Research & Innovation 2015-16 - Page 23



registering). Nevertheless, further analysis is needed
of – and solutions must be found for – the relatively
high attrition rate among master’s students, especially
within the transformation context.
This is also true for our doctoral students. By 2015, of
the 2010 cohort (i.e. six years after enrolment), 31%
had dropped out, 44% had graduated, and 25% were
still busy. The average time to graduation of all those
graduating in 2015 was 5.2 years. Nationally, 61% of
all doctoral students had dropped out or were yet to
complete within seven years. International averages
show similar drop-out rates, but time to completion
is three to five years. I expect that in time, the various
support programmes and policy initiatives that have
been instituted over the last few years will gain
traction, and further improvement in throughput
rates at UCT will be noticeable.
Postgraduate student funding is a complex issue.
Many factors play a role in the awarding of funding.
Thus, while it is impressive that in 2015, UCT was able
to award R236.7 million to 2 975 honours, master’s
and doctoral students, this represents some 38%
of that student body, which is a marginally smaller
proportion than the 41.7% awarded funding in 2014.
On the upside, the amount of funding each student
received was 18% higher on average (approximately
R67 000 in 2014, and R79 500 in 2015). It is clear
that to address the strategic and real demands to
produce more quality postgraduates, and additionally
to ensure an excellent group of ‘next-generation
researcher-academics’, a significantly larger amount
of funding is needed.
In order for UCT to continue as a national and an
African leader, further on-the-ground work and
planning must be instituted and grown to address
the four national policy imperatives of postgraduate
growth, transformation, throughput and quality. There
are apparent contradictions between these four.
Dealing with them must form the basis of ongoing
strategising around postgraduate studies, and
must also take cognisance of our growing research
experience and strategy to ‘internationalise’.
Overall, it is critical that UCT continue to research,
encourage, train, communicate, strategise and
develop further initiatives towards the support and
development of the postgraduate student body, as
well as of the programmes themselves. Academic,
administrative and support staff must be informed,
trained, and in step with this development. Strides
and progress have been made – there are some
spectacular stories, both in terms of student success
and of impactful research – but our 2015 experience
reinforces the need to build deeper within the
postgraduate arena, sensibly and sensitively – and
critically – within the context of the current South
African and relevant global discourses.
What proportion of
students at UCT are
postgraduates?
35% in
2015
31% in
2012
2012
Demographic break-down
of postgraduates in 2015
15%
black SA
15%
undeclared
31%
white
18%
rest of
Africa
5% rest of world
6% Indian
10% coloured
Postgraduates
degree profile
at UCT
in 2015
49%
master’s
18%
doctoral
38%
14%
honours
19%
PGDip
Postgraduates
received funding
and awards in
2015
Professor Peter Meissner is director of
postgraduate studies.
18





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