It is with pleasure that I introduce this comprehensive review of the University’s growing strengths in research as they continue to provide a foundation for our role as a leading research-intensive African university.
This review showcases the University’s research achievements of 2015, presented in five themes, encompassing the breadth and depth of our many research activities.
The qualifications and research skills of our staff members are at the core of the University’s research strength. In 2015, the number of academic staff holding doctoral degrees rose to 920 or 62% of the staff – an increase from 54% in 2014. The number of staff members who hold National Research Foundation (NRF) ratings rose by 12% to 438 from 393 in the previous year.
The University’s research outputs also increased the publication of international Scopus-listed research papers, increasing from 1 593 in 2014 to 1 705 in 2015. In addition, 79 researchers earned their places as authors of the top 1% of highly cited papers in their fields, in the Web of Science (WoS). These scholars represent a significant critical mass of UP’s researchers who have earned recognition for the international impact of their work.
In line with these achievements, the University gained an additional four South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) Chairs for women scientists, while the number of productive international research partnerships grew to 221, with 900 papers (out of 1 909) co-authored with scholars from beyond South Africa’s borders.
The University’s international standing is further reflected in the 4 375 international students (2 149 of whom are postgraduate students) enrolled in 2015; and 126 international postdoctoral fellows, from 37 countries, who represent 65% of all postdoctoral fellows engaged in UP research programmes.
Just as research productivity and recognition are critical indicators of research activity and excellence, so too is the graduation of postgraduate students. The number of students graduating with higher degrees is a measure of the time and effort that academic staff devote to supporting new cohorts of talented young people – all of whom will contribute, within and beyond academia, to the social and economic well-being of the country and the greater African region. In 2015 doctoral graduations increased, very significantly, from the 2014 figures by 41% to 333 graduates, and the number of graduates with research master’s degrees increased by 16%, totalling 1 023 students.
In addition to improvements in postgraduate student graduation performance, the University supported 28 staff members in the completion of their doctoral degrees, and provided development workshops for some 150 early career researchers – 90 of whom were young women.
While the University invests substantially in its research programmes and projects, additional funding is always critical to the expansion of research activities. This year saw such funding grow by 30% from the R405 million raised in 2014 to R525 million – an amount that reflects not just important research income, but also growing recognition of the University’s importance as a centre for research of relevance to the country and the region.
Leading and advancing research and postgraduate education in 2015 is a great privilege. While the Office of the Vice-Principal plays a central role in ensuring the ongoing progress of research at the University of Pretoria, it is the academic staff, the scientists and scholars, who conduct the research. Moreover, it is the Department of Research and Innovation Support (DRIS) whose members have supported research and researchers on a daily basis, under the guidance and leadership of the Director, Dr Carol Nonkwelo. I would like to record my sincere appreciation for the contributions made by all our UP colleagues to the success of research at UP.