Rhodes to research 'academic drift'

RHODES University has bagged a National Research Foundation grant worth nearly R700 000 to study South Africa's fraught academic space.

The university's Centre for Higher Education, Research, Teaching and Learning will oversee the project.

This will see seven academics from across South Africa undertaking doctoral studies to probe the uneven nature of the country's 23 institutions of higher learning in terms of context and structure.

Rhodes doctoral programme coordinator Professor Sioux McKenna, who is spearheading the initiative, said: "I applied for the grant at the end of November last year and heard back from the foundation at the end of February.

"I put out an open call to interested parties last year, during which time they submitted essays motivating why they wanted to be part of this initiative."

The foundation would dispense the R694 000 grant over three years and the money would be available to the doctoral researchers through staff funding schemes, McKenna said. There were three types of institution in South Africa — traditional, comprehensive and universities of technology.

However, because of South Africa's flat funding model most of these institutions were shifting towards traditional universities, she said.

"There is an academic drift that is detrimental to the country's economic needs and its human resources.

"Although there is value in different types of knowledge, there is social status attached to particular types of expertise in South Africa," McKenna said.

 Distinguishing university types was a simple task in some countries but more complicated in South Africa.

This not only related to institutional structure but also historical development.

Commenting on the relevance of the research project, McKenna said: "There is a nice spread of topics in this project.

"We hope that the sophisticated nature of the research will add impetus to a conversation that, for a long time, has been sidelined." 

By Xolisa Phillip

Source: The Herald

Source:  The Herald

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