UP ranked No 1 in DHET report on SA research outputs

Posted on May 05, 2020

A report recently released by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) reveals that the University of Pretoria (UP) had the highest number of per capita research publication outputs among the 25 South African public universities in 2018.

According to the report, 10.8% of published research papers produced by South African public higher education institutions in 2018 originated from UP. The total number of UP publication units was 2 054.55. The national grand total across all sectors, which includes journals, scholarly books and published conference proceedings, was 19 098.72 units.

The findings are contained in the DHET’s Report on the Evaluation of the 2018 Universities’ Research Output (published April 2020), which provides an analysis of the research performance of South African public higher education institutions. It evaluates and focuses on research findings published in accredited journals, books and approved published conference proceedings.

The 2018 report is the most recent evaluation of the research outputs of universities.

UP published 267 books and book chapter units, 85 conference proceedings units and 1 703 journal units, which placed it in the joint top spot with the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

UP Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Tawana Kupe said the continued hard work and determination of UP academics are the reason behind this pleasing achievement. “I once again wish to applaud my colleagues, our outstanding UP academics, for their high research output productivity. Your consistent hard work has ensured that the University stands out among the rest for producing quality research that’s also relevant to the communities we exist in. We need to continue to improve on productivity, quality and impact of our work. Our turn to transdisciplinary knowledge through new collaborative research platforms like Future Africa will enable us to achieve these goals,” Prof Kupe said.

Prof Kupe also thanked the government for its research funding support, and thanked industries and other partners that support UP research.

Universities are required to submit their research outputs annually to the DHET. The subsidisation of quality research outputs produced by universities forms a basis for sustaining research and promoting increased research productivity and other forms of knowledge generation required to meet national development needs.

According to the report, the average academic in the country produced one (0.97 rounded up) research output unit in 2018. UP, with two (1.71 rounded up) research output units per academic, was among the eight universities that exceeded the national average. 

In the weighted average per capita research output measure, UP topped the list of public institutions once again. The national average was recorded at two (rounded up) research output units per academic in 2018. UP was again among the eight institutions that exceeded the national average of 1.91 units per academic. The University’s academics produced four units on average (3.70 rounded up) in 2018.

UP’s academic staff also tops the log: According to the report, UP is the South African university with the highest number of permanently appointed academics who hold a doctoral degree (839) as their highest qualification. This means 69.6% of UP’s academic staff hold a doctoral degree, while another 28.4% hold a master’s degree.  The national average of staff with doctorate degrees sits at 48%.

The report further observed a relationship between institutions with relatively higher proportions of doctorates as the highest qualification and a relatively higher research output. This is when compared with institutions with master’s degrees as the highest proportion of qualification. It also reported that, currently, 17% of academics have a lower qualification than a master’s degree. This observation is why the department developed funding to assist universities with developing their capacity; the University Capacity Development Programme (UCDP).

Professor Anton Ströh, UP’s Vice-Principal Institutional Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation and acting Vice-Principal for Research and Undergraduate Studies, said the report confirmed that the institution is on the right track with its focus on being research intensive.

“As an institution we shifted our focus to being research intensive in order to ensure that we produce academics and professionals who are equipped with the skills to produce quality research and research that will provide solutions to Africa’s toughest problems. This report is to us a signal that we are still moving in the right direction, and that we have stayed true to our promise of leading in the country and on the continent in terms of research,” Prof Ströh said.

Read the full report here.

- Author Masego Panyane

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