The Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor is pleased to announce that a total of 60 new Research Chairs have been awarded to various institutions of higher learning across South Africa, during the 2011/12 and 2013/14 Medium Term Expenditure Framework. This increases the number of Research Chairs in South Africa to 152.
The South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) is a flagship initiative of Government designed to attract and retain excellence in research and innovation in the South African science system. The main goal is to strengthen the country’s universities to produce high quality postgraduate students, research and innovation outputs.
Since SARChI’s inception in 2005, Government has invested over R1.1 billion in the programme which is managed by the National Research Foundation (NRF).
In awarding the 60 new Chairs, special consideration was given to the universities of technology, rural based institutions and those that have not participated in the programme. This focus has resulted in a major shift in the way the Research Chairs were allocated, particularly in the following ways:
1. Institutional distribution of Chairs
An increase from 16 to 21 universities hosting Chairs.
- The five new universities participating in the programme are three UoTs (CPUT, CUT and DUT), University of Free State and University of Venda.
- Universities with the highest number of awarded Chairs are mostly universities that previously had fewer Chairs, for example, UWC, which previously had four Chairs, was, in this call, awarded the most Chairs.
- The percentage of Chairs awarded to UoTs increased from 2% of the total number of Chairs to 8%, with the percentage for comprehensive Chairs changing from 9% to 13%.
2. Thematic distribution of Chairs
The thematic areas in which the Chairs have been awarded are a direct response to the five priorities of Government, namely the creation of decent work and sustainable livelihoods; education; health; rural development; and the fight against crime and corruption. It also represents a crucial alignment with the projected outcomes of the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF).
3. National Research Priorities
Four Chairs in Education were awarded in addition to the seven existing Chairs in Education, with some of the new Chairs focusing on Higher Education challenges while the existing ones focus mainly on primary and secondary education issues.
- In addition to the 13 Chairs in Health, 12 Chairs were awarded with a strong focus on diagnostics and drug discovering, while others were in areas of health policy and rural health development.
- Seven new Chairs in rural development, food security and land reform were added in addition to the three existing Chair in this area.
- In addition to the nine existing Chairs in the area of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), one additional Chair was awarded in this area, giving a total of ten Chairs in SKA related area.
Minister Pandor said she is confident that these awards would improve South Africa’s international research and innovation competitiveness while responding to the socio-economic challenges facing the country.