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Knowledge Seminar: South African doctoral enrolment, graduation and demographics. February 2012. Doctoral enrolments, doctoral graduates and research publications. Graph 1 sets out data on key elements of SA’s high-level knowledge
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Knowledge Seminar: South African doctoral enrolment, graduation and demographics February 2012
Doctoral enrolments, doctoral graduates and research publications Graph 1 sets out data on key elements of SA’s high-level knowledge production for the period 1996-2010 expressed as doctoral enrolments, doctoral graduates and research publication units. Average annual changes in these totals are reflected in Graph 2.
Average annual changes: enrolments, graduates and publications Graph 2 divides Graph 1 growth rates into the period between (a) 1996 and 2002, which covered the period of the 1997 HE White Paper and the 2001 National Plans, and (b) 2004-2010 which covered the introduction and implementation of the new 2003 government funding framework.
Doctoral enrolments by race group Graph 3 divides the doctoral enrolment totals for 1996-2010 into race groupings. The main change has been in African doctoral enrolments, which increased from 663 in 1996 to 5066 in 2010, when African doctoral enrolments exceeded that of White enrolments for the first time.
Percentage of doctoral enrolments in race groupings Graph 4 shows how the % of doctoral enrolments by race group changed between 1996 to 2010. African doctoral students rose from 13% in 1996 to 33% in 2004, and 44% in 2010.
Graduation rates and cohort output equivalents Graph 5 offers a first picture of the doctoral output efficiency of SA’s public HE system, based on output ratios which appear in the 2001 National Plan. The National Plan set this as an output norm: The ratio between doctoral graduates in a given year and doctoral enrolments should = 20%. So, if 10 000 doctoral students were enrolled in the HE system in year X, then at least 200 of these students should graduate in year X. This norm was based on a further target norm that at least 75% of any cohort of students entering doctoral studies for the first time in (say) year Y, should eventually graduate. Calculations had shown that if the cohort output norm was to be achieved, then the 20% ratio of total graduates to total enrolments would have to be met over a period of time.
Graduation rates and cohort output equivalents Graph 5 shows that, as far as doctoral outputs are concerned, the Public HE system has failed to meet the National Plan’s efficiency targets. Calculations show that over the period 1996–2002, less than 50% of students entering doctoral programmes in SA will eventually graduate.
Actual doctoral graduates vs normative totals on National Plan target ratio Graph 6 offers estimates of the effects of inefficiencies in SA’s doctoral programmes. For example, over the period 2005-2010, SA should, on the National Plan’s norms, have produced a total of 12 285 doctoral graduates but in fact produced only 7 711, leaving a “shortfall” of 4 739 graduates (who would have been drop outs from the system).
The End of year 7 dropping out numbers also include students that may have registered in future years to complete their studies. Source: DHET. 2011, CHET PhD analysis
It is important to note that the two countries produce almost the same number of PhD graduates but that South Africa’s population is in the order of 48 million whilst Norway’s population is 4.8 million
Permanent academic staff Academic staff with doctoral degrees are a key input for high-level knowledge production is. Permanent academic staff in this category should be the major producers of research outputs, and at an input level the main supervisors of doctoral students. Graph 7 shows how the totals of permanent academic staff with doctoral degrees changed between 1996 and 2010.
Percentage of academic staff with doctorates by institutional category Graph 8 divides public HE institutions into the 3 categories used for national planning purposes, and sub-divides the 11 universities into a group of 6 which produces 60% of the HE system’s total high-level knowledge products and the remaining 5. The groups are:
Percentage of academic staff with doctorates by institutional category Graph 8
Ratios of doctoral enrolments to academic staff with doctorates The low proportions permanent academic staff with doctoral degrees must have an impact on the numbers of doctoral students which can be enrolled and supervised. Graph 9 shows what the ratios have been between doctoral enrolments and permanent academic staff with doctorates. A ratio of two doctoral enrolments per permanent academic with a doctorate could be used as an indicator of institutional capacity. Graph 9 shows that the high productive group of universities and the comprehensives had ratios above 2 in 2010, which could be taken to imply that they have reached capacity as far as doctoral enrolments are concerned. Increases in their doctoral enrolments should depend on more academic staff obtain their own doctoral degrees. The 2:1 norm suggests that the other group of 5 universities and the universities of technology may have spare supervisory capacity, but their ability to deal with this depends on their current financial and efficiency levels.
Ratios of doctoral enrolments to academic staff with doctorates Graph 9
Government research funding allocations by output category and financial year Government’s funding incentives for research outputs are complex because of the 2-year time lag between the completing of an output and the receipt of a funding allocation, and the weightings applied to research outputs. Graph 10 shows what research funding totals were generated by each output category. Graph 11 shows what the Rand values can be assigned to research output units.
Government research funding allocations by output category and financial year Graph 10
Average annual increases in outputs It could be argued that the high Rand values for doctoral graduates should have functioned as strong incentives to institutions to expand these outputs. The data in Graph 12 suggest these financial incentives have not yet affected doctoral graduate growth, which was 3.5% pa between 2000 & 2004, and 3.6% pa between 2005 and 2010. There are likely to be a number of reasons why doctoral graduate totals have not yet responded to the output funding incentives introduced for the first time in the 2004/5 financial year. One explanation is that only a few universities have been able to benefit from the introduction of government research output incentives. A second explanation is that doctoral processes in SA have been characterised by high levels of inefficiency, as has been seen in Graphs 5 and 6.
Average annual increases in outputs Graph 12
Total government research output funding per permanent academic Graph 13 shows that government output funding can be related to staff capacity. In 2011/12 the high productive university group generated R290 000 in government research funds per permanent academic, which was considerably higher than the averages for the other groupings.
Doctoral and publication output funding per permanent academic in 2011/12 Graph 14 relates doctoral graduate funding to permanent academic staff, but also compares this doctoral funding to research publication funding per permanent academic. The graph shows that in 2011/12 the high productive universities group generated R82 000 in doctoral funding per permanent academic, and R126 000 in research publications. The amounts are lower, but similar wide differences can be seen in the other institutional categories. These lower amounts generated by doctoral graduates could be related to institutional inefficiencies, but also to institutional incentives. Some institutions distribute publication output funds to authors, but few (if any) distribute doctoral graduate funds to supervisors. Academic staff members are therefore likely to gain more direct personal benefits from research publications than from doctoral graduates.
Doctoral and publication output funding per permanent academic in 2011/12 Graph 14