By Gabi Khumalo
A South African Post-higher Degree (PhD) Project is to strengthen the corporate and higher education sectors by increasing the numbers and diversity of appropriately skilled professionals.
The National Research Foundation (NRF) supported by Department of Science and Technology has unveiled the project to help increase the number of qualified postgraduate professionals in the country.
Addressing the opening of the project, the NRF Chief Executive Officer and President, Professor Mzamo Mangaliso said the project is based on the premise that investing in people is the best way to enhance productive capacities within the private and the public sector.
"PhD represents the pinnacle of qualifications for knowledge workers," said Professor Mangaliso, adding that the project's vision is to have a strong, diverse and resilient qualified professional base for South African public and private sector.
He said the PhD project provides peer and mentor support networks to postgraduates as they initiate and progress through their studies and become professionals or leaders in their respective disciplines.
The project aims to direct and encourage persons to appropriate PhD programs through various mechanisms including:
- · securing and promoting foreign and local study opportunities;
· offering competitive bursary packages to PhD and post-doctoral candidates;
· hosting an annual PhD Fair to expose potential candidates to PhD opportunities in this country and abroad;
· promoting the professional advantages of obtaining a PhD through peer and mentor support groups and
· increasing the pipeline of potential candidates that can qualify for PhD studies.
Currently South Africa produces 23 PhDs per year per million of the population, which is way below the number of doctoral graduates required to support competitive knowledge-based economy.
Minister of Science and Technology, Mosibudi Mangena also said that PhD graduates can contribute to all sectors of the economy beyond the academic and research related areas.
"Our centre of learning does not have enough candidates and projects like South African PhD have a role to play in increasing our research output and make us globally competitive in all areas of research and scholarship," said Mr Mangena.
Speaking on doctorates and employability, Professor Cheryl de Larey from University of Cape Town said there is a need to ensure that those graduated with doctorates are employable at the end of the training.
"Employers are concerned about the quality of graduates produced; therefore we must expand the capability of the higher education system and make a room for in-service training for the students."
The initiative aligns with the country's National System of Innovation (NSI) and aims to position South Africa as a leader in knowledge production in all fields of scientific research, including social science, humanities law, natural sciences and engineering and technology.
To provide the support to postgraduates students, the NRF work in partnership with higher education institutions, local and international corporates, funding agencies, foundations, science councils and other organisations