIO

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.

PIC­TURE CINDY WAXA.

‘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.

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