UNISA, NRF to host workshop on improving post-grad research


By Lavinia Mahlangu

The University of South Africa (UNISA) and the National Research Foundation (NRF) will host a Post-Graduate Research Indaba, which aims to improve the state of postgraduate research in South Africa.

The workshop, set to take place between 20 and 22 February at the UNISA campus in Pretoria, aims to provide a platform for all stakeholders to, amongst others, reflect on issues affecting postgraduate research supervision and throughput at higher education institutions.

Delegates will examine potential mechanisms to facilitate high throughput and curb the high dropout rate at postgraduate level as well as discuss promoting the PhD as the key to the development of high skills in South Africa.

Further to this, the meeting of academics aims to develop strategies and guidelines that could be used as a reference for successful postgraduate supervision and mentorship.

Dignitaries attending the indaba include UNISA Principal and Vice-Chancellor Prof. Barney Pityana and NRF President Prof. Mzamo Mangaliso.

The conference will also be attended by participants from Higher Education Institutions, particularly postgraduate students, research supervisors, support staff and relevant government officials.

The Manager of Institutional Capacity Development at the NRF, Dr. Godfrey Netswera, says individuals or organisations involved or interested in research capital development in South Africa are encouraged to attend.

The concept for the conference originates from the growing concern within the South African national system of innovation that an ageing generation of white males continues to dominate research output, accounting for 89.3 percent in 2001, said the NRF.

The National Research and Development Strategy (RandD) thus places priority on postgraduate research studies in addressing human capital development.

There is, however, evidence that postgraduate throughput rates and retention of black and female researchers within the Science and Technology Sector continue to decline.

A 20 percent dropout rate resulted in the loss of an average of 120 000 students' annually in five years up to 1998 and increased to 50 percent between 2000 and 2003, the NRF said.

Factors influencing these statistics include the lack of guidelines in student supervision and inadequate research funding.