SA needs to cultivate new generation of intellectuals

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SABRINA DEAN – Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor last night revealed that the bulk of South Africa’s research outputs are produced by men over the age of fifty.

She was delivering a public lecture hosted by the Department of Education at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, focusing on tertiary education and issues of research and development. Pandor told the audience men over fifty have turned South African universities into one the world’s most efficient research sectors.

She added, though, that in order become a knowledge based economy, South Africa needs to expand its science system by cultivating need a new generation of intellectuals in our universities. "I think we need a dedicated programme of developing young intellectuals in our Universities, supporting them as young tutors, while they are doing their postgraduate studies."

Pandor adds that we need to grow young students into future PhDs and attract them towards contributing to knowledge formation in South Africa. "I think we are not enthusing young people sufficiently as yet and that’s why I am saying to them – you could be the first developer of an antidote for Ebola," she says.

According to Pandor, 60% of all research outputs of the higher education system are produced by just five of South Africa’s 23 universities. The Universities of the Free State and North West are meanwhile counted among the seven producing 33% of research outputs, while the remaining twelve institutions produce only 7%.

Pandor added that SA has set a target of 100 000 PhDs by 2030 to improve research capacity. She says we will need to train 6 000 PhDs per annum to reach this target, but are currently falling well short with only about 1 800 PhDs being produced annually.