Sunday, October 25, 2020
Public Relations

Masters and doctoral graduates pool of black South Africans and coloureds remains small

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The 2019 Report of the Ministerial Task Team on the Recruitment, Retention and Progression of Black South African Academics highlights that the pool of black South Africans and coloureds from which new academics can be recruited remains small and is growing at a low rate.

According to the report, the bulk of the doctoral graduates are produced by 12 universities, which had 50 or more doctoral graduates in 2017. With the exception of Unisa (58.1%), the percentage of black African graduates at these universities in 2017 was less than 50%: UP (23.2%), SUN (8.1%), UKZN (39.5%), Wits (39.5%), NWU (19.8%), UCT (9.3%), UJ (39.5%), UWC (40.3%), NMU (29.3%) and RU (35.2%).

International participation in postgraduate programmes is not the main challenge. Rather, the main challenge is the inability of the system to recruit and retain South African students, particularly black South African students. The spaces are there, but are not being taken up in sufficient numbers by black South African students. This worrying trend needs to change urgently. It is also a significant barrier to the recruitment of South African black academics, as the pool from which to recruit is decreasing proportionally over time. Concrete strategies must be implemented to increase both the numbers and the proportion of South African doctoral graduates.

The inequitable participation in postgraduate programmes, more pronounced at the doctoral level, is a significant factor that impacts on the pace of change in the academic staff
profile at universities.

Staff matters. It matters who is leading the knowledge project, who is teaching, who is researching, who is making decisions about the nature of the curriculum and how it is delivered, what is being researched and how, who the academic role models and mentors are, what voices carry weight and whose world views are a respected part of the higher education system in South Africa.

In relation to gender, in 2017 there were a greater number of female South African masters and PhD graduates. The graduate gender ratio is closely aligned to the ratio in the general
South African population.

There are multiple compounding factors that result in an inadequate, diminishing and
inequitable postgraduate pipeline in South Africa which include but not limited to

●High dropout rates across all levels of the education system that result in small
numbers of students that are able to register for and complete postgraduate
qualifications.
● A gruelling and sometimes opaque application and selection process for
postgraduate studies, coupled with limited advisement opportunities.
●Postgraduate student success initiatives are limited across universities.

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